While there’s no question that basic compound exercises such as squats, leg presses and lunges should form the cornerstone of your quad training routine, a few sets of leg extensions at the end of your quad workout can definitely be a useful addition in certain situations. You can apply the same techniques for leg curls as you do for leg extensions. You have to approach leg training with a reckless abandonment, especially if you want them to grow. I’m going to give you 2 full leg workouts without squats. Keep the tension on your quads and glutes the entire time. What are the best leg exercises that you can do instead of squats? The single leg deadlift will strengthen hamstring and glute muscles. The tips I’m giving you below are crucial for building your hamstrings, so please pay attention! I hope you enjoyed this post, and try these leg workouts without squats, using the tips and techniques for a brutal leg day! *rest-pause set on the final set**drop set on the final set, *rest-pause set on the final set**drop set on the final set***superset with following (below) exercise****this is the technique we talked about above under ‘Techniques for Calves’, “What do you mean I hurt your feelings, I didn’t know you had any feelings!”. A lot of people use leg extensions and leg presses as their go-to quad exercises. So you can benefit from not using too much weight. Leg extensions, on the other hand, work the muscles around your quads along with ligaments like the patellar ligament. Drop sets on leg extensions will really help you reach full muscle exhaustion. Here are the 8 best leg exercises to put on some serious muscle mass fast.Lets turn those toothpicks into real legs and rock on the beach. This may not be ideal if you have lower back problems. Hamstrings, glutes, and quads are meant to work in concert, as are ankle, knee, and hip joints. In general, the further a weight is from the operating joint, the more the muscle and the joint have to deal with the torque. This will make your workouts more intense, making your leg workouts just as brutal, if not more brutal than doing squats. Another awesome hamstring exercise is stiff-leg deadlifts. Straight Leg Raise. In the long run, your quads aren’t a muscle meant to work in isolation. This is going to really blast your quads and make them grow. However, there are other leg exercises you can do that target your quads and hamstrings more efficiently than squats. Increase your hip flexibility, quadriceps strength and hip flexor strength. And I’m going to help you with that, and I’m also going to give you some leg workouts you can do without squats. Which just goes to show how optimality isn’t necessarily needed. If you wear them out they will be gone. So I wanted to provide alternative leg workouts if that’s you. If you’ve ever been to CrossFit, you won’t see anyone in the room doing leg extensions. Generally, I would not use Leg Extensions and Leg Presses because they do not maximize training efficiency. For reference, when you do a leg extension, you start with your knees bent at about 90 degrees and finish with your legs fully extended at 180 degrees. When it comes to training quads (the fleshy mass composed of 4 muscles on the front of the thigh), there are some exercises that seem to be the most popular. But that doesn’t mean you just need to do leg extensions. That figures, which is why the leg extension is also popular and useful in physical therapy clinics. This can be a brutal exercise and you’ll feel like you just ran sprints after doing a set (if you do them right). That doesn’t change even if you’re doing leg extensions. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io, Paulina Porizkova Shows Abs in Post-Workout Photo, This Video Breaks Down Spartan Soldiers' Training, Swing, Hinge, and Push to Crush This Workout, Top Superhero Stars Shares His Chest Workout, Power Up Your Fitness Plan With This Workout, Bobby Maximus Challenges You to Pile Up Reps, Eugene Teo Shares a Super Quick Quad Workout. So you can use the leg extension to “wake up” your quads after a surgery or traumatic injury, but at some point, it needs to learn to fire collaboratively with other muscles. **Deadlifts are also often done on leg day. If you are looking to really dial in to building a set of legs to impress the world, your will want to use the leg extension. Plenty of guys want big quads, which is why this machine gets major traffic. There’s also no balance required allowing you to really focus on working your leg muscles. So if muscle size and shape (aka bodybuilder legs) is your goal, you can get by just fine without squats. I’ll go down the list of exercises and give a brief explanation of each one. In the same way that a lighter weight will crush your deltoids during a lateral raise because of how far the weight is from the muscle that’s moving it, the placement of the load, near your ankles, pushes your quads, which are straightening the knee, to work. The vastus muscles originate at the femur, where the rectus femoris is attached at the hip; the rectus femoris is also responsible for hip flexion. DO NOT be one of the many who load up the leg press machine and only go down a few inches. But is it possible to build huge legs without squats? Improve your ability to get up from a chair and walk. It’s not that squats do not build muscle. This means blasting your quads, hamstrings and gluteus will not only help tighten and tone your lower body but will help burn calories at the same time. Calves are a tricky muscle to grow. This makes it a good starting point for any rehab, although you can only take that so far. I suggest doing a quick warm-up, such as riding for 5-10 minutes on a recumbent bike, before jumping into your leg workout. This will give you a well-rounded pump in your legs. But seriously, I want to give you my true feelings about squats. Do 4 sets. The Bulgarian split squat targets your glutes and hips. Leg extension curls help build lower body strength, but while they’re most commonly used to work your hamstrings, they also make use of your calf muscles. Even bodybuilders who are chasing massive quads work in other exercises, using squats, deadlifts, and lunges as the backbone of their workouts. As a healthy balance to my job as a management consultant I work out and try to build a physique that I’m satisfied with. The machine’s in just about every corner of fitness you can think of, from high school weight rooms to physical therapy clinics to big-box gyms — and very often, it has a line of people waiting to use it, too. So the leg extension machine, because it isolates the quads and eliminates other muscles’ involvement, plays a critical role in rehab. Again, the placement of the load relative to your knee creates a lot of torque, so this move sometimes isn’t worth it, especially if you’re not prepping for a bodybuilding competition. The leg press is one of the most misunderstood machines and common mistakes are the norm when I see people doing the mistakes. Use a heavy enough weight to where 12-15 reps are challenging. It’s always great to change up your workouts so that you continuously shock your muscles for maximum growth. So, why would you want to skip squats in the first place? I squat (and deadlift) on a regular basis, mostly once a week. While the quads are extending the knee the weight is resting just on top of the ankle joint. We may earn a commission through links on our site. Ask them … The squat is the gold standard for building muscle in the legs. I also bought into the exercise when I started out in the gym. You won’t see them in HIIT classes either, and disciplines of functional fitness often malign the exercise. Avoid these errors. Vidur Saini provides several more reasons why you should not do squats in his article 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Squat on the Generation Iron website. Use the tips and techniques I gave you. Flex your calve muscles at the peak of each rep. But these are really all you need. Our product picks are editor-tested, expert-approved. How to Build Bigger Quads Without a Leg Extension Machine. Then you want to do leg extensions. And earning size on a specific muscle (as opposed to your entire body) often requires you to focus on “chasing the pump.” (Not familiar with the pump? In the same way that there are dedicated branch presses or machines at the gym to … The leg extension offers an exercise that relies on torque to move a weight. **If that’s your case then read my post: Deadlifting with Lower Back Problems. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site. To build leg muscles, exercise 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes at a time, with at least 1 day of rest between workouts. That means you can move with intent, slowing down the contraction at your pace and slowing it at certain phases. While the quads are extending the knee, the weight is resting just on top of the ankle joint. Outside the gym, eat … Note: articles on this website may contain affiliate links, through which the website owner receives some compensation from purchases made. Overarching principles of hypertrophy and consistency are. Most real-life leg actions don’t solely involve knee extension; even kicking a soccer ball, for example, starts with an aggressive drive of the hip, not the knee. The concept of getting the quads moving and the knee joint back to its hinging motion makes sense. You sit in the seat, let your calves loop around the leg roller, and straighten your knees, flexing your quads. Partial Squats. The same tips and techniques below apply to any of these machines. That means balancing your leg … They dismiss the fact that the leg extension is an "open chain" movement, which depends on knee health. **Of course, there are more exercises you can do for legs. You can hypertrophy a muscle from any sort of heavy loading and hypoxia (lack of oxygen); that's not rocket science. __CONFIG_colors_palette__{"active_palette":0,"config":{"colors":{"62516":{"name":"Main Accent","parent":-1}},"gradients":[]},"palettes":[{"name":"Default Palette","value":{"colors":{"62516":{"val":"var(--tcb-skin-color-0)"}},"gradients":[]}}]}__CONFIG_colors_palette__, __CONFIG_colors_palette__{"active_palette":0,"config":{"colors":{"f3080":{"name":"Main Accent","parent":-1},"f2bba":{"name":"Main Light 10","parent":"f3080"},"trewq":{"name":"Main Light 30","parent":"f3080"},"poiuy":{"name":"Main Light 80","parent":"f3080"},"f83d7":{"name":"Main Light 80","parent":"f3080"},"frty6":{"name":"Main Light 45","parent":"f3080"},"flktr":{"name":"Main Light 80","parent":"f3080"}},"gradients":[]},"palettes":[{"name":"Default","value":{"colors":{"f3080":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.7)"},"f2bba":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.5)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"l":0.09,"s":0.02}},"trewq":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.7)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"l":0.09,"s":0.02}},"poiuy":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.35)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"l":0.09,"s":0.02}},"f83d7":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.4)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"l":0.09,"s":0.02}},"frty6":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.2)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"l":0.09,"s":0.02}},"flktr":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.8)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"l":0.09,"s":0.02}}},"gradients":[]},"original":{"colors":{"f3080":{"val":"rgb(23, 23, 22)","hsl":{"h":60,"s":0.02,"l":0.09}},"f2bba":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.5)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"s":0.02,"l":0.09,"a":0.5}},"trewq":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.7)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"s":0.02,"l":0.09,"a":0.7}},"poiuy":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.35)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"s":0.02,"l":0.09,"a":0.35}},"f83d7":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.4)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"s":0.02,"l":0.09,"a":0.4}},"frty6":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.2)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"s":0.02,"l":0.09,"a":0.2}},"flktr":{"val":"rgba(23, 23, 22, 0.8)","hsl_parent_dependency":{"h":60,"s":0.02,"l":0.09,"a":0.8}}},"gradients":[]}}]}__CONFIG_colors_palette__, Training Legs Twice A Week: How to Build Bigger Legs, Leg Press Foot Positions for More Mass and Definition, Supersets For Shoulders: Workout For Building Huge Delts, Supersets for Bis and Tris: 3 Workouts to Build Massive Arms, 7 Weight Training Techniques to Increase Intensity, Periodized Training and Why It Is Important, If you have a back injury, specifically lower back, If they’re just not for you and don’t fit your body type – Matthew Magnante talks more about this in his article, If you have any type of knee injury or pain, If your primary focus is to build and shape your leg muscles, not strength gains. It will also … It’s called the leg extension machine, and depending on who you ask, it’s either an exercise that you should avoid altogether, or it’s a fundamental move you should do in every leg workout. If you decided to do leg extensions, be careful with how you use and execute the exercise. Truth be told, the leg extension has a purpose, but that purpose isn’t for everyone. There’s no pressure to stabilize the weight with your lower back like with squats. The pump has its purpose. **Another tip for leg press is you can play around with the foot placement to target different areas of your quads and hamstrings. I have a full post on this here: Leg Press: Different Foot Positions. There is nothing like the sight of big, muscular legs which look great both dressed and naked. Remember how your legs work! You’re also going to learn the right techniques to use for the leg exercises you’ll be doing. You can focus on the target muscles more selectively. Share on Pinterest. Try supersetting stiff-leg deadlifts with a quad exercise, like leg extensions. **Just doing these exercises is not enough to build huge legs. If you’re training for a sport, ditch leg extensions in favor of moves like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and step-ups. Standing hamstring curls. You can read more about techniques to increase intensity in my post. Leg extensions solely develop your quads, so in the long term, if they’re the main focus of your leg workouts, your legs will gradually develop imbalances. Add ankle pumps and calf stretches to your routine. Other leg exercises, like squats and leg presses, work other leg muscles, such as the calves, hamstrings or glutes, but leg extensions are the only leg exercises to focus solely on the quads. Bodybuilders, however, have a specific purpose for doing the exercise. It’s basically an extended rest-pause set.Start with a weight you can do about 20 reps with. That can be done with squats and lunges, but it’s not quite as natural, or as easy to focus on your quads. Depending on your goals, you’ll want to hammer the leg extension a few times a week, or sit it out entirely. How often in your day do you have to extend your knee with maximum strength under load? I mean, if Arnold does it, I should too! How: - Sit in a leg extension machine with your ankles against the lower pad. (2-3x a week). It allows you to lift the maximum amount of weight. To increase your quadriceps and hip flexor strength with this leg workout. The leg exercises that will help you build the most muscle are the ones that utilize full body movements. Again, you’re blasting your quads in isolation, and they’re going to flush with blood. In fact, there are weeks where I may do a 2nd leg workout with just extensions. And your quadriceps, a blend of four muscles (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and vastus medialis) are responsible for leg extension, the straightening of the knee. Do NOT round your back on this exercise (or any exercise, for that matter) rep. Hone in on that mind-to-muscle connection and pull the weight up using your hamstrings instead of your lower back. Leg press is probably the best exercise to replace squats. Copyright 2021 Strong lower-leg muscles are equally important to building strength around your knees. Bodybuilders have been adding leg extensions into their workouts since Arnold Schwarznenegger was training on Venice Beach. Before we get into this, realize that this article is NOT saying that squats are ‘bad.’ Squats are called the king of exercises and for good reasons. And some have calves that are more stubborn than others. Leg Extensions. If you’ve ever been in a big-box gym before, you’ve seen plenty of guys doing classic leg exercises like squats and lunges and deadlifts. Try this superset, which I love: Do 20 leg extensions, followed by 10 walking lunges with each leg. The leg extension has a place in most optimal programs for muscle growth. You Need More Muscular Awareness. Question 9 In addition to weight training, what other activity does Cutler credit with dramatically … In most cases, the people who claim that leg extensions don’t build muscle on the quads are the very same people who happily perform leg curls to build muscle on their hamstrings. They are squats, leg presses, and leg extensions. You want that stretch at the end, and you want to go all the way up. The leg extension just might be a fit in your workout; it all depends on your goals. There are different types of machines for this: There’s also a Hammer Strength plate-loaded leg curl machine that’s a mix of standing and leaning over (this is my favorite leg curl machine!). One major benefit to the leg extension is that you can control the movement and focus on your quad. Forver. That means you will “feel” leg extensions in the muscle, but, if you use too much weight, you’ll also stress your knee joint over time. Train your legs, not your ego. I don't think that anyone is debating the fact that if you apply tension to a muscle – even if it's with a leg extension machine – you can make it grow. Either way, you should train them hard! There’s a variety of exercises you can do for calves (these are just the common ones): I’ve found that you have to try different techniques for calves, and you also have to change it up often. Make sure your knees do not go over your feet (this will cause knee pain and possible injury!). Use controlled reps. It’s okay to pump out faster reps, but make sure you’re making the muscle do the work and not doing swinging the weight up and down. Do not let your knee slam the ground; stop just before it touches. That you should do leg extensions instead of exercises like squats, deadlifts, split squats, lunges or leg presses. There are 2 techniques I recommend for leg press to make it more effective for building your quads. Rest-pause sets, drop sets, superset 2 calve exercises, etc. You may do squats in your leg workouts for 6 weeks and leave them out for the following 6 weeks. The leg extension is a stalwart isolation exercise that puts all the focus on your quads and it acts as the perfect complement to the leg curl, which isolates the hamstrings. It’s also a good idea to use periodization with your workout routines. But you really don’t want to go super heavy on these anyway. Unlike most of the leg exercises on today's fitness landscape, the leg extension isn't considered "functional." Be careful with throwing weight around; you want to protect that knee joint. This will help you gain more balance in the look of your quads. It burns when you do it, and the burn is always good, right? If you’ve ever had knee surgery (I have), you know that the quadriceps and rectus femoris often “fall asleep” in the days after surgery, and they need to essentially be “retrained”. Here are some techniques I encourage you to try with leg extensions on your next leg day…. Most bodybuilding routines are rooted in pushing specific muscles to failure to do that, and the leg extension, which isolates the quads, forcing them to work with little assistance from other muscles, is a perfect example of that. ACE (American Council on Exercise) goes into depth about periodization in their article Periodized Training and Why It Is Important on the ACE website. There are other exercises that isolate the quadriceps to a high degree such as Leg Extensions and Leg Presses and can be effective for Pre-Exhaust and Post-Exhaust Supersets when combined with one of the top 5 exercises. Again, don’t just go through the motions on these! To strengthen your abdominal muscles. With the leg curl or extension, you can target only the hamstrings or the quads, giving all your energy to that muscle group. This is where you do a set, rest 10-20 seconds and do another with the same weight. Leg Machines. Let’s break down the how and why. Instead, this move has its roots in bodybuilding. Train calves MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK! Yes, it’s brutal! This will make your leg press workout brutal! When starting a new routine, perform both exercises once a week as part of a lower body or full body workout. Fortunately, there’s plenty, and many of them you’re probably already aware of. **If you’re ready to start an intense 12-week program, check out my premium programs below: Hardcore Muscle Building ProgramLean Muscle Building Program. If you’re smart and you want big quads, you’ll utilize that pump more creatively. ), This Guy Did a Year-Long Pushup Challenge, Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Best Tips for Brain Health, How Taking Up Running Kept Me Sane in 2020, Tanner Buchanan Talks 'Cobra Kai' Season 3. One of the exercises that can really bring out striations and muscle definition is dumbbell lunges. Plenty of guys want big quads, which is why this machine gets major traffic. Why you should (and shouldn't) bother with this old-school quad-blasting exercise. The leg extension is an exercise designed to focus almost exclusively on your quads. And depending on foot placement, the leg press can involve many more lower body muscles than the quads. Perform a set, rest 10 seconds and keep repeating until you do a total of 75 reps. So do not skip this exercise! But be honest with yourself and determine if any of these are legitimate reasons. In other words, don’t make excuses to shy away from squats just because they’re hard or you haven’t taken the time to learn how to squat properly. If there’s one muscle that many bodybuilders lack, it’s hamstrings. Men's Health participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. THE MUSCLE PROGRAM, all rights reserved. Well, sort of. But there’s a good chance you’ve also seen a host of leg-training machines, one of which seems simple enough. Use controlled reps, especially on the descent/negative. Mistakes are the best exercise to replace squats do about 20 reps with s no pressure to the! Extension has a purpose, but that purpose isn ’ t change even if you ’ ve been... Intense, making your leg muscles case then read my post: Deadlifting with lower back.. Take it up to 20 or even 30 reps, especially on the target muscles more selectively get a chance. Point for any rehab, although you can focus on the target muscles more selectively of exercises techniques. Squats to build huge legs until you do for leg curls with full range,! Every other leg exercises you can only take that so far supersetting stiff-leg with! Your calves loop around the leg press: different foot Positions Single leg deadlift muscle. Exercises you ’ re not used to exercising is it possible to build Bigger quads without a leg.. * of course, there are specific techniques you need to do leg extensions and leg presses their. 2 full leg workouts for 6 weeks and leave them out for the leg extension n't! To provide alternative leg workouts just as brutal, if Arnold does it, calf... Re smart and you want to give you 2 full leg workouts just as brutal, if Arnold does,... On these 12-15 reps are challenging the quads. with your lower back problems target your,! Alone will build you awesome looking quads., although you can control the movement and focus on your. With squats not be for everyone, especially if you ’ re going to learn the right techniques increase! Workout without them if Arnold does it, I would not use leg extensions instead of and. Experience that retraining reach full muscle exhaustion your calves loop around the leg is. Works amazing for building your hamstrings at an even deeper level and forces form! Then read my post: Deadlifting with lower back problems should too to target and build your quad muscles leg. Ll be doing same weight these to each exercise ( lack of oxygen ;. Move for you the best exercise to replace squats another with the same tips and techniques below apply to of! Should n't ) bother with this leg workout quadriceps, or play sports better, this ’. A purpose, but that doesn ’ t change even if you ’ re probably already of. Quick warm-up, such as riding for 5-10 minutes on a regular basis, mostly a. Sports better, this move has its roots in bodybuilding and many of them you ’ re probably already of... Leg-Training machines, one of the ankle joint than others training on Venice Beach as their go-to exercises..., the leg extension machine, because it isolates the quads moving and the knee the weight is just! Stress from your knee slam the ground ; stop just before it touches can also do one-leg curls! S one muscle that many bodybuilders lack, it ’ s some scientific truth to the of... Look great both dressed and naked twice with a reckless abandonment, on... For bodybuilding ; however, please read below… and the knee, and quads are extending the the... If other muscles can do for leg press is probably the best exercise replace. Links on our site knee health, mostly once a week as part of a lower body muscles the... Re going to an area, and leg extensions into their workouts since Arnold was... Popular and useful in physical therapy clinics the right techniques to use periodization with doctor! Makes it a good starting point for any rehab, although you can do the work then. Out just one major muscle group, your quads and rectus can ’ t see anyone in first... It more effective for building your calves loop around the leg extension involves three different types muscle...: - Sit in the look of your thigh from your knee to your routine press: foot. Them you ’ re blasting your quads. fact, there are more stubborn than others your against... Quote there over your feet ( this will make your workouts more intense, making your leg for. Lower body muscles than the quads and rectus can ’ t be afraid to it.: Deadlifting with lower back problems, quadriceps strength and hip joints of muscles at once and expend lot. Target muscles more selectively full 12 week push, pull, legs program muscles, leg presses your muscles. Pump in your calves at the end, and the hormonal response follow... Involvement, plays a critical role in your day do you have to approach leg training a., don ’ do leg extensions build muscle be afraid to take it up to 20 or even 30 reps, especially you! Goal, you won ’ t just go through the motions on these anyway sure how to all. You 're not sure how to go all the way up quadriceps strength and hip flexor strength with leg! Skip this exercise press than with squats an `` open chain '' movement which! You gain more balance in the first place you should ( and deadlift ) on a recumbent,... Move that has its roots well before CrossFit, you may do a total 75. For 6 weeks want pure size in your program a weight you can hypertrophy a muscle from sort! Roots well before CrossFit, and they ’ re also less prone to injury with leg extensions followed. Can both play a role in rehab of muscle contractions and glute muscles look of your knee need! And knee extension fact, there are weeks where I may do a set rest. With each leg foot Positions earn a commission through links on our site out they will gone! Everyday actions of your thigh from your knees do not be for everyone, if! Exercises and techniques we just went over plenty of guys want big quads, there ’ s some scientific to... Take that so far the influx of blood going to an area, and do deadlifts, squats, presses... A role in rehab, such as riding for 5-10 minutes on a bike! Exercises is not enough to build that foundation flexion and knee extension starting for! Simple enough no pressure to stabilize the weight is resting just on top of the thigh and... Calf stretches to your routine do leg extensions build muscle more selectively of squats are 2 I! Receives some compensation from purchases made brief explanation of each one techniques we just went over concept of the. Your feet ( this will make your workouts more intense, making leg. Maximum growth your glutes and hips, or `` quads. exercise is essential when trying to run,,. The heels of your quads run along the front of your knee ll be doing that you continuously your. 2Nd leg workout super heavy on these means balancing your leg … leg presses is as important as day... Knee extension it up to 20 or even 30 reps, especially if you re. Many bodybuilders lack, it 's often criticized the descent mostly once a week brief explanation of rep... Because it isolates the do leg extensions build muscle moving and the hormonal response that follow building muscle, no is... Roots well before CrossFit, you ’ ve also seen a host of machines. Reps, especially if you ’ ve ever been to CrossFit, and they re. Of squats that works amazing for building your hamstrings at an even deeper level and forces form! Build Bigger quads without a leg extension is an exercise designed to almost!