By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club Editor
Leg extensions are an important exercise that focus on building strength in the quadriceps, the group of muscles at the front of your thigh. As we age, it becomes ever more important to maintain strength here. This exercise is often performed at the gym using a leg extension machine, but it can also be done at home with the right equipment.
Why are leg extensions important?
Leg extensions are important for several reasons. First, they are a great way to build and strengthen the quadriceps. This muscle group is responsible for extending the knee joint and is used in a wide range of activities, from walking and running to jumping and squatting. By strengthening the quadriceps, you can improve your overall lower body strength and performance.
Second, leg extensions can help improve knee stability. The quadriceps play an important role in stabilizing the knee joint, and strengthening them can help reduce the risk of knee injuries. Good especially if you’re a runner like me!
Third, leg extensions can help improve muscle imbalances. Many people have weaker quadriceps compared to their hamstrings, which can lead to muscle imbalances and an increased risk of injury. By strengthening the quadriceps, you can help balance out your leg muscles and reduce the risk of injury.
All good for helping us age healthily!
How to do leg extensions at home
To perform leg extensions at home, you’ll need a few pieces of equipment. The most important piece of equipment is a resistance band. You’ll also need a sturdy chair or bench to sit on.
Here are the steps to perform leg extensions in a chair at home:
- Attach a resistance band (long or short depending on positioning) to a sturdy anchor point, such as a door or wall.
- Sit on a chair or bench with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.
- Loop the resistance band around your ankle.
- Slowly lift your foot off the floor, straightening your leg as you do so. Keep your back straight and your other foot flat on the floor.
- Hold the contraction for a few seconds, then slowly lower your foot back down to the starting position.
- Repeat for several repetitions, then switch legs and repeat on the other side.
- If you have a foam roller, you can put that under your thigh for an improved position.
- You could also loop a kettlebell over your foot instead of using a band.
- As another alternative, you could lift both legs at the same time holding a dumbbell between them.
The early part of this video shows some alternatives for setting up this exercise at home.
Tips for performing leg extensions at home
Here are a few tips to help you perform leg extensions safely and effectively at home:
- Use a resistance band that provides enough resistance to challenge your muscles, but not so much that you cannot perform the exercise safely.
- Keep your back straight throughout the exercise to avoid straining your lower back.
- Focus on contracting your quadriceps throughout the movement to ensure that you are targeting the right muscles.
- Avoid locking out your knee at the top of the movement, as this can increase the risk of injury.
- Start with a lower number of repetitions and gradually increase over time as your strength improves.
Other exercises to strengthen the quadriceps
Did you know that a test for strength in older people is the sit stand test? How many times you can stand up from a sitting position in 30 seconds. This is a good measure of overall health in older people. Maintaining lower body strength is so important as we age. In addition to leg extensions, there are several other exercises you can do to maintain lower body strength at home. Here are a few examples:
- Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward. Bend your knees and lower your hips as if you are sitting back into a chair. Keep your back straight and your knees in line with your toes. Return to the starting position and repeat for several repetitions.
- Lunges: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and step forward with one foot, bending your knee and lowering your hips until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Walk around doing lunges instead of steps!
- Step-ups: Stand in front of a sturdy bench or step. Step up onto the bench with one foot, then step back down. Repeat for several repetitions, then switch legs and repeat on the other side.
Leg extensions are an important exercise for building strength in the quadriceps, improving knee stability, and reducing the risk of injury. With the right equipment, you can do these at home and have a huge impact on your current and future health, keeping you strong and mobile for as long as possible.
Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond which was recommended in the New York Times.
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Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Editorial Staff