The single leg extension is a good way to develop strength in one leg. While it’s not typical that most people will have a leg extension machine in their homes, this is still a great exercise to take advantage of if you do happen to have one of these devices or if you’re working out at a gym.
One of the biggest issues that many people have with exercise machines is that they make it easy to distribute the work of a task unevenly. For instance, a bicep curl machine can easily be manipulated so that the dominant arm does two-thirds or more of the work while the weaker arm does less. This does not promote an even balance of exercise in both arms and can result in further strengthening one arm while not allowing the other to develop. The same can unfortunately be true of the leg extension machine as well.
The single leg extension closely mimics the standard leg extension that you’d do on an exercise machine of this type. However, it differs in that you’ll only use one leg to extend and raise the weights that are holding you down. Therefore, it’s a good idea to begin with at most half of the weight that you’d normally use on a standard leg extension. Most people find that it’s best to actually use less than half of the weight to begin and then to build up the weight gradually from there.
The basic positioning for this exercise requires that you sit on the edge of the leg extension machine. If your leg extension machine has a rest for your arms, place your arms in the proper position. After adjusting the weight and resistance on the machine to the appropriate level, place one of your legs underneath the bar so that you can push it up. The other leg can rest off to the side or can remain of the far side of the push bar. Slowly lift your leg up to raise the bar and then gradually let it back down to complete one repetition of the exercise.
Safety and Injury Prevention
Be sure to work gradually and to build up the weight that you use in order to prevent injury. As with other exercises, it’s crucial that you work to be sure that you stretch and prepare for each time that you lift your leg. Breathe deeply as you work out.
For an added challenge that will help to strengthen other muscles in your legs, hold your free leg up above the machine as you work. You should complete the exercise using both legs in order to have the maximum benefit that you can achieve from doing a single leg extension on the machine. You can also incorporate more core into the exercise by leaning your shoulders back further.