The Leg Series - Impact Personal Training

Quad Training Via Machines.

Squats are a great exercise for overall leg development but having a variation of leg exercises within you program is also good idea. The next 3 exercises are going to be 3 quad dominant exercises that you will be able to perform in most equipped gyms.

Leg Extension:

A leg extension machine is one of the most common leg exercises’ you will see in almost any gym. It is a great quad isolation exercise when performed properly but at the same time can also be performed incorrectly without realising. The most common mistake we see is not adjusting the machine to match YOU.

  • Most machine will have a back support that you can adjust, when taking a seat in the leg extension, ensure that your knee is in line with the axis (the part of the machine where the level rotates from). If you are not In line, then adjust the back support either back or forward until you are in the right position.
  • Next thing we want to make sure is in the right position in the ankle pad. We want to ensure it sits comfortably on the ankle and not too far up the shin or too low on the foot. 
  • Once we have the machine set up, grip the handles that are either side tightly forcing your glutes into the pad, push your chest up and lock your shoulders in so that you are stable.
  • Continuing to stay locked in, drive your feet up until your knee is near enough straight, at the top of the movement you will feel a contraction throughout your quadricep.
  • While controlling the weight, allow to feet to come back down towards the start position, still keeping your glutes locked into the bad.

Leg Press:

A leg press is one of the most efficient leg exercises’ you can perform for your quads, typically it will hit all portions of your leg, but you can adjust your setup slightly to change the primary target muscle (in this case, your quads). The setup itself is fairly straight forward as there isn’t much machine adjusting.

  • Sit yourself down into the seat, with your upper back pressed into the pad and your glutes pushed down into the pad also.
  • For a general stance, you will need to bring your feet up to the middle of the plate with your feet around shoulder width apart.
  • Push the leg press up and unlock the handles supporting the weight, ensure your glutes and upper back are still locked in firm into the pad so you are stable. 
  • Allow your knees to come down towards your chest, your deepest part of the rep will be when you feel a stretch throughout your quad, and your glutes are still locked into the pad. Ideally at the bottom of the rep there should be a 90-degree angle between your hamstring and calve.
  • Drive your entire foot through the plate until your legs are back to the starting position, don’t fully locked out your knees at the top of the movement.

A ‘neutral’ stance like spoken about above will hit mostly quad and a little bit of hamstring and glute at the bottom of the movement. If you adjust your foot positioning towards the bottom of the plate and take a hip width stance the exercise will become primarily quad. If you take your feet up towards the top of the plate and take your stance wide (towards the edge of the plate) the movement will become primarily hamstring and glute.

Tru Squat/Hack Squat:

Typically, most gyms have a hack squat, although we use a Tru squat they are very similar with the movement and adjustments. A hack squat is primarily a quad exercise but will engage the glutes and hamstrings towards the bottom of the movement.

  • Get your shoulders under the pad with your feet placed on the plate, with your feet on the middle of the plate around shoulder width apart. For the movement we want your upper back to be pushed back into the pad, as well as your lower back (imagine sucking your belly button inwards).
  • Unlock the machine and ensure the above cue points are still locked in. Allow your knees to track over your toes and drop your hips downwards.
  • At the bottom of the movement there should be at least a 90degree angle between your hamstring and calve, and if you can allow your hips to drown lower while maintaining a locked in torso and flat feet then even better.
  • Once at the bottom of the movement ensure your belly button is still sucked in, drive your feet into the plate back up to the top of the movement.

Again, if you adjust your foot positioning you can change the primary muscle for the movement, if you move your feet towards the bottom of the plate the movement will become quad dominant. If you move your feet towards the top of the plate the movement will become hamstring and glute dominant.

Sissy Squat: 

Although not many gyms have the equipment for a sissy squat, if your gym does provide it you should definitely include it. It is a great exercise for your quads and allows you to stay locked in without much complication.

  • Place your feet under the pads, around hip width apart with your calves pressed up against the pad behind.
  • Brace your core and keep your chest high so that your spine stays neutral, drop your hips back and down towards the floor. Your torso should not lean forward, and your calves should stay pressed up against the pads.
  • The bottom of the movement should be when the knee creates a 90 degree. Keeping your chest tall, drive your heels into the floor bringing your hips back up towards the starting position, even as you drive up your calves should stay pressed against the pad.
  • The top of the rep should finish just before the knee locks out, before continuing into the next rep.

This movement should be performed with just bodyweight, but weight can be added either side your of legs, or held up at the chest.

Hamstring and Glute training.

Within this section we will be covering the hamstrings and Glutes. Probably the most neglected areas of the legs (as you can’t see them). Glute training is one of the most important muscles you should incorporate into your training. The Glutes help to stabilise your entire lower body, hips and back. So, yeah they’re pretty important, plus I think we can all agree they look great on everyone when trained 😉  

First up though we’ll be covering the hamstrings (back of the leg). Did you know there are three of them? Well you do now…your hamstrings help to flex the knee, externally rotate your leg and extend the hip.

We have covered the Romanian deadlifts previously (see here) which is a compound movement for hamstrings so we’ll now cover some isolation exercises for your hamstrings and 

Hamstring Curl:

Whether your gym has a seated or lying hamstring curl variation, the setups are fairly similar with the ques and movement pattern. Before starting the movement, you need to ensure the machine is set up to fit you. 

            Seated Variation:

  • Sit yourself down and ensure your knee is in line with the axis of the machine (where the lever rotates from) if it is not in line then adjust the seat either forwards or backwards until in the right position. 
  • Next you need to ensure that the pad is sitting comfortably on your ankles and not too far up your shin.
  • Drive your upper back into the pad behind you, and your hips into the pad beneath you. Grab the handles provided and continue to lock yourself down into the pads.
  • While maintaining the said posture, drive your heels down as if you are bringing them towards your glutes, when releasing the weight, ensure your glutes stay driven down into the pad, allow the weight to come back up just before the knee locks out, then carry on into the next rep.

Lying Variation:

  • Lay yourself down and ensure your knees are just sitting over the edge of the of the bench, again they should be in line with the axis of the machine.
  • Next your need to ensure that the pad is sitting comfortably on the back of your ankles and not too far up your calves’.
  • Drive your hips down into the pad and suck your belly button down towards the floor. Grab the handles provided to ensure your torso stays locked into the pad. 
  • This time, while ensuring your hips stay down into the pad, drive your heels up towards your glutes, making the gap between your hamstrings and calves as small as possible. Once at the end of the rep allow your feet to come back out towards the beginning of the rep and end the rep just before the knees fully lock out.

Glute Training

Many people underestimate how important glute training is. It plays a huge role in lower body strength and strength throughout the posterior chain. Before over complicating glute training, we are going to start at the beginning with a body weight glute bridge and work our way up. 

  • Lie yourself flat on the floor face up. Bring your knees up into a bent position with your hole foot planted firmly on the floor. Keep your upper back pressed into the floor and your arms relaxed either side of your body.
  • Once in position drive your heels into the ground, forcing your hips up towards the ceiling. At the top of the movement your knees, hips and shoulders should create a straight line. Hold this position for 1 – 2 seconds.
  • Keeping tension through the upper back and heels. Allow your hips to come back down towards the floor, before pushing up again into the next rep.

Barbell Hip Thrust:

A barbell hip thrust is very similar to a glute bridge and it is one of the best exercises you can perform and progressively overload for the glutes. As well as targets the glutes It will also aid in strengthening your hamstrings.

  • Sit yourself on the floor in an L shape, with your back up against a bench. 
  • Roll the bar up onto the hips, bring the feet towards your body creating a bend at the knee, but make sure you WHOLE foot is planted on the floor. Push your scapula (Upper back) down into the bench, creating a strong foundation.
  • Drive your feet into the floor, brace your core and drive your hips up towards the ceiling. Continue to keep your upper back pushed into the bench.
  • At the top of the movement your glutes should be fully contracted, with your shoulders, hips and knees in a straight line.
  • Controlling the weight allow your hips to come back down towards the floor, let the glutes fully stretch before going for the next rep.

If you notice any uncomfortable pain in your lower back towards the bottom part of the movement, place an block or weight under either side of the bar, so that the starting position is slightly elevated.

Lunges

A walking lunge is a great leg exercise for overall leg development, targeting the quads, hamstrings ang glutes. There are a few variations you can do to charge the primary target muscle, but for now we will focus on the walking lunge.

  • With both feet together around hip width apart, and with dumbbells in both hands. 
  • Keeping your chest up and your torso in an upright position, take a step forward and bend your front knee down into a 90-degree position. At this point your back knee should also be in a 90-degree angle but shouldn’t be touching the floor.
  • Once you are in this forwarded step position, push your entire body through the leading leg back into a straight position, allowing your trailing leg to also come back into a straight position.
  • Once both feet are back together proceed by leading with the opposite foot.

Once you feel comfortable you can progress from one leg straight to the other, without having to bring them back together at the top. Also ensure the dumbbells stay still throughout the movement and that they are not swinging back and forth while you are performing the reps. If you want to target more quad from a walking lunge, take a small smell with your leading leg and keep your torso in an upright position throughout. If you want to target more glute, take a longer stride and allow your torso to lean forward slightly into that leading leg.

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