We’ve all heard it before…the old adage that is the scourge of bicep curls enthusiasts everywhere:

“Don’t skip leg day!”

…and despite how much we’d rather be loading up the bar for another set of bench or even…putting in some time on the elliptical, we know we can’t neglect lower-body training.

However, with a seemingly endless array of leg machines to choose from, determining which ones will give us the best bang for our buck can be a bit confusing.

Today, we’re going to put an end to this confusion in our discussion of the top leg machines (and associated lower-body training apparatuses), why they’re top dogs for leg work, and why you need to work them into your training program.

Squat Rack

Your squat rack, whether it’s in the form of a basic set of uprights, a power cage, or an advanced Smith Machine and rack combination, should be the centerpiece of your home gym as well as the headquarters for your leg training. This integral piece of equipment allows you to safely perform just about every variation of the barbell squat (back squats, front squats, box squats, overhead squats, amongst many others).

Many squat racks, such as the Raptor F22 include cable pulley systems, allowing for an array of additional, supplementary leg exercises to be performed. These include cable squat palloff presses and cable squats.

Ultimately, if you have a good squat rack, you are well on your way to leg training success.

Two men exercising in a home gym with Major Fitness squat rack f22. One man is performing a squat with a barbell on a squat rack, while the other is using a cable machine for arm exercises.

Learn More about Major Fitness Squat Rack

Leg Press/Hack Squat Machine

For many leg training enthusiasts, a good leg press/hack squat combination machine rivals the squat rack as the most important piece of leg training equipment. The sheer amount of weight that can be loaded onto these machines is second to none allowing you to really push your limits in their quest for strength and mass.

While the leg press exercise is pretty straightforward, you simply lay back in the machine and extend your legs up and down to push the weight away, the hack squat exercise is a little less common. Instead of lying back in the machine, you stand in the machine, facing out and away with your shoulders pressed firmly against the upper pads. From here, you squat low and push against the weighted pads as you rise back up. At this point, your legs are begging for mercy!

It is possible to purchase stand-alone leg press machines and hack squat machines, but getting your hands on a machine that does both is the most efficient and effective. Something like the Cobra AH1 is ideal since it also allows for reverse hack squats (where lifters position themselves facing the machine) to be performed.

In addition to the leg press and hack squat-specific movements and associated benefits, this machine can be used to perform a popular calf raise variation. Lifters can position themselves in their machine as if they were going to perform a leg press exercise, straightening their legs, and flexing their toes against the plate. As “easy” as this sounds, your calves will burn!

Woman performing leg press exercise on a Major Fitness leg press machine in a home gym setup.

Learn More about Major Fitness Leg Press Hack Squat Machine

Smith Machine

We mentioned squat rack/Smith Machine combinations earlier, but stand-alone Smith Machines are also extremely effective leg training devices and, in some ways, are even more versatile than standard squat racks.

Many Smith Machines’ uprights are not only capable of accomodating J-cups for barbell work, but are actually designed with this purpose in mind. Because of this, all of the barbell squatting exercises that can be performed in the squat rack can also be performed in a Smith Machine.

Where the Smith Machine really shines is in its range of machine-specific exercises. A Smith Machine squat enables lifters to maintain perfect form with superior safety mechanisms in place. More creative lifters can benefit from using the Smith Machine as a vertical leg press, lying back on the ground and pushing the bar directly up from them with their legs.

Man performing a deadlift with a barbell on a Major Fitness Smith machine in a home gym setup.

Learn More about Major Fitness Smith Machine

Leg Extension Machine

A leg extension machine is excellent for directly targeting your quadriceps muscles. Although these machines are unprecedented when it comes to working the quads, they are oftentimes quite expensive, especially when considering that they are not overly multi-functional pieces of training equipment.

A good solution for addressing the hefty price of most leg extension machines is to opt for a leg extension accessory that can easily be attached to a power rack or Smith Machine. These options are usually much more affordable than full leg extension machines while offering many of the same benefits and only taking up a fraction of the space.

Man performing a leg extension exercise on a Major Fitness squat rack in a home gym setup.

Learn More about Major Fitness Leg Extension Rack Attachment

Cal Raise Machine

As you might expect, a calf raise machine, whether the seated or standing variety, is designed to specifically target lower leg and calf development. By flexing the toes against large amounts of suspended weight (either resting on the shoulders in standing calf raise machines or against the thighs in seated calf raise machines), the calf muscles become substantially overloaded, supporting strength and muscle gains.

Despite the calf raise machine’s extremely-focused design, lifters with a leg press machine can experience a similar stimulus, making it a “nice to have”, but not a “required” piece of leg training equipment.

If You Have the Leg Machines, You Don’t Have an Excuse to Skip Leg Day

It can be a lot of fun learning about all of the different types of leg machines we can use to hit all of the muscles in our lower bodies, even when the choices appear to be somewhat endless. However, a quick look at the price tags of many of these single-purpose machines can be very concerning.

Thankfully, with a little flexibility, you can hit every lower body muscle with just a Squat Rack and power cage combination rack, leg press and hack squat combination machine, and leg extension attachment.

The only downside to this arrangement (for some of us, at least)? With these items, you’ll no longer be able to say “I have to skip leg day; I don’t have the right equipment.” You got no choice but to get squatting, pressing, and leg extension…ing!


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