Leg Extension Machine: To Use or Not to Use

Thursday January 17, 2013

There are many exercises that you can do in the Wellness Center that make you “feel the burn,” but you have to be careful to protect yourself and your joints. Many of us have knee problems, but whether you have them now or just want to prevent them for the future, it might be a good idea to avoid the leg extension machine. Using this machine for quadricep strengthening stirs controversy among fitness and health professionals, and has been labeled as a contradicted exercise in recent history after much research.

To use the leg extension machine, you sit with a pad across your shins, and you extend your knees against the resistance. It works the muscles in the front of your thighs (the quadriceps), and even though you certainly feel it working, the risk may out­weigh the reward. Specifically, the LifeFitness Leg Extension exercise increases the force on the knee joint, especially the kneecap. In addition, it also puts unnecessary pressure on the ligaments and may damage knee cartilage.

Another aspect to consider is that this machine is not “functional.” Functional activities are exercises that prepare you for move­ments in normal daily activities. The leg extension machine doesn’t mimic any movement that we encounter in real life and does not challenge your balance, coordination, or functional strength.

There are better alternatives to the leg extension. Squats, lunges, and the leg press machine are other exercises that work your quadricep muscles, but don’t neglect the surrounding muscles, and work in a functional pattern. The load or resistance is distributed throughout the foot, ankle, knee, and hip. This is the way we move in real life, so why not train like it?

All in all, because of the risk of the LifeFitness Leg Extension machine (machine #22 on the fitness floor), the management has decided to replace it with an additional Leg Press machine. We hope that you understand this decision and are able to adapt your routine to make it safer and more functional.