Muscle group:   The leg muscles

Trained muscle:   Thigh front

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Machine exercises


Leg extension is an exercise that trains the front of the thigh quite intensely. We either work out on the leg extension machine or on the cable machine. A familiar exercise are the straight leg raises.

Leg extension machine

The exercise on the leg extension machine can already be performed by beginners. Take a seat and adjust the machine to have the rotating axis in one line with your knee joints . Your complete back should sit tightly on the back rest. The resistance cushion should sit on the lower part of your shank right above the ankle joint. Extend your legs in a controlled movement. When you do so the kneecaps should point right up. Neither rotate your legs outward, nor inward to protect your knee joints.

Leg extension on the machine

Leg extension on the machine

When we work out leg extensions the thigh backside is not activated, as it would be with squats or leg presses. This causes instabilities of the knee joint what can lead to complaints or injuries if the exercise is not executed properly. The exercise can also be performed one-legged.

Leg extension on the cable machine

Leg extensions on the cable machine should just be practised by advanced and experienced athletes. There are two different ways. We adjust the lowest position of the cable and fixate the cuff around the ankle of the training leg. The standing leg bends slightly. Stabilize your body with both hands on the machine and by tensing your abdominal muscles.

  • From that position we could either raise the training leg in extension. Bring it back to the starting position to complete one repetition. The movement here would be quite similar to the straight leg raises in standing position.
  • Or we raise the thigh to the horizontal line in front of our body (bent hip joint). From here we extend the knee maximally in a controlled movement and bring it back to the starting position.
Leg extension on the cable machine

Leg extension on the cable machine

Both versions can be intensified with small movements in the area of highest muscle tension (raised leg in extension).


Antagonist: Thigh backside

Stretching: Front thigh stretches

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