Listen up gang…it’s leg day somewhere in the world and I’m delivering the goods, via PT extraordinaire Matt Corbin! So, strap in and take notes, you’ll be smashing out an epic leg session in no time.
I should probably mention that when Matt Corbin isn’t running awesome PT sessions from Zap Fitness in Melbourne’s leafy Surrey Hills, doing therapeutic massages, doling out expert nutritional advice, or completing his Masters in Osteopathy and generally saving the world…he is totally on hand to help me, help you with these sassy little blogs.
Let’s start off with the top three leg machines. According to Matt, every beginner should be familiar with the Leg Press, Leg Extension and Leg Curl Machines.
“The Leg Press machine is the one that most closely mimics a squat, which is one of our most basic functional movements as humans. Where the next two machines can be considered more “isolated”, the Leg Press by comparison is a compound movement. This means in terms of value – this machine is the highest priority when it comes to lower limb machine-based exercises.”
“The Leg Extension Machine is an isolation exercise with a strict focus on working the quads. Isolation exercises are beneficial to target weak points on the body but as mentioned – Due to the isolation, using this machine as a primary focus point without considering at least the leg curl (opposing muscle groups) could lead to poor symmetry and mechanics.”
“The Leg Curl Machine is also an isolation exercise with a focus on the back of your upper thighs aka the hamstrings. This is the opposing movement to the above leg extension machine. Whilst most people do have comparatively weak hamstrings (in combination with glutes), it’s important to include isolated hamstring work but again make sure the leg press takes priority if pressed for time.”
Of course, for the beginner gym goer, there are many benefits to using machine-based training. Some of which Matt mentions, “Machine based training is safe and time-efficient. The weights are easy to change weights and beginners can build confidence with movements in general.”
I guess that means that there are some disadvantages too…? Matt laments that yes, “It can be one-dimensional and may lead to boredom. Another downfall is that with different biomechanics, it may not be suited to everybody. Especially if there are consistent nagging injuries or soreness, I would recommend getting technique looked at by a professional. The other disadvantage is that machine-based training places a focus on your superficial “prime movers” rather than your deeper or “stabiliser” muscles, which are very important when performing a movement standing etc (like we mostly are – think balancing).”
So, are there any leg machines we should be avoiding?
“Pin loaded Leg machines in general are quite safe. Just be aware of proper technique. Don’t lock the knees and be sure to push weight evenly through the heel/mid-foot, keep knees in line with the 2/3 toes (don’t cave the knees inwards). I would say that people with lower back pain should avoid going too deep in the leg press as it can create large amounts of pressure in the areas if they don’t have the necessary mobility.” Matt says.
Right so we know our machines, we know our technique. Where to from here Matt?
“Well, you will need to know what weights to use and I have some general rules for progressing the weights. Rule number 1, always start TOO LIGHT, test out something you know you will be able to perform 10 reps of. If it was too light, increase it for next time. You should generally get to the end of your set and think ’I could probably get 2-4 more of those.’ Keep increasing the weight gradually across your first few sessions until you find that sweet spot and then build from there”
As far as reps go, Matt has a great starting point with those too, “The simplest starting point is 3 sets of 10 reps. Why? I’m unsure who decided it was the ideal number but 10 is small enough to not lose count, but it’s enough to know you’ve worked your muscles even if you are just started. Once you are getting slightly more advanced and if your focus is to BUILD muscle: try this approach 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps. Be sure that you push yourself hard enough. Then again, if your focus is sports related/general conditioning and endurance perform slightly more reps and decrease the rest periods, for instance, 3 sets x 12-20 reps.”
May your squats be deep.
See you at the gym!
– By Prue Houston
Contact Matt Corbin at Zap Fitness Surrey Hills
Address: 607 Canterbury Road, Surrey Hills. VIC. 3127
Phone: 0421 526 409
Email: [email protected]