Sure, we know that a squat is one of the best free weight exercises you can do. Some people, though, for various reasons can’t load their back with heavy weight to even attempt this exercise. The next best thing? Replicate the movement using one of the many leg machines found in gyms. The following machine-based leg exercises will keep your legs strong without having to position and hold load a heavy bar on the upper back.
The hack squat is an exercise you can do in place of a free weight squat. For anyone working around injury issues, it is a much safer exercise to perform. Mix the traditional hack exercise (facing out) with facing in when looking for a variation. You can also perform the exercise using one leg. Make sure to keep the chest and head up throughout the movement. Drive through the heels as you move from a flexed position back into extension. Experiment with foot placement (feet turned outward and inward). This can be a great exercise to begin with for any strength training novice, squatting for the first time.
Smith Machine Bulgarian Split Squat
Split squats are one of the best single-leg exercises you can do. If you are or were an athlete, you’re probably very familiar with the movement. You can also rest the uninvolved leg on top of a bench or plyo box when performing the Bulgarian split squat, as seen here. Remember to “sit back” initially and then lower the body.
Smith Machine Squat
Again, nothing beats a free weight version of a squat, but for the novice lifter or when working around issues, the smith machine squat makes a great training option. A great way to get started initially would be with a bodyweight squat or wall squat. Following this, progress to what you see here and eventually transition to free weights. Focus on sitting back to begin the movement while keeping the knees behind the toes at the bottom position (as seen in second photo).
Cable Leg Kickback
It is always a good idea to add uni-lateral leg exercises in on leg day. This exercise focuses on hip extension, activating the glutes and hamstring muscles. Think about those muscle groups only as you execute each repetition.
Smith Machine Single-Leg Calf Raise
You can’t neglect the lower leg. The calf raise exercise can be done woff one leg or of course using both. When a smith machine is not available, you can use a hack squat or even a leg press machine to do calf raises. It is also a good idea to work the deep, posterior leg muscles from a seated position. This focuses on the soleus muscle (located behind the gastrocnemius, or calf).
Stay Strong Together
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