Leg Extensions

Image of how to do leg extensions


Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked: Quadriceps

Equipment: Machine or a Resistance band

Level: Beginner

What are Leg Extensions?

The leg extension is a reliable isolation exercise that puts all the focus on your quads and it acts as the perfect pairing to go with the leg curl, which isolates the hamstrings. Together the two combined will go a long way towards bulking up your thigh muscles, front and back.

Leg extensions are exercises usually done with a lever machine. You sit on a padded seat and raise a padded bar with your legs. You can use this exercise to build lower body strength and muscle definition as part of a strength training workout.

Muscles Worked in Leg Extensions

Best Leg Exercises

primary: Quadriceps

secondary: No secondary muscle worked

Benefits of Leg Extensions


The leg extension is typically performed on a leg-extension machine which makes it a relatively simple exercise. The movement occurs at only one joint and is a basic, limited motion. However always keep a slight bend in your knees to protect the joint from excessive wear and tear. The simplicity of this exercise makes it easy to learn and execute properly, even for beginner lifters.

All you need to do is sit on the leg machine, put your feet beneath the leg bar and raise. Every beginner who wishes to work his/her quadriceps can perform the leg extension exercise with ease in as much as long as they follows the instructions and does it right.


Leg extensions are a key exercise in strengthening the patellar ligament and the quadricep attachment for the knee. This exercise focuses on strengthening the quad alone which also strengthens key attachments for the knee joint at the same time. Other leg exercises, such as squats, step-ups and leg presses, work the quadriceps, but the hamstrings, calves or glute muscles assist the during the movement. If your quadriceps are weak, performing leg extensions allows you to focus on strengthening just that muscle.

To further reduce injury risk, lift heavier weights and support your knees while performing the leg extensions I recommend buying a knee sleeve support band from here: Knee sleeve


Vary your leg-extension exercises to keep your workout fresh. If you don’t have access to a leg-extension machine, you can use resistance bands or ankle weights. At the gym, attach a cuff to your ankle and do cable leg extensions. While seated, perform one-leg or two-leg extensions.

Specific Muscles

If you train on the squat exercise and gradually become stronger, this strength increase does not necessarily transfer to the leg-extension exercise. If you want to be stronger for activities that mimic the leg-extension movement, such as kicking, you must train on the leg-extension exercise, gradually increasing the weight to increase your strength.

How to do Leg Extensions

Leg Extensions

For this exercise you will need to use a leg extension machine. First choose your weight and sit on the machine with your legs under the pad (feet pointed forward) and the hands holding the side bars. This will be your starting position.  Tip: You may need to adjust the pad so that it falls on top of your lower leg (just above your feet). Also, make sure that your legs form a 90-degree angle between the lower and upper leg.

  1. 1. Whilst keeping torso and hips stationary, extend at the knee to raise your lower legs up
  2. 2. Once you have reached peak contraction, slowly lower the lever back to the starting position
  3. 3. To keep constant tension on your quadriceps do not allow the weight stack to rest at the end of the movement

Repeat for the desired amount of reps

Mistakes commonly made in leg extensions


When performing the leg extension do not use your momentum to lift the weights as this actually reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Quickly moving the weights allows momentum to reduce the tension within the muscles, especially at the top of the lift which reduces how much your muscles end up working in the exercise.

Locking your Knees out

When performing the leg extension you should not lock your knees out at the full extension as this can strain the knee joint and possibly cause injuries.

Too Heavy Weights

The leg extension is an exercise where you should never lift weights that would cause you to fail at the end of a set and prevent you from doing the last few reps, this can stress the joints and sometimes even lead to injury.

Safety when performing leg extensions

If you have a knee, ankle, or thigh injury, you seek guidance from your doctor, a qualified physical therapist, or a strength and conditioning coach who specializes in weight training rehabilitation. They may suggest to avoid performing leg extensions. Some people say that the leg extension can damage the knees and that even full-depth squatting is safer, although there’s on evidence to support this.

If you feel any pain during the exercise, especially in your knee or ankle, slowly lower the weights and end the exercise. Only use a weight you can press with good form for 10 reps.

Variations of Leg Extensions

You can use various foot positions in order to maximise stimulation of certain thigh areas. You can also perform the movement one leg at a time or even do leg extensions without machine

You can also do leg extensions using ankle weights or resistance bands, If you need a resistance band one can be purchased from here: Resistance band

Resistance band seated leg extension

For a seated leg extension with ankle weights, start with 5-pound weights and progress only to 10-pound weights. Or, loop a resistance band around your ankle and around the rear leg of the chair on the same side.

Easy Workouts at home

  1. 1. Sit in a chair with your back straight.
  2. 2. Lift one leg to straight out from your body.
  3. 3. Hold for five seconds.
  4. 4. Lower to starting position.
  5. 5. Repeat with the other leg.


Resistance band standing leg extension

For a standing leg extension using a resistance band, you would anchor on end of the band behind you and loop the band around your ankle. Stand in a position where the band has no tension when your knee is bent with ankle behind you. Hold a rail or chair for balance as needed.

Resistance Band Workput

  1. 1. Slowly straighten your knee to bring to the band under tension, maintaining a straight back.
  2. 2. Extend as far as comfortable. Pause and slowly return to the starting position.
  3. 3. Perform 10 reps, then do the same with the other leg.

Write below in the comments your opinion on leg extensions, if they work for you and any questions you might have.

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