Fitness Fundamental: How to Safely Use The Leg Press & Leg Curl

leg press

We spend a lot of time focused on strength training exercises that use our body weight and free weights. But what about those machines?! Most gyms have many options, and they’re often the first place new members will start because the movements are controlled, focused, and mostly guided by the machine. That’s great, and they can certainly help build strength, but like any exercise, it’s important to keep an eye on form.

Two of the most classic and effective movements are the leg press and the leg extension. The leg press, if used with correct form, can give you a great full leg workout, hitting the quads, hamstrings, hip extensors, and more. The leg extension, on the other hand, is a great way to build knee strength, stretch the hamstrings, and frankly, make the legs pretty! Here are some important safety tips to make the most of these exercises.

Leg Press Guidance

If misused, this can be a dangerous piece of equipment. So make sure there are people around that can help, if you want to go heavy on the weight. When in doubt, go lighter and make every rep count.

  • After setting your appropriate weight, plant your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Make sure to breathe in deep and then exhale as you push away; this will protect your ribs from the pressure of the weight. Inhale as you slowly bring your knees back down to a 90 degree angle.
  • Push through your entire feet. This means that your toes and your ankles should be flat on the pad. I accomplish this by curling my toes on the pad as if I am gripping it with my feet.
  • Try not to lock your knees all the way when you extend your legs.
  • To decrease tension in your knees, raise your feet a little higher. This will focus more on your hamstrings and take some of the pressure off of your knees.

Proper Leg Extension/Curl

Proper placement is crucial with this machine, to protect your knees. Take time to set it up for your body.

Leg Extension

  • Make sure to align your knees with the pivot point at the end of the seat by adjusting the back pad.
  • The roller should be on a comfortable position at the front of your ankles (do not rest it on your shins).
  • Start the movement from a comfortable position; your feet shouldn’t be all the way underneath your seat. To decrease tension on your knees, adjust the movement arm so it’s at a better angle that makes starting easy.
  • Curl your toes up toward your body as you extend your legs, and focus on contracting your quads.
  • Pause at full extension, and slowly return to the start position.

Once you’re comfortable with these movements, get ready for more! There are plenty of ways to work your legs without the machines.

Additional Leg Workouts

Leg and Cardio Workout

15  Minute Leg Blaster Workout

Beginner Legs and Back Workout

TRX Legsanity

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Luke Andrus is a certified personal trainer, ACE health coach, writer, folk music drummer, husband, and a father. Most of his writing experience is in poetry and fictional short stories, and he also proposed to his wife with a self-published children's book. He is a Narnia nerd with a degree in History, a minor in English, and a semi-obsession with the French language. He believes that fitness is not just about vanity, but about lifestyle, integrity, and the ability to take control of your life.