It can be difficult to know which exercise machines work your lower body.
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Strong legs and glutes are vital for exercise performance, speed and overall fitness. Besides their aesthetic appeal, these muscles generate power and support your body. They also play a key role in everyday movements, such as walking, squatting, running and climbing the stairs. If your legs and buttocks are weak, you may develop injuries and perform poorly at your sport of choice. Certain gym machines can help develop lower body strength and prevent muscle imbalances while shaping your physique.
Sit and Press
This versatile gym machine targets your muscles from different angles and makes you stronger overall. Depending on how you position your feet, you can emphasize your quads, hamstrings or glutes.
A higher foot placement, for instance, will engage your gluteal muscles and upper hamstrings by increasing the degree of hip flexion. If your quads need more work, place your feet higher on the machine. For stronger inner thighs, use a wide stance.
By using the leg press, you'll build stronger legs and glutes. This exercise increases functional strength, which, in turn, can improve your balance and dynamic muscle performance.
Even though squats are a better option in terms of functional strength, the leg press has its role. It not only puts less stress on your spine, but also carries a lower risk of injuries compared to the barbell squat. Additionally, you don't need a spotter to perform this exercise safely. If you ever plateau with your squat progression or experience back pain, consider using the seated leg press.
Extend Your Legs
Unless you suffer from knee pain, leg extensions are a great choice for building strong, well-defined quads. For best results, use them along with the leg curl, an isolation exercise that engages your hamstrings. These movements complement each other, leading to greater leg development.
The leg extension builds power and strength in the lower body. It also allows for progressive overload since you can easily adjust the amount of weight you're lifting. The key to prevent injuries is to use a slow, controlled motion and increase the load gradually.
Curl it Up
One of the best ways to isolate your hamstrings is to use the leg curl machine. Strong hamstring muscles can improve your ability to flex the knees, leading to improved running economy and lower injury risk. You'll run faster, squat heavier and have better balance.
Leg curls improve blood flow to your hamstrings, which promotes hypertrophy, also known as muscle growth. This isolation exercise also targets smaller thigh muscles that contribute to everyday movements, such as the popliteus, the gracilis and the sartorius.
According to the Strength and Conditioning Journal, exercises that target the hamstrings - such as leg curls and their variations - improve knee joint stabilization and increase hamstring strength, leading to a reduced risk of injury. Additionally, they speed up recovery and can be used as part of a rehab program.
Try this Hack
Another great exercise is the hack squat, which engages your quads. It also gives your glutes and hamstrings a pretty good workout. Depending on your preferences, you can either use the hack squat machine or a barbell to perform this movement.
EMG studies indicate that both the hack squat and the back squat have a similar impact on the outer quads. However, hack squats engage the glutes and hamstrings to a greater extent. Additionally, they put less stress on your spine compared to the barbell back squat.
In the long run, this exercise helps develop lower body strength and shapes your legs while allowing you to lift heavier weights when squatting. At the same time, it reinforces proper spinal alignment and postural mechanisms, leading to a reduced risk of injury.
Combine machine exercises with free weights to get the most out of your workout. Start with compound movements, such as squats and deadlifts, and use gym machines to isolate specific muscles like your quads or glutes. Maintain proper lifting form and increase the weight as you get stronger.