If you want to use weight machines to work on your legs, it is important to know what you are doing. Be sure to talk to a member of staff at the gym if you need help, and make sure you warm up properly before you start exercise.
Leg press machine
This type of weight machine can be quite varied in its setup and the way it works, and so it carries a risk of injury due to an increased chance it will be used incorrectly. It is therefore recommended to ask a member of staff for assistance, especially if this is your first time using the machine.
Normally, a leg press machine has a seat with a backrest, facing a small vertical board which your feet are braced against. It is important to ensure this machine is adjusted to your height, so that your back is correctly supported and therefore less likely to be injured. With your feet flat against the board and you in the chair, you should effectively be in a squat position (if you imagine that the board is the floor).
The exercise is completed by extending your legs against the resistance of the board, which moves and lifts the weights. Once your legs are almost fully extended, you carefully bend your legs at the knees to bring the board back near you, returning to the start position and therefore completing one rep.
The quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and calves are all worked during the leg press, making it a good lower-body workout.
Leg curl machine
A leg curl machine usually consists of a seat with back support, and a horizontal bar which has a pad at each end. The bar is located in front of you, roughly at the same height as the seat.
When sitting in the chair to begin the exercise, your legs should be extended horizontally, with your lower calves resting on top of the pads. Ensure you are sat right back against the backrest.
Make sure the machine is adjusted to suit your body size, such as the angle of the backrest and the distance from the seat to the bar. Ask a member of staff for assistance if you need it.
You then push down against the pads, using your hamstrings to bend your knee against the resistance of the weights, until your knees are bent almost at a right angle. Once you have reached this position, slowly extend your legs back until you return to the starting position.
Ensure you do not use your back during the exercise, only your legs, or you may injure yourself.
Leg extension machine
These are similar to leg curl machines, but work in the opposite direction. Generally the seat will have back support, and a padded horizontal bar located in front of you, at approximately ankle height.
When starting the exercise, you need your feet positioned down behind the bar, just like when you sit normally on a chair. Make sure the machine is suitably adjusted, such as the chair being at the right angle or the bar being a suitable distance from you. If required, a member of staff can help you.
Extend your legs upwards, using your quadriceps to lift the bar up, stopping when your legs are slightly short of being parallel from the ground. Once you reach this position, slowly lower your legs back down, returning to the starting position, completing one rep.
Make sure not to involve your back during the exercise, and move just your legs, otherwise you may risk a back injury.