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Leg day, although often dreaded, is possibly the most crucial part of your exercise routine. Leg workouts stimulate hormones, engage the core, balance strength, correct muscular imbalances, and build a strong foundation for your body when undertaking every day activities.
While walking and other low-impact leg exercises, such as step aerobics, are beneficial, machines that focus exclusively on developing leg muscles can show you even better results in terms of flexibility, strength, and power. But what leg gym machine names do you have the choice of using for your leg workout?
How do you find the suitable exercise machine for your legs, and how do you use it? Below, we answer all these questions and more to make your leg days easier, more fun, and more efficient.
The Key Leg Gym Machine Names
Now that we’ve established the importance of leg exercises, let’s look at some leg machines you’ll come across in many commercial gyms that you can make use of during your next leg workout.
Linear Leg Press Machine
The 45 degree leg press is one of the most common leg machines and found in most gyms. It works by allowing a user to press a weight load at an angle of 45 degree working many muscles of the lower body whilst providing support to the upper body. It’s simple to use and you won’t require a spotter.
- Recommended Reading – Maximising Your Leg Press Weight – How Much Weight Should You Use?
To Use The Leg Press Machine
- Set up the back rest and take a seat at the machine
- Place your feet on the centre of the footplate with toes pointing slightly outwards.
- Unhook the safety bars so your legs now take the weight load.
- Take hold of the handle bars to allow you to maintain your position throughout the exercise.
- Draw your knees towards your chest slowly and be sure to stop before your lower back begins to round.
- Push the weight away from you in a controlled motion before repeating this motion.
Leg Press Muscles Used
The leg press machine targets the following muscles. It’s worth noting there where you position your feet on the footplate can help to better target certain muscles of the lower body.
Leg Press Advantages
- Strengthens and develops the quadriceps, gluteal, and hamstring muscles.
- Has good carry over to sports or activities that require strong leg muscles.
- Improves the range of motion in the legs and hips.
Leg Press Disadvantages
- Improper form can cause the back to round potentially resulting in injury.
- May worsen chronic joint pain
Whilst not traditionally classified as a leg machine, the hyperextension machine should be a part of your routine if you want to target muscles of the posterior chain.
- Recommended Reading – What Is A Sissy Squat?
The machine uses your body weight as resistance to target your lower back muscles, glutes and hamstrings.
You can add resistance by holding on to a dumbbell or weight plate.
A Hyperextension Bench Is Simple To Use
- Set the machine so that you can comfortably hinge forward at the hips.
- Rest the back of your ankles on the rollers and simply lower your body by bending forward at the hips.
- You can cross your arms across your body for stability or hold onto a weight to make the exercise more challenging.
Hyperextension Bench Muscles Worked
- Lower Back
- Strengthens lower back muscles
- Promotes mobility at the hip joint.
- Can also improves torso and abdominal strength
- Reduces the risk of lower back injuries
● Incorrect setup can impede good form. Be sure that the top pad sits in the crease of your hips to allow for full range of motion.
Lying Leg Curl Machine
The lying leg curl machine allows you to perform a hamstring curl exercise whilst in a prone position thereby supporting your entire body.
This machine can either be plate loaded or selectorised and increasing the weight load places more tension on the hamstrings allowing you to building muscle mass and strength.
To Use The Lying Leg Curl
- Set the machine up and ensure you can achieve full range of motion, you should be able to bring your feet towards your glutes
- Lie face down on the machine and hook your feet under the rollers.
- Brace yourself by taking hold of the handles.
- Slowly draw your feet up and towards your glutes in an arc plane of motion.
Lying Leg Curl Muscles Worked
- Calves (to a lesser degree and only due to contraction of the hamstring)
Lying Leg Curl Benefits
- Can help to improve knee flexion at the knee joint.
- Can help with better sports performance such as sprinting and plyometrics
- May help to reduce lower back pain.
Lying Leg Curl Disadvantages
● Incorrect set up can lead to a reduced range of motion
Plate Load Pivot Leg Press Machine
The pivot leg press is a plate-loaded machine that is a variation of the 45 degree leg press.
It allows the user to press weight at an approximate 45 degree angle but in more of an arc plane of motion. Although it primarily targets the quadriceps, the pivot leg press can tone and strengthen your gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and calves.
- Recommended Reading – Leg Press vs Squat – Which Is More Effective For Muscle Growth?
Include it in your workout routine if you want to increase power and mass in the lower body.
Pivot Leg Press Muscles Used
Pivot Leg Press Machine Benefits
- Offers freedom of movement and a greater range of motion
- Allows for a balanced development of both legs
- Increases muscular coordination and strength
Pivot Leg Press Machine Disadvantages
- Incorrect form could result in rounding of the lower back resulting in injury.
- Seat may not be adjustable for users of different heights.
Standing Calf Raise
The standing calf raise isolates your calf muscles, specifically the gastrocnemius muscle and is available in either selectorised or as a plate loadable machine.
How To Use The Standing Calf Raise
- Choose your desired weight load and place your toes on the edge of the machine
- Rise up onto your toes as you lift the machine
- Keeping your body straight, extend your ankles as high as you can
- Lower the weight slowly until your heels descend beyond the edge of the machine (your heels should be lower than your toes).
Standing Calf Raise Muscles Worked
- The standing calf raise machine targets the calves, but you also feel the burn in your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
Standing Calf Raise Benefits
- Strengthens the calf muscles.
- Improves stability and mobility to the ankles.
- Can increase size of the gastrocnemius muscle.
Standing Calf Raise Disadvantages
- It’s not uncommon to ‘bounce’ on the toes which could result in injury. Make sure to execute the exercise slowly and with control.
Seated Leg Curl Machine
A seated leg curl machine is a variation on the lying leg curl and simply involves a user maintaining a seated position whilst curl the weight load behind you and towards the glutes isolating the hamstring muscles. It is available in either plate loaded or selectorised. Some machines can be dual purpose and allow for both hamstring curl and leg extension to work the quadriceps.
To Use The Seated Leg Curl
- Adjust the seat pad so you can achieve full range of motion, you should be able to extend at the knee joint and take your feet behind you so that they reach your glutes
- Position your feet over the foot roller
- Slowly begin to press the weight load towards your glutes, squeezing the hamstrings as you go
Seated Leg Curl Muscles Used
Seated Leg Curl Benefits
- Helps isolate the hamstrings
- Improves knee mobility and stability
- Promotes healthy joint function
Seated Leg Curl Disadvantages
- Not suitable if you have any pre-existing knee issues.
Hack Squat Machine
The hack squat is a plate loadable machine that runs on rails and allows a user to perform a squat based exercise working muscles of the lower body, specifically the quadriceps and glutes. Whilst it may look a little similar to the 45 degree leg press, instead of pressing weight load with your feet the weight load is instead located at the shoulders.
It will usually have an adjustable seat and footplate, with shoulder pads to let you adjust the machine to fit your body size. The purpose of the hack squat is to develop strong and powerful legs, but with more emphasis on quad strength than a regular squat.
- Recommended Reading – Hack Squat: The Best Machine To Unleash Your Leg Potential?
You can use this squat machine if you’re trying to bulk up your legs or focus on improving your quad strength. It’s perfect for people who want to get stronger but don’t have the mobility to perform a regular squat.
Hack Squat Muscles Used
Hack Squat Benefits
- Builds strength in legs
- Increases lower body endurance
- Improves posture and balance
- Ideal for people who are unable to perform a regular back squat
Hack Squat Disadvantages
- Limited range of motion when compared to a back squat.
- Limited activation of core muscles.
Leg Extension Machine
The leg extension machine allows a user to target the quadriceps from a seated position by placing a weight load across the shins and lifting the upwards.
The machine is available in either selectorised and plate loaded. A notable benefit of the leg extension machine is that it allows unilateral training. So, you can train each leg separately to ensure that you achieve balance and symmetry in your muscle development.
Using The Leg Extension Machine Is Very Straightforward
- Set the machine up so you can comfortably rest the rollers across the lower part of your shins
- Take note of where the pivot point is located and ensure your knees are aligned with this
- Slowly extend the legs (or one leg if doing one at a time) until they are straight, but don’t lock out at the knees as this could cause injury
- Make sure you keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout so you don’t round your back and can maintain a good position
Leg Extension Machine Muscles Used
The leg extension machine uses the quadriceps muscles on the front of your thigh. Using this machine strengthens your patellar ligament, which connects your shinbone to your kneecap.
Leg Extension Benefits
- Helps you achieve symmetry and balance in muscle development across the quadriceps.
- Improves mobility and agility.
- Keeps joints healthy by allowing for more controlled movements.
- A good machine for beginners as it’s very simple to use.
Leg Extension Disadvantages
- Can put a lot of stress on the knee joints.
- Can be uncomfortable for those with limited flexibility in the hips, knees, and ankles.
- Not suitable for those with any pre-existing knee injuries.
Hip Adduction Machine
The hip adduction machine allows a user to work on improving stability and mobility to the hip joints. It usually consists of a seat with two padded thigh pads connected to a weight stack. Often this machine can be dual purpose whereby the pads can swivel allowing for hip abduction as well as hip adduction.
- Recommended Reading – Static vs Dynamic Stretching
It’s important to note that this machine is not for muscle building but more for improving flexibility and range of motion to the hips. It’s another good choice for beginners and tends to be favoured by women.
Lets Look At How To Use The Hip Abductor/Adductor Machine
- Once you’ve set up, simply take a seat and position the pads so they rest on the inner thighs
- Slowly press the pads together, bringing your legs together, the weight load will add resistance making the exercise more challenging
- If the machine is dual purpose, you should be able to swivel the pads so they now rest on the outer thigh
- From here, you would push against the pads working the inner thigh muscles and the glutes
As mentioned, the hip adduction machine can help improve the overall stability of your hips and lower body. It strengthens and stabilizes your inner thigh muscles, which can help improve balance and reduce the risk of injury. Most people tend to brace performing this exercise meaning it can also activate your core muscles.
Hip Adductor Muscles Used
- Hip abductors
- Hip adductors
- Gluteal muscles
- Tensor fascia latae (TFL)
Hip Adductor Benefits
- Improves core stability.
- Improves general flexibility and range of motion to the hips.
- Increase strength to the inner thigh muscles.
- Can help to reduce pain to hips and knees.
Hip Adductor Disadvantages
- Can be uncomfortable for those with limited flexibility in the inner thigh muscles.
- Over rotation and incorrect form in using the machine can lead to injury.
Seated Calf Raise Machine
The seated calf raise machine allows a user to target the muscles of the lower leg. When compared to the standing calf raise, performing them seated will work more of the inner calf muscles, known as the soleus. Conversely, the standing calf raise will better target the outer calf muscles, known as the gastrocnemius.
If you’re looking to building muscle mass and increase the size of your calf muscles, performing calf raises whilst standing is a better option. This is because the gastrocnemius, made up of the lateral head and the medial head, is what contributes to the aesthetic of the lower leg.
Whilst the soleus is a powerful muscle is sits deep underneath the gastrocnemius and even thought increasing strength is beneficial, it won’t necessarily improve lower leg aesthetics.
Seated Calf Raise Muscles Used
- Gastrocnemius calf muscle (to a lesser degree)
- Soleus calf muscle
Seated Calf Raise Benefits
● Builds endurance and calf strength
● Can improve ankle stability
● Helps stretch the plantar muscles for overall balance
Seated Calf Raise Disadvantages
● Can cause knee pain if used incorrectly. Do not bounce the feed or perform the repetitions to quickly.
Belt Squat Machine
A belt squat machine is a plate loaded piece of equipment that allows a user to perform a squat exercise without the need of a spotter and with minimal load on the spine. A belt squat is available as either a pivot system or cable system. The difference is how the weight is distributed.
With the pivot system, the weight load is positioned either side of the user whereas the cable system has the weight located directly in front of the user. This does mean that the pivot system belt squat is a better replication of a regular back squat exercise.
- Recommended Reading – Belt Squat Benefits Plus Our Top Alternative Exercises
The hip belt squat is typically quite versatile and can be used for a range of exercises aside from just squats. These include movements such as bent over rows and tricep extensions.
Belt Squat Muscles Used
- Gluteal muscles
- Plantar flexors
Belt Squat Benefits
- Allows squats without putting too much stress on the lumbar spine (lower back).
- Helps build strength and muscle mass to the lower body.
- Increases range of motion and flexibility.
- Can be used as an alternative to free-weight squats.
- No spotter is required as with a regular barbell squat.
- Teaches good squat form.
Belt Squat Disadvantages
- Doesn’t work the stabilisation muscles very well.
- Can result in excessive lumbar extension if performed incorrectly.
- The machines are often quite large taking up a fair bit of floor space.
Glute Kickback Machine
The glute kickback machine, also known as the donkey kick machine or butt blaster, is a popular piece of fitness equipment designed to target the glutes and strengthen muscles in the lower body. It features adjustable resistance levels for users of all fitness levels and may be used to tone and shape the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
- Recommended Reading – Discover The Best Gym Machines For Glutes
To Use The Glute Kickback Machine
- Position yourself in a prone position and keep your core engaged and back straight
- Your body should be at 90 degrees at the hips and knees
- Position one foot up against the footplate (above and behind you)
- Push through your heels to elevate the weight load and squeeze the glutes as you go
- Make sure to keep your hips inline with your shoulders throughout
Glute Kickback Muscles Used
- Hip extensors
- Hamstrings (to a lesser degree)
Glute Kickback Benefits
- Works the glutes whilst keeping stress away from the knees.
- Strong glutes help with proper pelvic alignment
Glute Kickback Disadvantages
- Large machine that is quite limited in terms of versatility
- Incorrect form could result in injury to the lower back.
Vertical Leg Press
The vertical leg press machine allows a user to press a predetermined weight load in a vertical plane of motion whilst providing support to the upper body.
These machines are typically less common and can be quite daunting for some people as the weight is positioned directly overhead. The benefit of the vertical leg press when compared with the more common 45 degree less press is that it provides complete support to the back, meaning that you can’t round it during the movement.
- Recommended Reading – What Are The Different Types Of Leg Press?
Simple enough to use, you would set the foot plate to the correct height (this depends on your leg length). Lie down and resting your back on the back pad whilst positioning both feet up onto the footplate. Unhook the carriage so that your legs are now taking the weight load. Slowly draw your knees down to your chest, pause at the bottom before pressing the weight back up to the start.
Vertical Leg Press Muscles Used
- Calf muscles
Vertical Leg Press Benefits
- Altering your foot placement can allow you to place more emphasis on different muscles.
- Provides full support to your upper body.
Vertical Leg Press Disadvantages
- Can result in less range of motion when compared to other leg press variations.
- More awkward to use compared to the 45 degree leg press.
Reverse Hyper Machine
A reverse hyper machine targets the lower back, glutes and hamstrings whilst keeping stress away from the knees and hips. Often used as a rehab tool, it aids with spinal compression and allows the back to go through flexion and extension in a safe way. You can use either foot rollers or straps and weight can be added to increase the resistance.
To Use A Reverse Hyper
- Face the machine and position the feet either in the straps or behind the foot rollers
- Hop up onto the top pad and position your upper body across in a prone position, your feet should now be hanging off the pad whilst your upper body is fully supported
- Take hold of the handles and begin to raise your legs up towards the ceiling
- With each repetition there will be increased momentum allowing your legs to get higher each time
Reverse Hyper Muscles Used
- Erector spinae
Reverse Hyper Benefits
- Provides decompression and traction to lower spine
- Strengthens the glutes, back, and hamstrings
- Improves posture and spinal alignment
- Reduces back pain, sciatica, and other lower-back problems
Reverse Hyper Disadvantages
- Not suitable for those with pre-existing back issues.
- Can be uncomfortable on the abdomen.
Pendulum Squat Machine
A pendulum squat is a piece of gym equipment that allows a user to perform a squat movement in arc plane of motion. All pendulum squat machines feature a counter balance that is positioned opposite the user and this means the exercise is harder at the bottom with a weight drop off at the bottom (the opposite of a hack squat).
Pendulum Squat Muscles Worked
Pendulum Squat Benefits
- Allows you to get to the full-depth squat position regardless of your flexibility.
- Puts less pressure on the knees and back.
- Variations in foot place allow you to target different muscle groups.
Pendulum Squat Disadvantages
- May require lots of manual adjustments to find the most comfortable position.
- Is quite large and takes up a lot of space in the gym.
V Squat Machine
A V squat machine allows a user to squat with arc plane of motion whilst keeping stress away from the knees and lower back. The V Squat machine provides an excellent way to target your lower body muscles, primarily your glutes and quadriceps.
- Recommended Reading – Are V Squats Effective In Improving Your Leg Training?
It is an effective exercise for building strength and increasing muscular endurance. Plus, it can help improve posture by strengthening your core muscles.
Once you’ve set up on the machine
- Position your shoulders under the pads and unhook the weight load
- Brace yourself with the handlebars
- Keeping your core tight, slowly squat down as low as is comfortable
- Pause at the bottom before pushing through the heels back to the starting position
V Squat Machine Muscles Worked
V Squat Machine Benefits
- Offers a complete lower body workout
- Ideal for strength training
- Versatile enough to do various squat workouts
- Keeps stress away from the lower back and knee joints
V Squat Machine Disadvantages
- Very large machines taking up a lot of floor space.
Multi Hip Machine
The multi-hip machine allows for many hip-focused exercises. The machine typically features multiple handle positions, allowing you to customize your exercise routine and find the most comfortable position for you. It also features a range of motion adjustments to increase or decrease the difficulty of your exercise as needed.
Since the machine has adjustable ankle straps, you can stabilize your lower body during exercises like hip abduction and adduction.
- Recommended Reading – Hip Abduction vs Adduction Machine – Understanding The Critical Differences
You should incorporate the multi-hip machine into your fitness routine to focus on the muscles around your hip and strengthen them. Regular use of this machine can help improve mobility and stability, reduce hip pain, and build muscle.
Multi Hip Machine Muscles Used
- Hip Flexors
Multi Hip Machine Benefits
- Builds strength in the muscles around the hip
- Improves mobility and stability
- Reduces hip pain
- Increases core strength
Multi Hip Machine Disadvantages
- Can be bulky and take up a lot of space
Safety Tips for Using Leg Machines in the Gym
Whether you’re doing calf raises or leg pressing, safety should be your main priority when using leg machines at the gym. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
Before commencing with any form of strength training make sure you properly warm up the muscles. Start with light cardio, such as walking or light jogging, and then move on to dynamic stretching exercises such as bodyweight squats, lunges, and calf raises.
Use The Correct Form
The proper form is key to any exercise, especially when it comes to leg machines. Before you start, review the machine’s instructions and practice with lighter weights.
Also, if the gym has a personal trainer or exercise instructor on-site, it’s always a good idea to have them review your form and make any needed corrections.
Monitor Your Weight
Start with lighter weights and increase weight gradually. You must challenge yourself but not put too much strain on your joints or muscles to prevent any injuries.
The handle bars are there for a reason. When using machines such as leg presses, make use of the handlebars to ensure your body stays in a safe position and prevents injuries by keeping your body braced.
Know Your Limits
Increasing the weight plates without proper form can lead to serious injury. If you feel too much resistance, stop and reduce the weight or take a break if needed.
If you’re feeling dizzy, nauseous, or in any sudden pain, stop the exercise immediately and consult a professional before resuming.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does The Leg Press Hurt My Back?
If you’re feeling back pain after performing a leg press, it may be due to incorrect form or too much weight. When using the leg press machine, it’s important to keep your back pressed firmly against the backrest and maintain a straight line from your head through your hips and down to your knees.
If you’re arching your back excessively, this can cause strain on the lower back and put you at risk of injury. Likewise, if you’re using too much weight, your body may try to compensate by arching the back, and you might find yourself in a compromising position.
Is A Pendulum Squat The Same As A Hack Squat?
They are different machines, although both recruit the lower body muscles. The pendulum squat has an increased range of motion and is used to work the entire lower body, especially the glutes. Meanwhile, the hack squat emphasizes a more quadriceps-dominant movement.
The main difference between both squats is the bar path. In the pendulum squat, you have a curved path, while the hack squat has a straight path with a carriage that runs up and down on rails. In an ideal workout, you’d want to split your exercises and include both the pendulum squat and hack squat for a balanced lower-body workout.
Which Leg Machines Should You Use For Strength Training?
The answer to this very much depends on your goals and limitations. For example, if you suffer from any lower back pain you’ll want to steer clear of any machines that may exacerbate this condition and aim for machines that limit lower back engagement. If you’re unsure, liaise with a personal trainer who can advise the best machines to make use of.
Are Seated Calf Raises Better Than Standing?
Standing calf raises are better if you want to target the outer calf muscles, called the gastrocnemius. Meanwhile, seated calf raises are better for targeting the inner or soleus muscles. The standing calf raise is better for increasing size and definition to the calf muscles.
Why Are Belt Squats So Hard?
If you’re a regular to either front or back squats you may have inadvertently been performing them with poor form. When using a belt squat machine, this forces you to adopt the correct squat stance so may feel a little more difficult to begin with when compared to regular squatting. However, with regular use, this machine can improve your squat technique.
What Is a Pendulum Squat Good For?
The pendulum squat is a great exercise for strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. It also helps improve mobility in the hips, ankles, and knees, reducing injury risk and improving performance in various sports. The great thing about this machine is that slight changes in your foot position allow you to target different muscles making it a versatile lower body machine.
These leg gym machines names should help you navigate your way around the gym and pick the right equipment for you. With this in mind, you can always get a personal trainer if you have a specific goal or need to factor in any pre-existing injuries.
Whether plate loaded or selectorised, leg gym machines help build lower body strength, improve balance, and increase flexibility. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned gym goer, these machines can engage all your body parts, helping you stay fit, healthy, and strong.