You sit all day at your desk, and in your car on your way to and from work, so the last thing you probably want to do when you walk into the gym is sit down again. The seated leg press is a great machine to target your quadriceps, glutes and your hamstrings, but there are other exercises that will target these muscles and keep you on your feet.
Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
Think about when you position yourself on the seated leg press machine. Your feet plant firmly on the platform, bottom sits back in the seat and your back rests against the back rest. In this position, your feet are fixed to a piece that can only move within a fixed range of motion. The advantage to this type of exercise is that it subjects your knee to less stress while recruiting more muscles within the leg. Squats and lunges are both closed kinetic chain exercises, while step ups are a hybrid exercise because they require your feet to leave the floor.
The beauty of the squat is that it can be performed in the gym or in the comfort of your own home. If you're a beginner, you might want to place a Swiss ball between your back and the wall to help you keep your form and balance when squatting. The keys to doing a good squat is to keep you upper body straight with your back slightly arched, and to lower your bottom to the floor until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
Like squats, positioning is the key to giving your legs and glutes a good workout when doing lunges. Step forward with one leg, keeping your thigh parallel to the ground and your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Don't let your knee go past your toe. If it does, you need to step forward farther and create a deeper lunge. Keep your upper body straight and focus on pointing your chest directly out in front of you. Stretch your back leg out behind you and keep it as straight as possible. Make your quadriceps really work by driving your weight into the ground as you push off to return to a standing position.
Very similar to the regular squat, the front squat allows you to add weight by holding a bar across your chest to make the squat more challenging. All your body mechanics are the same when performing the front squat--back slightly arched, upper body upright and thighs parallel with the floor. If you have existing knee problems, consult with a doctor before starting any lower body exercise routine.
Step ups are a functional exercise and can be modified to be easier or more challenging depending on your ability. You can use a stair or an exercise step as small or as tall as you would like. Standing close to the front of the step, place one foot on the step as you step up, bringing the other foot to rest on the step next to the first one. Step down with the starting foot and bring the other foot down after it. You can increase the intensity of this exercise by making the step higher or by holding dumbbells, a barbell across your shoulders or wearing a weighted vest.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Safety of the Squat Exercise
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: Biomechanics of the Knee During Closed Kinetic Chain and Open Kinetic Chain Exercises
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: Effects of Technique Variations on Knee Biomechanics During the Squat and Leg Press
Based in Dayton, Ohio, Sari Hardyal has been writing fitness, sports, entertainment and health-related articles for more than five years. Hardyal holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communication from Miami University and is pursuing her master's degree in occupational therapy and her doctorate in physical therapy. She is a certified personal trainer with the National Federation of Professional Trainers.