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The Leg Extension Exercise for the Quadriceps/Thighs

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Exercise Pages


Leg Extensions
Home -> Advanced Training -> Exercise Technique -> Leg Extensions

Primary Movers:
Quadriceps - Vastus Lateralis, Medialis and Intermedius; Rectus Femoris

Secondary Movers:

Anatomy of the Quadriceps

Click the Professor to review the anatomy of the Quadriceps.

This exercise develops the Quadriceps muscle group. It should not be done with heavy weights and if you have any knee problems, should not be done at all. Go for isolation and squeeze the muscles hard.

How to do it:

Bottom position for the leg extension exercise
  Top position for the leg extension exercise
  • Sit in a Leg Extension machine with the pads over the top of your ankles and your back against the back pad.
  • Your upper calves should be about half an inch from the seat pad and your knees even with the pivoting cam of the machine.
  • Extend your legs up (straightening them), and squeeze at the top.
  • As you bring the weight back down, do not allow your knees to go past 90 degrees. This will minimize knee stress.
  • This exercise should be done slowly and deliberately, allowing no momentum or explosive force to come into play. Using explosive force or momentum may lead to injury.


  • To hit the outer quads (Vastus Lateralis), lean back, turn your toes out slightly and point them. As your come up, exert outward pressure. Try to rotate your legs outward at the hip joint. Don't turn your feet excessively. Only turn them about half the range of motion they will go.

  • To hit the teardrop or inner quads (Vastus Medialis), lean over forward, curl your toes back and turn them slightly in. Exert inward pressure as you come up, making an attempt to inwardly rotate your legs at the hip joint. Keeping your legs straight will give you activation of all the quad muscles.

Common error:

  • Not squeezing at the top - the best part of this exercise occurs at the contraction when your legs are straight. To get the most out of it, hold the contraction at the top for a few seconds then lower the weight.


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