The Best Resistance Machines for Toning Legs

The Best Resistance Machines for Toning Legs

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You can use the leg curl machine to focus on a single leg by only curling one leg.

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What's best is often subjective. But in terms of leg workouts, certain machines have designs that allow for focused workouts on specific leg muscles. Knowing what machine hits what part of the leg can help you design a well-rounded leg routine at the gym. The weight machine circuit generally has specific machines for specific leg muscles.

Your 'Quads' Don't Need Four Machines

Your quadriceps, or quads, take up the majority of the muscular region in your front thighs. Working your quadriceps is as easy as straightening your leg from a bent position. Most machines that engage such an action can work your quads adequately. If you want the most well-rounded exercise for your quads, try the leg press machine, which also engages some of hip and calf muscles. The leg extension machine “isolates” your quads to only work the quadriceps muscles, allowing you to focus specifically on your front thighs.

Ham Is All Muscle

On the other side of your quads are your hams, or hamstring muscles. These muscles engage in the opposite way your quads engage, which is by bending your knee from a straight position. The leg curl machine allows you to target your hamstrings while still working some other muscles in your legs, notably your calves and some smaller muscles in your front thigh. Another good option is the straight-leg deadlift, which you can perform on a deadlift machine or the Smith machine.

Raising the Calves

Your calves are the biggest muscles in your lower legs. With their size and importance in helping ankle and knee flexion, they've inspired many machines. Virtually all the best calf-focused machines, such as the calf press and donkey calf raise machines, work the same way, putting all or most focus on the gastrocnemius, the biggest calf muscle. They also have the added advantage of allowing you to target the tibialis anterior, which is on the other side of your lower leg, by reversing your movement from raising the ball of your foot to raising the toe of your foot.

Those Hidden Muscles

Legs don't stand on their own. For strong legs, you also need strong hip muscles, which are technically of course connected to the legs. Not only does working your hips add a thicker look to your upper thighs, but also you will find working them easy with your gym's machines. Consider the hip adduction machine, which specifically targets three of the smaller muscles at the top part of your legs. Another good option is one of the various squat machines, such as the lever squat, sled squat or the Smith, which not only hit your hips but also your quads and hamstrings.


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