How To Do The Cable Leg Extension Properly 

The cable leg extension is an amazing lower body exercise that works your quads and gets you feeling the burn in your legs especially if you go heavy.

You can do this exercise independently or use it as a warm-up to prepare your quads on leg day if you plan on doing more intense lower-body exercises.

Required equipment: Cable pulley machine, bench, ankle strap

Setting up:

  • Set the pulley at shin level then hook the ankle strap to it.
  • Position the bench near the cable machine. It should be close enough for you to fit your foot into the ankle strap easily.
  • Once you’ve put the bench in place, attach your right foot to the strap.
  • Grab the lateral bars or any other props for support if you need it.

Execution:

  • Stand straight with your back to the low pulley.
  • Bring your feet together in front of your body then bend your knees slightly.
  • Keeping your thigh stationary, extend your lower leg forward until the leg is straight. Stop extending it just before you lock out your knees to prevent injury.
  • Lower the leg back down to the original position.
  • Repeat as many times as you desire.
  • Do not let your moving leg touch the floor in between reps.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE CABLE LEG EXTENSION WORK?

QUADRICEPS

Your quadriceps are located in front of your upper legs. They originate at your hip and connect with the knee cap through a tendon.

The quadriceps help with extending your knees and are important for squatting, walking and improving your posture.

When you are performing the cable leg extension, your quadriceps generate the driving power with which you extend and lower your leg.

The stabilizing muscles in this exercise are the rectus abdominis, gluteus medius, obliques, gluteus minimus and quadrutus lumborum.

CABLE LEG EXTENSION BENEFITS

BETTER POSTURE

By strengthening your quads, this exercise helps you develop better posture which not only helps stabilize your spine but also reduces tension in your shoulders, neck and back.

STRENGTHENS CORE

Aside from strengthening and building your quads, the cable leg extension fires up your abdominal muscles since it requires that you keep your upper body upright during the exercise.

ISOLATES THE QUADS

Unlike other lower body exercises like squats which work multiple muscles at once, the cable leg extension focuses on the quads more selectively.

This helps isolate the target muscles effectively since all the focus is on them throughout the exercise.

ALTERNATIVES TO CABLE LEG EXTENSION

REVERSE LUNGES

Like leg extensions, reverse lunges tone and strengthen your quads.

This movement also activates your core, glutes and hamstrings which makes it a compound movement.

How to do it:

  • Stand straight with your feet side by side.
  • Move your right foot a step back and then lower the right knee to 90 degrees.
  • Pushing into your right foot, return to the starting position.
  • Repeat these steps with your left leg to complete a single rep.
  • Start with 2 sets of 10-12 reps. You can add more reps or sets later after you develop better mobility.

BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT WITH DUMBBELLS

This intense variation of the traditional squat primarily targets your hips and glutes but it also works your quads and hamstrings, making it a fantastic alternative to the cable leg extension.

To perform this movement, you need a bench and a pair of dumbbells. The bench should be relatively low – knee height or lower.

How to do it:

  • Stand straight with your back to the bench.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and then press your elbows against your body.
  • Assume a lunge-like stance, with the right foot on the bench behind your body and the left one firmly planted on the floor.
  • Bend the supporting leg to lower the right knee.
  • Lower your body until the left thigh is parallel with the ground and the right knee is almost touching the floor.
  • Push your weight into the left foot then return to your starting position.
  • Do 2 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • Switch legs and repeat the above steps.

This movement requires you to have good balance. If you are still new to it, you can do it without a dumbbell first then add it later once you are used to the exercise.

STEP UPS

This exercise strengthens your hip flexors, glutes and quads hence improving your hip mobility and balance.

To do this exercise, you need a box or bench that is at knee-height or a bit lower.

Steps:

  • Stand upright facing the bench. Your feet should be hip-width apart.
  • Straighten your upper body and keep both hands on your hips.
  • Place the right foot on top of the bench, making sure your right knee is directly above your right ankle.
  • Pushing off the ground, step onto the box with your left foot. Place the left foot next to the right one and stand straight.
  • Step the right foot back onto the floor then put the left one back too.
  • Do 2 sets of 10-12 reps each.

CABLE LEG EXTENSION MISTAKES TO AVOID

OVEREXTENDING YOUR LEGS

As you extend your legs, make sure you stop just before you lock out your knees so you don’t strain your knee joint.

MOVING TOO FAST

If you move too fast, you will end up focusing on momentum rather than muscle engagement. Slow and controlled motions will work your muscles better.

CONCLUSION

The cable leg extension is one of the exercises that should not miss on your leg day routine.

This movement specifically targets your quads while also working your core and the areas around your knee.

Maintaining proper form while performing it will ensure you target your quads and work them effectively without damaging your knees.

Note that people whose hamstrings are generally inflexible may find it difficult to extend the knee fully if they raise the knee too high.

If you are one of such people, raise your knee forward less than 45 degrees to the floor so that you don’t hurt your joint.