The leg extension exercise targets the large group of muscles in the front and side of your thigh. The major muscle groups targeted in the leg extension exercise are known as the quads. Leg extensions are an isolation movement that develops strength in the quadriceps at the front of the thigh. The quads are engaged when you use a leg extension machine, but what are some alternate ways to target the quad muscles at home?
Why Is Having Strong Quads Important?
Keeping the quads strong can help reduce stress on your knees and improve stability in your kneecaps. It can also enhance your athletic performance in many ways. As we age, it is common to experience pain, deterioration, and injury in the knees. Once your knees and kneecaps are affected, it becomes increasingly more difficult to perform basic, daily tasks. Preventive measures such as strengthening the muscles in the knees are your best defense to maintaining an active, healthy life.
First, I’m going to show you the best way to mimic the leg extension exercise when you don’t have a machine or when you prefer to do your workouts from home. There are a variety of modifications to this basic movement, but we’ll start with this effective approach to the leg extension exercise.
Here’s What You Will Need To Do Leg Extensions At Home
You can substitute a home exercise for a leg extension machine that you usually find at the gym. This exercise will help you build the quad muscles in your upper legs. I find it very important to be able to duplicate certain exercises at home since it’s not always possible to get to the gym. You will need just a few simple items for an at-home leg extension. If you do not have them on hand, you can find them at a local store or order them online. Here are some of my preferred items:
- At least one set of dumbbells
- 18” Foam Roller
- Any solid, mostly squared off chair (use what you have at home)
You may want to consider a set of dumbbells or a style of dumbbell that allows you to easily adjust the weight, such as this FLYBIRD adjustable dumbbell. An adjustable dumbbell is more of an investment; however, it will allow you a ton of flexibility not only for improving your fitness but also for various exercises. This way, you will be able to increase the amount of resistance as your legs get stronger. In my example, I am using a 10-pound dumbbell that provided a good amount of resistance, especially as I focused on doing more repetitions, slowing down the movement, and squeezing the muscles.
Step-By-Step How To Do Leg Extensions At Home
For this exercise, you will use a chair, bed, or bench… anything that you can sit on that’s solid. The higher you are, the better the range of motion will be. For this example, we will use a foam roller to place under the legs, just above the back of the knees. This will elevate your legs and increase your range of motion, effectively targeting the quad muscles. If a foam roller is not comfortable, you can try using a pillow, which may also alleviate any unnecessary pressure on the back of the knee. I prefer the foam roller because it allows the best range of motion. The foam roller allows your hips to be lower than your knees, creating that extra range of motion.
- Use a chair, bed, or bench… anything solid. The higher you are, the better because you don’t want to be touching the floor.
- Place a dumbbell on the floor in front of your feet.
- Get into a sideways seated position on the chair, and place the foam roller underneath the back of both of your knees. Be careful to place the foam roller just above the back of the knees so that you’re not putting unnecessary distress on the ligaments at the back of the knee.
- Lift the dumbbell with your feet while pushing your heels in.
- Once you have found a comfortable lifting position, begin focusing on the quads retracting as you raise and lower the dumbbell.
- Squeeze at the top of the movement (as the dumbbell wants to fall down) so that your quads are working to hold against the resistance.
The chair I have at home (shown in the example) is a countertop height chair that is higher from the ground than an average table chair. A table height or countertop height chair will work fine. Once I performed this leg extension exercise at home with the dumbbells and foam roller already available to me, I was surprised at how much it does target the muscles in the same way the leg extension machine at the gym will do. It’s such a great addition to an at-home workout when it’s likely you already have these items laying around and can put them to some good use!