Nothing burns quite like a set of high-rep leg extensions taken all the way to failure with good form. I am a firm believer that sets done in the aforementioned way are one of the main reasons I’ve been able to develop my legs like I have. I regularly use leg extensions either as a warm-up or finisher for my quad workouts.
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While many people think of leg extensions as an exercise with performance variables, I beg to differ. A ton of variables go into this exercise, and ignoring one or all of them can place a lot of undue stress on your knee joint and ligaments. I decided that it would be easiest to explain proper form by giving you a checklist:
1. Adjust the back pad set so that when you sit down and firmly pull yourself into the seat, your knee lines up with the axis of the center of the machine’s pulley. This instruction will probably be on the machine itself in the form of a red target or yellow highlighted area on the part of the pulley I am talking about.
2. Set the pad so it goes across the lower portion of your shin, 2-3 inches above the ankle joint, when you’re at the very bottom of the rep. Make sure your butt is firmly pulled into the seat.
3. At the start of the set, dorsal flex your foot, and hold this position for the entire set. In addition to maintaining dorsal flexion, keep your toes pointed straight up for the whole rep. Doing so will prevent going too far down—if you go too far down, you’ll take the stress off your quads and place it on your knee joint and ligaments.
4. Raise the weight to just shy of completely locking your knee out, and then return to the starting position. Only go as far as your body allows you to while keeping good form.
Tip: Put your fist, a softball, or something of around that size in between your knees, and lightly squeeze it between your knees for the whole set. Doing so will prevent you from going too low into the resting position and will increase the tension placed on your quads.
My favorite isolation exercise is one that has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Once again, it isn’t so much the exercise as it is people’s form or inability to check their egos that has caused this reputation. If you follow the above checklist, and use a weight that you can perform at least 10 perfect reps with, you will be in very good territory when it comes to preventing wear and tear and pain on your knees.
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