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Dear Dr. Bell, I am trying to find exercises to replace the leg press and leg extension machines in my gym. I find when I do the leg extension, my knees tend to be a little sensitive afterwards AND I believe there has to be a better exercise to develop the quads. I know squats are pretty good but do they target all the muscles in the quads? I also don’t like doing the leg press. An alternative for that too please?
I wish you had provided more detail so I could ascertain why you are having problems with your knees. I strongly recommend you see a good Sports Medicine doctor to make sure you are not developing a serious musculoskeletal disorder.
Squats are the King of Exercises for the whole body. When it comes to targeting individual muscles of Quadriceps, there is no better exercise than the Squat. To target the Vastus Medialis (inner head), do Wide-Stance, Sumo Squats. To target the Vastus Lateralis (outer head), do Narrow-Stance Squats.
I also wish you had mentioned why you don’t like the Leg Press. The Leg Press is a great exercise. If you do not follow the rules for Knee safety you learned in the IFPA Personal Trainer Certification Course you could seriously injure your knees. If you have the seat-back too “high,” or come back too far or lift your hips or curl your butt forward, you are putting dangerous stress on your low back. Other typical form faults I see are bouncing at the bottom and “locking the knees” at the top. These are among the typical mistakes an IFPA Certified Personal Trainer watches for in the Leg Press.
If you are looking for alternate exercises, the Lunge, Single-Leg-Step-Ups, Hack Squats, Single-Leg-Leg Press and the many variations you can perform with these exercises should provide you with a life-time of variations, but…DO GET your knees looked at by a doctor first.
Review your Sports Medicine Trainer for far more detail than I can provide here!
Good Luck! Stay Safe!
Dr. Jim Bell