We did bodyweight and free-weight leg workouts to strengthen them.
But when it comes to building strong and defined legs, the right gym machines can be a game changer.
Gym machines offer several advantages over free weights for leg training. Machines can be used to isolate leg muscles and stimulate greater muscle growth.
These machines offer a safe and effective way to target various leg muscles.
This blog will discuss the following:
- Top gym machines for building bigger legs
- How to perform quad exercises with proper form.
Let’s dive in!
- Top Gym Machines For Leg Workouts
- 1. Leg Press Machine
- 2. Hack Squat Machine
- 3. Leg Curl Machine
- 4. Leg Extension Machine
- 5. Smith Machine For Leg Workout
- 6. Glute And Ham Raise Machine
- 7. Cable Machine for Leg Exercises
- 8. Calf Raise Machine
- 9. Leg Abduction/Adduction Machine
- 10. Lever Deadlift Machine
Top Gym Machines For Leg Workouts
Barbell squats are important for building a leg, but adding strength machines to your workout routine can also help make your legs bigger and stronger.
The top 10 workout machines to add for a complete leg workout.
1. Leg Press Machine
The leg press machine is very common in gyms, and for good reason. It’s a safe and effective way to target your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
It has a seat where you sit back and use your legs to push a platform away.
Unlike traditional squats, this machine is popular because it helps beginners work out their lower body without hurting their back and shoulders.
You can adjust the platform angle and foot placement depending on the machine.
- The primary muscles the Leg Press works are the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus Maximus.
- Secondary muscles worked are the calves and, to a lesser extent, the lower back and hip adductors.
How Does It Work?
- The seat should be adjusted so that your feet are on the platform when you sit on the machine.
- You should place your feet shoulder-width apart on the platform.
- Different foot positions can target different muscle groups.
- Extend your legs to push the platform away.
- Do not lock your knees at full extension.
- Slowly return to the starting position by bending your knees.
- Inhale while lowering the weight and exhale while pressing it up.
Know More: 100+ Leg Exercises (With Images)
2. Hack Squat Machine
The Hack Squat Machine is a specialized gym equipment designed for lower body strength training. It typically consists of a platform and a sliding backrest or shoulder pads.
Users stand on the platform with their shoulders against the pads, then push the platform upward to perform a squatting motion.
The machine allows for a controlled and guided range of motion. You can also adjust your foot placement to target different areas of the quadriceps.
- A wider stance emphasizes inner quads.
- While a narrower stance targets outer quads.
The hack squat will target Quadriceps, glutes & hip flexors and also involves calves and hamstrings.
How To Do
- Get on a hack squat machine, place your back flat against the back pad, and get your shoulders under the support.
- Grip the side handles of the machine.
- Place your legs in a shoulder-width stance with your toes pointed out slightly.
- Straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. Bend your knees as you slowly lower the weight.
- Go down until parallel to the platform. Hold for a count of one.
- Then, return to the start position by pushing down through your heels and extending your legs.
3. Leg Curl Machine
The leg curl machine is common in gyms and helps strengthen your hamstring muscles. It also works the calf and glute muscles.
It typically consists of a padded seat with an adjustable backrest and a lever connected to a weight stack or cable system.
Unlike some free-weight exercises, leg curls minimize stress on the lower back.
- The leg curl machine primarily targets the hamstring muscles.
- Additionally, it engages the calf and glutes to a certain extent.
Different positions of the toes work different hamstring muscles.
- Pointing your toes straight targets all three hamstring muscles.
- Pointing the toes inward emphasizes the inner hamstrings (semimembranosus and semitendinosus),
- Pointing the toes outward focuses effort on the outer hamstrings (biceps femoris).
How To Use It
- Lie face down on the machine, with your knees just beyond the edge of the bench.
- Position your ankles securely under the padded lever.
- Grasp the handles for stability and to keep your upper body firmly positioned on the bench.
- Exhale as you flex your knees, lifting the padded lever toward your glutes. Hold the contraction briefly.
- Inhale as you extend your legs back to the starting position.
- Start with a weight that allows 10–12 reps.
4. Leg Extension Machine
The Leg Extension Machine is a piece of gym equipment designed to target and isolate the quadriceps muscles.
It typically consists of a seat, a backrest, and a padded bar for ankle support.
This machine is popular because it trains the quadriceps without the strain on the back and shoulders.
Different positions of the toes work different quad muscles.
- Pointing your toes directly upward hits all sections of the quadriceps equally,
- Toes inward and internally rotate the tibia to target the inner quad.
- Placing your toes outward externally rotates the tibia to hit the outer quad.
How Does It Work?
- Sit on a Leg extension machine with your legs under the pad and with your back pressed firmly against the back pad.
- Grab the handles or the seat edges behind your hips and keep your upper body steady.
- Extend your legs as far as possible in a smooth movement until fully extended to get a maximum thigh contraction.
- Contract your quads at the top and slowly lower the weight under control to the starting position.
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5. Smith Machine For Leg Workout
A Smith machine is a piece of equipment consisting of a barbell fixed to vertical steel rails, allowing for vertical movement only. You can lock the barbell at different heights by putting the hooks on the rails where you want them to be.
This is why the Smith machine is stable and safe for different movements. It is often used for various exercises such as squats and Smith machine bench presses.
The exercises chosen can influence the muscles targeted by leg workouts on the Smith Machine.
- Smith Machine Squats: It is a compound exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Smith Machine Lunges: Emphasize quad engagement by focusing on each leg individually.
- Smith Machine Step-Ups: Target the quadriceps and glutes.
- Smith Machine Bulgarian Split Squats: This variation focuses on each leg independently and also promotes quad development.
- Smith Machine Calf Raises: Don’t neglect your calves. You can use the Smith machine to do calves’ raises.
- Smith Machine Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: Isolate your hamstrings with it.
- Smith Machine Hip Thrusts: This exercise provides a stable platform for effective glute engagement.
- Smith Machine Sumo Squats: Widen your stance for sumo squats. This variation targets the inner thighs and engages the quadriceps and glutes.
- Smith Reverse Lunge: Build thigh muscles and glutes.
How to Do Smith Machine Squat
The Smith machine squat allows you to squat a heavy weight safely without a spotter. Just make sure that you use the safety pins.
- Stand in a smith machine so that the barbell is behind your shoulders and slightly below your neck.
- Grasp the barbell with palms facing forward and hands wider than shoulder width apart.
- Unrack the bar by rotating your wrists to remove the safety hooks.
- Take a deep breath and keep your elbows in line with your torso.
- Descend by simultaneously pushing the hips back and bending the knees.
- When your thighs parallel the floor, exhale and push off with your legs to reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
- Exhale and extend your hips and knees fully to get into the starting position.
6. Glute And Ham Raise Machine
The Glute and Ham Raise Machine, also called the Glute-Ham Developer (GHD), helps strengthen posterior chain muscles, especially your glutes and hamstrings.
That means that the glutes get involved as well (as the name of the exercise would imply), along with the spinal erectors.
If your gym has this apparatus, you should add it to your hamstring exercises arsenal, which helps to build mass and strength in your legs.
- The primary muscles targeted by the Glute and Ham Raise Machine include the gluteus maximus (glutes) and the hamstrings.
- Additionally, it engages the erector spinae in the lower back and the calves to some extent.
How to Use It
- Ensure the footplate on the GHD is far enough back so that your knees rest at the bottom of the pad.
- Your feet should firmly touch the footplate, and the bottom of your quads should rest on the pad with your body upright.
- Ensure your back is flat, your legs are slightly less than hip-width, and your torso is upright.
- Bring your arms across your chest.
- Push your toes into the plate and extend your knees. This will move your body forward until you are parallel to the floor.
- To get back up, bend your knees and move your upper body back to where you started.
7. Cable Machine for Leg Exercises
The Cable machine can be used for many exercises that work on the legs. Unlike traditional free weights, this cable machine ensures consistent tension throughout each movement. It helps to isolate and work the leg muscles well.
The machine has two adjustable pulleys that can be moved in different ways to help you strengthen and grow your leg muscles.
The cable machine workout can work all your legs major and smaller muscles by using different attachments, angles, and weights.
Here are some effective leg exercises you can do on this versatile machine.
- Cable Deadlift: Target multiple muscle groups, including the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, obliques, and abs.
- Cable Squat: Build quality muscle mass in the legs.
- Cable Standing Leg Curl: It is useful when you don’t have access to a leg curl machine.
- Cable Lunges: Build leg strength and stability and improve balance and coordination.
- Cable Standing Hip Abduction: Targets the outer thighs and glutes.
- Cable Glute Kickback: It is an excellent isolation movement for targeting the glute and hamstring muscles.
- Cable Pull-Through: This popular exercise is used to target the glutes and hamstrings
- Cable Kickbacks: Targets the glutes and hamstrings, providing a dynamic quad workout.
- Cable Step Up: This exercise targets the quadriceps and also involves calves and glutes & hip flexors.
- Cable Standing Calf Raise: helps strengthen and develop the calf muscles.
- Cable Hip Adduction: Brilliant auxiliary exercise for toning your inner thighs.
How To Do Front Cable Squat
The cable front squat is the best option for cable leg workouts; it is more advanced than the standard squat.
- Stand in front of a low-pulley cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Then, pull the ropes up to your chest and hold.
- Maintain the natural arch in your lower back and keep your head directed forward.
- Perform a squat, bending your knees and pushing your hips back to lower yourself until your thighs parallel the floor.
- From this position, push yourself back to the starting point.
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8. Calf Raise Machine
The Calf Raise Machine is designed to strengthen and target the calf muscles. It consists of a padded lever and a platform where you place your shoulders. This machine allows for controlled and isolated movements to work the calf muscles effectively.
- The primary muscles targeted by the calf raise are the gastrocnemius and soleus.
- The gastrocnemius is the calf’s larger, more visible muscle,
- Meanwhile, the soleus lies beneath the gastrocnemius and contributes to overall calf development.
How To Do
- Step on a Calf raise machine with your toes on a block and heals extended into space.
- Place the shoulders under the pads and hook the weight off the support.
- Now raise yourself up using only the toes and come as far as possible.
- Hold this position for a second, flexing your calf muscles.
- Slowly lower your heals as far as possible towards the floor. Keep your knees slightly bent.
9. Leg Abduction/Adduction Machine
The Leg Abduction/Adduction Machine is a specialized gym apparatus designed to target the muscles of the inner and outer thighs.
It consists of two moving arms or pads that allow for controlled abduction (moving away from the midline of the body) and adduction (moving towards the midline) movements.
The primary muscles targeted by the Leg Abduction/Adduction Machine include the adductor muscles (inner thighs) during adduction movements and the abductor muscles (outer thighs) during abduction movements.
How to Use It:
- Sit on the machine with your back against the backrest and your feet on the footrests.
- For adduction, place the insides of your thighs against the pads;
- For abduction, position the outsides of your thighs against the pads.
- Press the moving arms or pads together (adduction) or push them apart (abduction) against resistance.
- Perform the exercise with controlled movements.
- Focus on squeezing the targeted muscles during each repetition.
10. Lever Deadlift Machine
The lever deadlift machine provides a unique alternative to the traditional barbell deadlift. It provides a safe, controlled environment for lower body strength and power.
It is a plate-loaded apparatus designed to mimic the motion of a deadlift for building posterior chain strength.
Compared to free-weight deadlifts, the Lever Deadlift Machine minimizes stress on the lower back.
- Primary movers: Hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, lower back, and upper back
- Secondary movers: Forearms, traps, calves and core
How to use it
- Adjust the lever arms to a comfortable width.
- Stand on the platform with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward.
- Hinge at your hips and grasp the handles firmly.
- Slowly lower the weight by hinging at your hips and pushing your hips back.
- Lower the weight until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and glutes.
- Drive through your heels and hips to lift the weight back to the starting position.
Gym machines can be a great way to build bigger, stronger legs and reduce injury risk.
Some of the most popular gym machines for quad workouts include the leg press machine, leg curl machine, and calve raise machine.
You can also use a squat machine and cable machines to strengthen your legs.
So, the next time you’re at the gym, don’t forget these powerful tools for building your legs.
Manish brings over 10 years of hands-on experience in weight lifting and fat loss to fitness coaching. He specializes in gym-based training and has a lot of knowledge about exercise, lifting technique, biomechanics, and more.
Through “Fit Life Regime,” he generously shares the insights he’s gained over a decade in the field. His goal is to equip others with the knowledge to start their own fitness journey.