Leg Extension/Hamstring Curl Overview
The leg extension is a lower body isolation movement designed to isolate the quad muscles. This can be used to overload the quad muscles without loading the spine and can also be a very effective warm up exercise for the knees.
Our quad muscles are very strong so it's important that we work slowly and allow our muscles/knees/ligaments to warm up to keep them safe and healthy.
The hamstring curl is also a lower body isolation movement designed to target the hamstring muscles, whilst also activating your glutes, quadriceps and calf muscles as secondary muscles during this movement pattern.
An extension focuses on the muscles of the quad in particular the vests medialus, more commonly known as the tear drop which sits right down on the inside of our knee. If you have knee pain at the moment this can be a great exercise to strengthen then muscles to support the knees. However we should ensure we are fully warmed up, activated and also starting with lighter weights to ensure we're working with our bodies not against them.
A Hamstring/ Leg curl is a basic isolation movement pattern that targets two primary muscle groups: the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) and the hamstrings (bicep femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus muscles). This is a great exercise to strengthen the hamstrings which in turn gives us better posture, balance and stamina, which are essential for day to day life and reducing and help prevent chronic pain as we age.
Leg Extension: When setting up we want to ensure that the back of the knee is hard up against the pad of the machine. We also want to keep the back pad pressed into us and keep our torso in an upright position through the entire movement.
Lying Hamstring Curl: Start by lying flat on your stomach and position the roller pads so that they rest comfortably a few inches under your calves and just above your heels. Make sure the pads are not too high up on your calves as this can place pressure on your Achilles and reduce your range of motion for the movement.
How to Execute
Leg Extension: Once you've selected a light weight to start and have yourself set up on the machine we will extend slowly at the knee. We want to raise up until the feet are almost at the height of our knees but stopping just before that. We want to prevent locking our knees our and forcefully contract our quads through the moment. Lower the weight down slowly while returning to the starting position. A good reference point is to do a 1-2 seconds up then 2-3 seconds down rep tempo.
Lying Hamstring Curl: Stretch your legs out fully, on inhale lightly grasp the support handles, lift your feet towards your glutes as you flex your knees while exhaling and ensuring you keep your hips firmly on the bench during the movement, hold this position for a few seconds before lowering your legs down, and then return to the starting position.
When To Do Leg Extensions/ Lying Hamstring Curls
This can be completed at the start of a workout to warm up the knees or pre-exhaust the quads. It can also be done after big movements like squats and leg presses to further tax the quads without loading the spine.
Lying Hamstring Curls can be done at a lighter weight to warm up the hamstrings prior to a leg session and to pre exhaust the muscles, or can be done after compound movements have been completed to further fatigue the hamstring muscles.