Tag Leg

Deadlifts

Deadlifts


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the leg muscles, the butt muscles, complex exercises

Trained muscle:   Lower back muscles, thigh front, adductors, butt muscles

Focused muscle:   Lower back muscles

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Free weight exercises


 

Deadlifts represent one of the basic exercises within the weight training area, together with squats, bench press, and pull-ups. It is an effective exercise for the muscles of the lower back (lumbar region). At the same time it is a complex workout that additionally trains the upper part of the trapezius as well as the muscles of the buttocks, the front of the thigh, and the adductors.

Deadlifts

Deadlifts should not be practised by beginners. It not just represents an effective exercise for the mentioned muscle groups. Its motion sequence also is very similar to a back-friendly behavior in our daily life. The deadlift teaches us to lift properly. Especially the variation with dumbbell gets very close to this clean movement. The basic version of the exercise is practised with barbell.

Deadlifts with barbell

The deadlift starts in shoulder-wide or slightly wider standing position. Get as close to the barbell as possible with your shanks touching the bar. Your toes point straight to the front or slightly toward the side. Grab the bar with extended arms. For heavy weights it is reasonable to use a mixed grip. Performing deadlifts with barbell, always choose your grip to have your arms on the outsides of your knees. A wider stand requires a wider grip as well.

From this position lower your buttocks and keep your trunk upright. Look straight to the front or slightly upward. Tense your trunk muscles and especially your back and pull the weight upward with the power of your legs. Keep your back straight (slight hollow back) and the barbell close to your body (still touching the legs). Above of your knees the bar will slide up on the thighs. At the end of the motion we stand upright. Pull your shoulders slightly to the back.

Deadlifts

Deadlifts

 

Deadlifts with dumbbell

Deadlifts with dumbbell require the same body posture and motion sequence. The dumbbell stands on one side between our feet. The only difference to the deadlift with barbell is that we now have our arms between our feet. So we now choose a wider stand.

There also exists a variation of the deadlift that keeps the legs extended during the exercise. Please be careful! Here, the lower back will be strained significantly. It is not recommended to perform this version.


Antagonist: Abdominal muscles

Stretching: Lower back stretches

 

 


Calf raises

Calf raises


Muscle group:   The leg muscles

Trained muscle:   Calf

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises, free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Calf raises represent the one and only exercise for the muscles of the calves. The training can be modified in many different ways what makes the calf workout pretty diverse.

Calf raises

Calf raises begin in shoulder wide stand. The upper body is straight, the abdominal muscles are tensed, and we actively erect the pelvis. Extend the knee joints. If necessary hold on to a chair, the wall bars, or similar to stabilize your body. From that position raise the heels maximally to just stand on the balls of your feet. Make sure to keep a straight feet alignment (do not rotate your legs). Come back down again to complete one repetition.

The exercise should be performed in controlled movements. In the upward movement the body weight could shift toward the big toes. To intensify the calf raises we could perform small impulses in the area of highest muscle tension (highest position when ankle joints are extended). We could also work out on one leg. Extra weights, like dumbbells, barbell, or on the multi press machine, further intensify the workout.

Calf raises

Calf raises

 

Calf raises standing

Calf raises

 

Calf raises on the machine

Calf raises can be exercised on different machines. There also are two specific machines, one for the sitting and one for the standing calf raise. But also the hack squat machine allows a proper workout of the calves. Step on the platform with just the balls of your feet.

  • In the standing version you have the resistance cushions rest on your shoulders. Your knees are extended and your entire body stands right up. Tense your abdominal muscles and erect the pelvis. Grab the handles to stabilize your body and start raising and lowering your heels in controlled motions.
  • In the sitting version you have the resistance cushions sit on your thighs. Sit upright with your ab tensed. The hip and knee joints are bent. Grab the handles or the seat cushion to stabilize your body and start raising and lowering your heels smoothly.
Calf raises on the machine

Calf raises on the machine

 

In both versions the training in the area of highest muscle tension intensifies the exercise significantly. Please note, that working out standing calf raises with high weights puts a lot of pressure on the spine what could cause complaints. Always keep a clean execution.

Calf raises on the leg press

Also a quite effective version of the exercise represent calf raises on the leg press. We sit in the machine with our complete back on the back rest. The balls of our feet are placed hip-wide on the platform. The tips of your feet point straight forward (straight feet alignment) and the knees extend. Tense the abdominal muscles and grab the handles of the machine to stabilize your body. Start raising your heels maximally in a controlled movement. Bring the heels back down to complete one repetition. Calf raises can be performed on all leg press machines or racks.

Calf raises on the leg press

Calf raises on the leg press

 


Beginners should start performing calf raises slowly without extra weights. With the time they can move toward the machine exercises before they finally are able to work out with free weights.

Stretching: Calf stretches

 

 


Leg extension

Leg extension


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

 

 


Leg press

Leg press


Muscle group:   The leg muscles

Trained muscle:   Thigh front

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Machine exercises


 

Leg press is one of the most effective exercises for the front of the thigh. On a much lower rate some versions work out the back of the thigh, the butt, and the lower back as well.

Leg press

The leg press is performed on the machine or rack. Here, we can find various types that allow us to train different variations. On the leg press machine we usually have the platform for our feet right in front of us. Here, we overcome the resistance on the horizontal line. But the back rest can be adjusted at different angles, so we either exercise sitting or lying. Beginners could already work out on the machine. On the leg press rack the weight moves freely. We usually work on an inclined line pushing it upward. Only advanced and experienced athletes should work out on the rack.

Leg press on the machine

The seated leg press on the machine is the basic version of the exercise. We sit in the machine. Our complete back rests on the cushion. Set your feet with the entire sole shoulder wide on the platform. Your knees pull slightly to the outward to have them in one line with the feet. In the beginning the knee angle should not be below 90°. Experienced athletes of good physical health and with a very clean execution can choose lower angles as long as the lower back remains on the cushion. It is recommended to not work out below 70°. Tense your abdominal muscles and grab the handles on the sides with both hands to stabilize the body. Start to extend and bend your legs alternately. In the end position never extend your leg maximally. The soles of your feet remain on the platform completely during the entire exercise.

Seated leg press

Seated leg press

 

The execution of the horizontal leg press is similar to the seated version. Due to the lying position and the resistance cushions on our shoulders some athletes could feel uncomfortable to their lower back or shoulder. If so, please continue with the seated leg press.

Horizontal leg press

Horizontal leg press

 

Leg press on the rack

Leg presses on the rack also work the same way. Here, we have to be careful with the weights. Once we release the holders the platform moves freely what causes the risk of crushing body parts. Also, be careful with your lower back. Just bend your legs as far as you can keep the complete lower back on the rest. Raising the lower back could cause complaints or injuries.

Incline leg press

Incline leg press

 

Also work out squats.


Antagonist: Thigh backside

Stretching: Front thigh stretches

 

 


Leg curl

Leg curl


Muscle group:   The leg muscles, the butt muscles, the back muscles, complex exercises

Trained muscle:   Thigh backside, butt muscles, lower back muscles

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Machine exercises


 

Leg curl is a popular exercise for the backside of the thigh. Many variations also work out the lower back and the butt very intensely. We can train in lying, kneeling, sitting, and standing position on machines or just with our own body weight. This article will explain the leg curl versions on the machine. To learn about the free variations without machine please read the article back leg lifts.

Leg curl lying

Lying leg curls shouldn’t necessarily be practised by complete beginners. We start in prone position. The knees are slightly below the cushion of the machine. Adjust the machine to have the cushion for the resistance as far back toward the heels as possible. Working out with stretched knee joints is uncomfortable. If possible, choose an adjustment that allows you to start with slightly bent knees.

From that position lift your thighs from the cushion and start to bend and stretch your knees against the resistance. Please never stretch you knees maximally. To intensify the exercise keep your thighs raised maximally and your knees slightly bend. Performing small impulses from that position makes the training even more intense.

Leg curls can also be performed one-legged. Here, we move to one side of the cushion and place one leg on the side (lunge position). This erects the pelvis what keeps us from developing a hollow back. Especially the workout with lifted thighs makes the lying leg curl extremely intense for the thigh backside, the butt, and the lower back. But please be careful with your lower back. It could be helpful to strengthen the muscles of the lower back in several sessions with easier exercises before moving to this exercise. Otherwise leave the thighs on the cushion.

Leg curl lying

Leg curl lying

 

Leg curl sitting

Sitting leg curls can be performed by all training levels. Adjust the leg curl machine to have the back rest sit tightly on your back. If there is a fixation cushion for your upper thighs you should use it to fixate your legs from above. Your knees should be in one line with the rotation axis of the machine. We start the movement with slightly bent knee joints. Tense the abdominal muscles and bend your knees maximally in a controlled movement. Bring your legs back up again smoothly but don’t stretch your knees maximally. This leg curl version can also be practised one-legged.

Leg curl seated

Leg curl seated

 

Leg curl standing

The standing leg curl can be performed by advanced and experienced sportsmen and -women. Work out on the cable machine at the gym using a foot loop around the ankle joint. Stand straight on the machine holding on to the handles to stabilize your body. The training leg pulls backward in a slightly bent knee position. This version focuses on the muscles of the lower back and the butt and is less effective for the thigh backside. The activation of the backside of the thigh should increase the more you bend your knee. This could get a little tricky since we work out completely free without any leg fixation. When you work out standing leg curls it is important to avoid a hollow back. Tense your abs and keep the pelvis erected.

Leg curl standing

Leg curl standing

 

There also exists a machine especially for the standing leg curl what provides cushions for the training leg to achieve more stability.


Antagonist: Thigh front, abdominal muscles

Stretching: Back thigh stretches, glute stretches, lower back stretches