Exercise Equipment for Legs

Updated July 19, 2019
Man doing exercises with leg press machine in fitness gym

While you can easily create a well-rounded fitness routine with no machines at all, many people find additional pieces of equipment helpful in reaching particular goals. With all the exercise equipment available today, you may have wondered which exercise equipment for legs is the most effective giving the best results.

Leg Press Machine

One of the best exercise machines for overall leg toning and firming is the leg press machine. When you work out using a leg press machine, your movements work all of your lower body muscles. The resulting actions of these muscles are very similar to those that occur when doing squats. On this type of machine, by simply shifting your feet into a different position, you are able to change the area of your legs that you target during your workout. For example, a narrow foot stance will work the calf muscles when you only push with your toes, while a wide stance focuses on your hamstrings and glutes.

How to Use a Leg Press

Depending on the orientation of the leg press machine, most machines require exercisers to sit in a saddle and push a platform away using the legs. The upper body stays static as the legs push with control.

Leg Press Safety

Another excellent feature of the leg press machine involves safety. With the way the machines are constructed, once the safety clips are in place, the weights are held securely and you don't have to worry about them falling on you. Starting off with light weights and working up to heavier weights as your workouts progress is an excellent way to avoid injury. Leg press machines come in different varieties, including a seated leg press, a horizontal leg press, and a diagonal leg press.

Woman exercising on leg press machine

Calf Machines

Calf machines specifically target the calf muscles - the gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantaris muscles and can be both seated and standing machines. Using calf machines helps to develop, strengthen and tone these often neglected muscles. This is a popular machine for people who feel unstable doing a traditional, weighted calf raise with barbells or hand weights.

How to Use a Calf Machine

Standing calf machines involve placing the balls of the feet on the stable surface of the machine while placing shoulders under weighted bars. Moving into a tip-toe position, the exerciser pushes the weighted bars up, using the calf muscles to do so.

Calf raises exercise

Other Machines to Work the Legs

Though the machines above work the large muscles of the legs, it's important to target other leg muscles as well using the machines below.

Leg Curl Machine

One of the best ways to exercise your hamstrings is on a leg curl machine. Working out on this machine will strengthen and develop your hamstring muscles - semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris. Leg curl machines are available as standing models or a model with a seat. Use a leg curl machine by:

  1. Lie prone onto the chair and placing the legs under the padded bars.
  2. Flex the knees to draw the bars closer to your glutes.
  3. Release the bars in a controlled manner, resisting the urge to just drop your legs.
Female athlete exercising at lying leg curl bench in the gym

Leg Extension Machine

Leg extension machines help develop strong shapely thighs while strengthening the knees. The quadriceps (the "quads") are targeted with this machine. Often leg exercise equipment will be a combination of a leg extension machine and a leg curl machine. This machine is best for people who prefer to use machines instead of free weights and who want to target their quad muscles. To use a leg extension machine:

  1. Sit in the chair with your legs under the padded bars. The padded bars should hit your leg just above the ankles, but below the shins.
  2. Extend the knees to draw your feet upward, compelling your legs straight.
  3. Release the padded bar slowly, allowing your knees to bend.

Leg Adduction/Abduction Machine

A great exercise machine to work the inner thigh muscles is a leg adduction machine. A leg abduction machine works the muscles of the outer thighs. You will usually find both properties combined in one machine. Though these exercises can be done with a cable machine for additional stability work, the leg adduction/abduction machine is a suitable choice for targeting the thighs. To use the adduction/abduction machine:

  1. Sit in the chair with your legs placed into the padded leg holds. Your legs will be open wide.
  2. Draw your feet together, pushing against the weight.
  3. Pull your feet apart, pulling against the weight.
    Young women exercising in gym

Compact Exercise Equipment for Legs

Exercise equipment that is lightweight and compact can be great for home gyms. A Mini Stepper Machine offer a good workout for your legs. Bun and Thigh Roller works to tighten up your inner and outer thigh muscles. Note that no equipment is needed for bodyweight squats, lunges, or cardio-based leg exercises like running or jumping.

Stepper Bun and Thigh Roller
Stepper Bun and Thigh Roller

Exercising Smart

Before starting any exercise program it is always best to check with your physician to determine if it is best for you. This is essential if you have prior health problems, are pregnant or under 18 years of age or over 45. If you go to a gym and are unsure about a particular piece of exercise equipment, do not hesitate to ask someone from the gym to assist you.

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Exercise Equipment for Legs