You want to train your legs but aren't sure what exercise machine offers the best gains. Leg day plays an important role in any workout routine, and knowing the right exercises will accelerate your results.
If you'd like to find out what the best gym equipment for legs is, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know!
- 10 Best Home Gym Equipment For Leg Muscles
- Equipment For Your Legs – How Many Do You Need?
- Choosing The Best Equipment To Tone & Strengthen Your Legs
- Frequently Asked Training Legs At Home Questions
10 Best Home Gym Equipment For Leg Muscles
1. Squat Rack & Barbell
A squat rack and barbell are an excellent combination to have in your home gym since they allow you to do various leg exercises. These include barbell squats, good mornings, lunges, calf raises, and more.
In doing so, you'll be able to target nearly all of the different leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus (glutes), and calves.
Incorporating barbell squats into your workout routine offers several benefits aside from just building your leg muscles. Firstly, you’re able to adjust the weight in smaller increments to suit your strength level.
Additionally, compared to bodyweight squats, barbell squats offer greater muscle activation. Finally, barbell squats are an excellent carry-over exercise that helps with your form for other compound exercises - like deadlifts.
To do a barbell squat correctly, always select a weight that allows you to maintain good form throughout the workout. If your form begins to fall apart on the last set, you need to reduce your weight.
Although there isn’t necessarily a magic number of squats you can do until you see results, squatting 2-3 times per week is ideal. A great starting point would be 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps per set.
Related Article - Different Types Of Squat Racks
2. Exercise Bikes
Exercise bikes are generally available in three types: upright, recumbent, and dual-action. Each one is suited to different fitness levels and offers distinct benefits.
An upright bike is perhaps the most popular type. It resembles a regular bicycle the most and allows you to cycle in or out of the saddle. An upright exercise bike is a great way to train your legs, especially when using high resistance.
When peddling, you’ll be mostly targeting your calves, quads, and hamstrings. However, your glutes, core, and back muscles receive a great workout too. If you'd like to get the most out of the exercise, alternate between sprints and cycling out of the saddle to really target your quads and calves.
A recumbent bike allows you to cycle in a more reclined position, placing less strain on your arms and back. It’s ideal for people with limited mobility or joint and muscle pain.
On the other hand, a dual-action bike is similar to an upright bike, except that it features a set of moving handlebars too. This allows you to train your upper body while simultaneously working your legs as well.
Read More - What Muscles Does An Exercise Bike Work?
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3. Smith Machine
A Smith machine is ideal for beginners and people wanting to isolate muscle groups. Since the bar can't be dropped, it eliminates the need for a spotter and provides a sense of safety for lifters who perhaps aren't yet comfortable with barbell squats.
Additionally, like the squat rack and barbell combination, a Smith machine allows you to do a number of different exercises, targeting various muscles. This includes squats, deadlifts, bench presses, bicep curls, and more.
If you're looking for the best gym equipment for arms and legs, a Smith machine is an excellent choice since you can train just about every muscle group.
Another benefit of the Smith machine includes lifting heavier than you would when using a regular barbell - thanks to the limited range of motion. Its built-in safety features also reduce the risk of injury.
If you haven’t used a Smith machine before, start without any added weight so that you get used to the movement first. Like using a regular barbell, a great starting point would be 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps per set. Aim for 2-3 sessions per week.
Learn More - Smith Machine Vs Power Rack Vs Squat Rack
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4. Rowing Machine
You might have thought of the rowing machine as an upper-body focused exercise machine but it actually offers an excellent full-body workout. It’s a great aerobic exercise since rowing activates nine muscle groups when completing one full stroke. The rowing machine is essentially a horizontal deadlift.
Taking a look at the mechanics, rowing is divided into four stages: catch, drive, finish, and recovery. In the drive portion of the row, when you’re pushing backward, the muscles of the posterior chain are most engaged.
This includes the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and spinal erectors. In the finish portion, when you're pulling the handle in towards you, your quads, as well as your forearms, biceps, and lats, are all working hard.
Since the rowing machine offers the benefit of a great cardio workout while also training your muscles, you can start seeing results fairly quickly.
However, your current body composition, as well as the intensity of your rowing session, will largely determine the time frame. In general, you can expect to lose around half a pound per week by rowing for just 15 to 20 minutes a day.
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5. Leg Press Machine
After the leg extension machine, the leg press is one of the most effective exercise machines for building your leg muscles, specifically your quads.
The vastus medialis and vastus lateralis (the inner and outer thigh muscles) receive the most activation when doing a leg press—following which is the rectus femoris and then the biceps femoris.
Aside from the obvious benefit of building your leg muscles, the leg press machine allows you to do so without the need for a spotter. Additionally, the leg press machine will enable you to customize your workout by adjusting your foot position.
Placing your feet higher up on the footpad will target the hamstrings and glutes more while putting your feet lower down will work the quads more. For an even more intense workout, you can also train one leg at a time.
To use the leg press machine correctly, ensure that your lower back remains flush against the backrest and your knees are bent at around 90 degrees. Hold onto the handlebars and use them to pull yourself down into your seat. This helps to stop your back from rounding at the bottom of the movement.
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6. Hack Squat Machine
A hack squat machine is a great option that works your entire lower body, with the main focus on your quads. Additionally, you'll be working your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core muscles.
While it might look very similar to a leg press machine, the hack squat machine loads the weight on your shoulders rather than your feet. It's ideal for people who are new to squats or those who don't have a spotter available.
Since the hack squat machine offers assistance in terms of stabilization, it won’t strain the upper body as much as a barbell squat would. Additionally, you’ll generally be able to load more weight onto the machine than you’d be able to lift with a barbell squat.
If you’d like to place more emphasis on your glutes, simply turn around and perform a reverse hack squat. For more emphasis on the quads, perform a regular hack squat but bring your feet in closer together.
When using a hack squat machine for the first time, use the machine without any added weights to get the hang of the movement and ensure correct form. Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps of your desired weight. Once that feels comfortable, add more weight.
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7. Leg Extension Machine
If you’re looking for the best gym machine for your quads, the leg extension machine offers the best workout.
Although there are many other exercises (like squats, for example) that work your quads, none of them isolate the muscle quite like a leg extension does.
Since the leg extension is done while seated, it’s a great rehab exercise too. Additionally, using the leg extension machine helps train mind-muscle awareness.
However, if you have an existing knee injury, it may be best to skip this exercise. Due to the position of the weight in relation to your knee, a significant amount of pressure is placed on the knee.
To use the leg extension machine correctly, position the footpad at your ankles, with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Select a weight where you’re able to complete 10-12 reps per set.
Ensure that you do each rep in a slow and controlled movement. Additionally, avoid locking your knees at the top of the movement as this can strain the knee.
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8. Seated Leg Curl Machine
Another great isolation exercise, the seated leg curl machine primarily targets the hamstrings (semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris).
Additionally, the calves contract to initiate the curl at the beginning of the exercise. To support the hamstrings, the glutes and hip flexors are also activated.
Not only is the seated leg curl machine ideal for training the hamstrings, but it's an excellent option for injury prevention and rehab too. Like the leg extension machine, the seated leg curl machine helps with mind-muscle awareness.
Common mistakes made when using the seated curl machine include using too much weight or rushing through the workout. You should be able to complete 10-12 reps of 3-4 sets with your selected weight.
To get the most out of the exercise, be sure to hold for 2 seconds while squeezing your hamstrings at the bottom of the movement.
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9. Elliptical Trainers
Elliptical trainers are a popular choice both at the gym and for home exercise equipment. Aside from its cardio benefits, elliptical trainers also allow you to train specific leg muscles.
By increasing the incline, you can target the hamstrings more. Conversely, lowering the foot pedals allows you to target the quads more. Additionally, by pedaling in reverse, you can isolate the hamstrings and glutes more.
Elliptical trainers offer a great low-impact workout, which means it’s ideal to use for rehab if you have an existing injury. Compared with running, it also puts less strain on your joints.
In addition to this, elliptical trainers with handles allow you to train both your upper body along with your lower body. This means (along with your glutes, hamstrings, and quads), you can also train your chest, back, biceps, triceps, and core muscles too.
To see results, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a moderate workout of between 150 to 300 minutes per week or a vigorous workout of between 75 to 150 minutes per week.
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Last but not least, treadmills don’t just provide cardio benefits but are also an effective exercise machine for training your legs. Like the elliptical trainer, you can adjust the workout on a treadmill to train different muscles.
For example, walking on an incline increases leg muscle activation and activates the calves, hamstrings, and glutes more. Similarly, walking backward can put more focus on the quads. To train your inner and outer thighs more, you can side-step on the treadmill.
Similar to the elliptical, the treadmill offers a low-impact workout. This makes it great to use when rehabbing an injury or for people experiencing joint pain. Being able to adjust the speed and incline on the treadmill means that you can set the intensity level to suit your fitness level.
To use the treadmill correctly, you should walk with your arms swinging freely at your sides. If you feel like you need to hold onto the handrails, reduce your speed or the incline until you feel more comfortable.
Additionally, avoid looking down at your feet and instead look straight ahead throughout the exercise. Aim for between 30 to 60 minutes on the treadmill, 5 days a week.
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Equipment For Your Legs – How Many Do You Need?
When putting together your home gym, you don't need to buy every single exercise machine available to get a complete workout. Depending on your workout objectives, selecting just one or two machines will provide ample variation in order to help you achieve your goals.
If your goals are more focused on fat loss and you’re just looking for the best gym equipment for slimming your legs, an exercise bike will be your best option. The benefit of an exercise bike is that it not only helps with fat loss but will still help train your leg muscles too.
With different exercise bike options available, you can select one to suit your limitations and needs.
Similarly, if your goals are more focused on muscle gains, opting for something like a squat rack and barbell will allow you to perform a number of compound exercises to train just about every muscle group within the body.
Not only will you be able to design a killer leg workout plan, but you'll also be able to incorporate upper body and core workouts into your routine. Adjusting your reps and amount of sets allows you to either build mass or build strength - depending on your goal for that month.
Choosing The Best Equipment To Tone & Strengthen Your Legs
Amount & Type Of Space Available
If space is limited, it’s best to choose a machine that can fold up and be stored away when not in use. Selecting a machine that allows you to perform a variety of different workouts will also help to save space.
Additionally, if you don’t have a dedicated garage gym to do your workouts in, ensure that your floors can handle heavy equipment.
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Your Fitness Goals
As mentioned previously, if you want to focus more on fat loss than muscle growth/strength, then one machine will be more beneficial to you than the other. For example, an exercise bike or treadmill will be better suited for cardio workouts than a leg press or hack squat machine. Keep this in mind when planning your home gym setup.
It should go without saying that the amount you can afford to spend will be the biggest deciding factor in what equipment you purchase. If you have a very limited budget, ensure that you find a middle ground between price and quality.
A good quality barbell (cared for correctly) will last you a lifetime. However, a poor-quality treadmill is likely to break within a few months.
Does It Offer Variety
To get a balanced and complete workout, you want to be doing different exercises that target a variety of muscle groups. Look for an exercise machine that allows you to execute more than one exercise.
A good example of this would be a squat rack and barbell or the Smith machine. With these options, you're able to do many workouts to train your legs, but you're also able to train your upper body.
Any Health Conditions Or Pre-Existing Injuries
If you have any health conditions or pre-existing injuries, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider first. You want to be sure that the machine you’re interested in purchasing is suitable and safe for you to use.
For someone with reduced shoulder mobility, a squat rack or Smith machine may not be the best choice. Similarly, a seated leg extension machine could do more harm than good for someone with a knee problem.
Warranty & Required Maintenance
When selecting an exercise machine, make sure that you understand the maintenance required and how it impacts the warranty.
Sometimes, not servicing the machine frequently or per the manufacturer's guidelines can result in a voided warranty.
Additionally, consider how much more it's going to cost you to maintain the machine regularly. One machine might be cheaper than another initially but could cost you way more in the long run with its frequent maintenance.
Frequently Asked Training Legs At Home Questions
Which exercise machine is best for building quad muscles?
The best machine for building the quadriceps is the leg extension machine. Since no other muscles are involved in the movement, the quads are fully activated.
Another great option is the leg press machine. Studies show that the quads, both the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis, generated the most muscle activation, followed by the rectus femoris and biceps femoris.
Which exercise machine is best for building calf muscles?
The single best machine for building calves would be the calf raise machine since it does an excellent job of isolating the calf muscles. However, you don’t need a calf raise machine in order to do calf raises.
For example, using a squat rack and barbell, you can do calf raises and get the same workout to build your calves.
Read Also - Seated Calf Raise Alternatives Without Machine
Should I do leg exercises every day?
No. In general, you should aim to do leg exercises at least three times a week. Each session should typically last 15 to 20 minutes, as part of a longer workout routine of up to an hour. Leg workouts should never be done for more than five days in a row since muscles need time to rest and repair.
Does walking tone your legs?
Yes, it does! When walking, the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and hip adductors, are the primary muscles activated. Additionally, the glutes and ab muscles also play an important role.
Brisk walking for just 30 minutes a day can help maintain fitness levels and tone your legs. Additionally, studies show that combining walking with jogging produces the most significant fat loss.
How can I tone my thighs in 2 weeks?
For best results, aim to do thigh-focused strength training 3 days a week and 2 days of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Squats, lunges, and circuit machines are great options for toning your thighs.
HIIT training involves alternating between short bursts of moderate and vigorous cardio training. This helps you to burn fat while maintaining your muscle tone.
That wraps up our comprehensive guide to the best gym equipment for legs. Now that you have a variety of exercise machines to choose from and what factors to consider when selecting the best equipment for your needs - you’ll be able to purchase the best exercise machine for leg day and achieve your goals in no time!
Last Updated on January 19, 2023