There are lots of exercises people can perform to build up their skinny legs, which are sometimes unkindly called "chicken legs." Free weight exercises work well but not everyone is comfortable lifting heavy dumbbells and barbells. Workout machines allow you to work your muscles safely and comfortably without developing ugly calluses on your hands from gripping bars.
To build your muscles, perform two to four sets with six to 12 repetitions in each set using a moderately heavy weight. You should find the last couple of repetitions in each set challenging, but you should still be able to complete them using good exercise form.
Leg Press Machine
Leg press machines come in a variety of designs. The original leg press machines involved lying on your back with your legs in the air and pushing a weight vertically upward, which is hardly dignified. Modern leg presses are inclined at 45 degrees or allow horizontal positioning. Extending your knee and hips simultaneously as you push the weight away from you means all of your major leg and hip muscles get an effective workout when you leg press. Moving your heels up the footplate places an additional emphasis on your butt while a lower foot placement emphasizes your thighs.
Leg Extension and Leg Curl
While leg extensions target your quadriceps located on the front of your thighs, leg curls work the hamstrings to the rear. These two machines are classed as isolation exercises, because movement only occurs at your knee joints. To get the most from these exercises, align your knee joints with the lever arm pivot point and keep the weight under your control at all times. This keeps the tension on your target muscles and makes the exercises more demanding and therefore more effective.
Total Hip Machine
With the total hip machine, you exercise one leg at a time while standing. By adjusting the height of the thigh pad and the position of your body, you can target different hip muscles. Extending your leg backward targets your butt while flexing your leg forward emphasizes your hip flexors. Pushing your leg outward, a movement called abduction, works your outer hips and thighs while pushing your leg inward, a movement called adduction, works your inner thighs. For a comfortable and safe workout, make sure your hips are aligned with the lever arm pivot point.
The Smith machine uses vertical rails to guide barbell weight up and down. This guided motion means you can focus your energies on raising and lowering the weight rather than balancing it. You can use a Smith machine to perform squats, split squats and reverse lunges, which are all effective leg and butt exercises.
The cable machine is a very versatile workout tool that allows you to perform a variety of leg and butt exercises. These exercises are often done one leg at a time and in a variety of planes; however, there are also a few two-legged lower body exercises you can do with it. Attach an ankle cuff to the cable and place the cuff around your ankle. Perform hip flexion, hip extension, abduction and adduction exercises -- just like you would with the total hip machine. You can also perform cable pull throughs, which target your butt and hamstrings. Attach the cable to a waist belt and you can perform resisted lunges and squats.
- Muscle and Strength: Rep Out: The Truth About Rep Ranges And Muscle Growth
- BodyBuilding.com: Leg Press Exercise Guide
- ExRx.net: Lever Leg Extension
- AIS/D Fitness Center: How to Use the Total Hip (Multi Hip) Machine
- ExRx.net: Smith Machine Squats
- BodyBuilding.com: One-Legged Cable Kickback
- ExRx.net: Lever Seated Leg Curl
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.