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Your Definitive Guide to Leg Extensions

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Your Definitive Guide to Leg Extensions

If you’ve ever been in a big-box gym before, you’ve seen plenty of guys doing classic leg exercises like squats and lunges and deadlifts. But there’s a good chance you’ve also seen a host of leg-training machines, one of which seems simple enough.

It’s called the leg extension machine, and depending on who you ask, it’s either an exercise that you should avoid altogether, or it’s a fundamental move you should do in every leg workout. The machine’s in just about every corner of fitness you can think of, from high school weight rooms to physical therapy clinics to big-box gyms — and very often, it has a line of people waiting to use it, too.

And why not, right? After all the movement is simple enough. You sit in the seat, let your calves loop around the leg roller, and straighten your knees, flexing your quads. It burns when you do it, and the burn is always good, right?

Well, sort of. Truth be told, the leg extension has a purpose, but that purpose isn’t for everyone. Depending on your goals, you’ll want to hammer the leg extension a few times a week, or sit it out entirely. Let’s break down the how and why.

What It Does

The leg extension is an exercise designed to focus almost exclusively on your quads. Plenty of guys want big quads, which is why this machine gets major traffic. And your quadriceps, a blend of four muscles (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and vastus medialis) are responsible for leg extension, the straightening of the knee. The vastus muscles originate at the femur, where the rectus femoris is attached at the hip; the rectus femoris is also responsible for hip extension.

The leg extension offers an exercise that relies on torque to move a weight. While the quads are extending the knee, the weight is resting just on top of the ankle joint. In the same way that a lighter weight will crush your deltoids during a lateral raise because of how far the weight is from the muscle that’s moving it, the placement of the load, near your ankles, pushes your quads, which are straightening the knee, to work.

A History Lesson

Unlike most of the leg exercises on today’s fitness landscape, the leg extension isn’t considered “functional.” Instead, it’s an isolation move that has its roots well before CrossFit, and these days, it’s often criticized.

It’s Descended From Bodybuilding

If you’ve ever been to CrossFit, you won’t see anyone in the room doing leg extensions. You won’t see them in HIIT classes either, and disciplines of functional fitness often malign the exercise.

Instead, this move has its roots in bodybuilding. Bodybuilders have been adding leg extensions into their workouts since Arnold Schwarznenegger was training on Venice Beach. I also bought into the exercise when I started out in the gym. I mean, if Arnold does it, I should too!

Bodybuilders, however, have a specific purpose for doing the exercise. First off, they’re training purely for aesthetics, not performance, and a well-rounded set of quads is critical to a good physique. And earning size on a specific muscle (as opposed to your entire body) often requires you to focus on “chasing the pump.” (Not familiar with the pump? Here’s your rundown.)

The pump has its purpose. There’s some scientific truth to the influx of blood going to an area, and the hormonal response that follow building muscle. Most bodybuilding routines are rooted in pushing specific muscles to failure to do that, and the leg extension, which isolates the quads, forcing them to work with little assistance from other muscles, is a perfect example of that.

Rehab And Function

How often in your day do you have to extend your knee with maximum strength under load? Oh, never? That figures, which is why the leg extension is also popular and useful in physical therapy clinics. If you’ve ever had knee surgery (I have), you know that the quadriceps and rectus femoris often “fall asleep” in the days after surgery, and they need to essentially be “retrained”.

If other muscles can do the work, then the quads and rectus can’t experience that retraining. So the leg extension machine, because it isolates the quads and eliminates other muscles’ involvement, plays a critical role in rehab. The concept of getting the quads moving and the knee joint back to its hinging motion makes sense.

This makes it a good starting point for any rehab, although you can only take that so far. In the long run, your quads aren’t a muscle meant to work in isolation. So you can use the leg extension to “wake up” your quads after a surgery or traumatic injury, but at some point, it needs to learn to fire collaboratively with other muscles.

Should You Do It?

Strong young man doing legs exercise in the gym

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The leg extension just might be a fit in your workout; it all depends on your goals. If you are looking to really dial in to building a set of legs to impress the world, your will want to use the leg extension. If you have other goals, however, you may not want this exercise.

Do Extensions If:

You Want Massive Quads

Then you want to do leg extensions. Again, you’re blasting your quads in isolation, and they’re going to flush with blood. And if you just want pure size in your quads, there is a benefit to getting a pump.

But that doesn’t mean you just need to do leg extensions. If you’re smart and you want big quads, you’ll utilize that pump more creatively. Start with leg extensions, then tap into moves that more closely mirror the everyday actions of your knee. Try this superset, which I love: Do 20 leg extensions, followed by 10 walking lunges with each leg. Do 4 sets.

You Need More Muscular Awareness

One key to building your physique: Taking the muscle through concentric and eccentric contractions. One major benefit to the leg extension is that you can control the movement and focus on your quad. That means you can move with intent, slowing down the contraction at your pace and slowing it at certain phases. That can be done with squats and lunges, but it’s not quite as natural, or as easy to focus on your quads.

Skip Extensions If:

You Want to Avoid Joint Stress

Especially if you already have sore knees, you may want to skip this exercise. Again, the placement of the load relative to your knee creates a lot of torque, so this move sometimes isn’t worth it, especially if you’re not prepping for a bodybuilding competition.

Athleticism Is Your Goal

If you’re trying to run, jump, or play sports better, this isn’t a move for you. Most real-life leg actions don’t solely involve knee extension; even kicking a soccer ball, for example, starts with an aggressive drive of the hip, not the knee. If you’re training for a sport, ditch leg extensions in favor of moves like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and step-ups.

Common Mistakes

Muscular man doing legs workout in fitness club

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If you decided to do leg extensions, be careful with how you use and execute the exercise. Avoid these errors.

Too Much Weight

The leg extension as an exercise relies on the torque involved in moving the weight, so you don’t need to load the machine up to the max to get benefit. While the quads are extending the knee the weight is resting just on top of the ankle joint.

So you can benefit from not using too much weight. And maxing out the machine can have serious issues. In general, the further a weight is from the operating joint, the more the muscle and the joint have to deal with the torque. That means you will “feel” leg extensions in the muscle, but, if you use too much weight, you’ll also stress your knee joint over time. Be careful with throwing weight around; you want to protect that knee joint.

Imbalanced Training

Leg extensions solely develop your quads, so in the long term, if they’re the main focus of your leg workouts, your legs will gradually develop imbalances. As your quads get stronger, you need to make sure to strengthen your hamstrings, too; if you don’t, you could easily develop knee issues or place yourself at risk for knee injuries when playing sports.

If you do leg extensions, offset them with hamstring exercises such as Romanian deadlifts and even leg curls, too; aim to do 2 sets of leg curls or Romanian deadlifts for every 1 set of leg extensions that you do.

No Multijoint Leg Training

Remember how your legs work! Hamstrings, glutes, and quads are meant to work in concert, as are ankle, knee, and hip joints. Even bodybuilders who are chasing massive quads work in other exercises, using squats, deadlifts, and lunges as the backbone of their workouts. That doesn’t change even if you’re doing leg extensions. Keep the fundamental leg exercises in your workouts! (And if you’re not sure how to go about the squat, check out the video below.)

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Watch Dr. Pimple Popper Pop a Tiny, Sticky Tan ‘Button’ Cyst

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Directly Above Shot Of Bowl With Buttons On Blue Table

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  • In a new Instagram video, Dr. Pimple Popper removes a tiny growth from behind a patient’s ear.
  • Dr. Lee says the growth, which appears to be a cyst, is like a tiny tan “button” under the skin.
  • The growth looks to be a sebaceous cyst, which arise from the sebaceous glands and can have tan-colored contents.

    In a new Instagram video, Dr. Pimple Popper—aka, dermatologist and TLC host Dr. Sandra Lee, MD—removes a tiny, sticky growth from behind a patient’s ear. Dr. Lee says the growth, which appears to be a cyst, is like a “button” under the skin. In fact, it looks like those tiny tan buttons on button-up shirts that you always struggle to actually secure.

    In the clip, Dr. Pimple Popper nicks the growth to give it an avenue of escape. She then presses down with a comedone extractor, pushing out tan-hued goop from deep inside the patient’s skin. The famed derm says that the patient thought the growth was a mole because he couldn’t see it—but it’s obviously not, given the type of gunk that comes out.

    “Wanna see?” Dr. Lee asks the patient in the clip. “It’s like a little button.”

    The growth looks to be a sebaceous cyst, which arise from the sebaceous glands and can have tan-colored contents. The sebaceous glands secrete sebum, or the oily substance that lubricates hair and skin.

    Watch the perfect pop in the clip below:

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Tales From the Loop Season 2

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Tales From the Loop is Amazon’s newest sci-fi offering, and as the season one synopsis explained, the show “explored the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe–making things previously relegated to science fiction, possible.”

The first season more than delivered on that promise, and characters like Russ, Loretta, George, Cole, May, and Gaddis helped to create a world that seemed both unreal and very real at the same time—and those robots and floating rocks were pretty cool too.

Fans are already thinking about what could happen on the second season of the show, and it turns out that it’s very likely that Tales From the Loop could be renewed. But before that, take a look at everything you need to know about a possible second season of Tales From the Loop.

When will season 2 of Tales From the Loop premiere?

Tales From the Loop hasn’t officially been renewed for a second season, but if it is, it wouldn’t be surprising if it premiered sometime in late 2021. However, series creator and writer Nathaniel Halpern seems hopeful for a second season, as he told Vanity Fair that, “The Loop itself is essentially a storytelling generating device. It’s somewhat endless what you can do with it, so I would love to have a second season. But it’s a bit early.”

What will season 2 of Tales From the Loop be about?

The first season of Tales From the Loop was inspired by the art book of the same name by Simon Stålenhag, and each episode showcased the story of a different character. All of those stories were connected by the main story of the Loop, and a second season would likely follow that same structure. Additionally, Stålenhag has even more books to use as source material.

Who will be in the cast of season 2 of Tales From the Loop?

Tales From the Loop could decide on a totally different cast for season two, or they could go the way of American Horror Story and cast the same actors as different characters. The season one cast included Rebecca Hall as Loretta, Abby Ryder Fortson as Young Loretta, Daniel Zolghadri as Jakob, Tyler Barnhardt as Danny Jansson, Paul Schneider as George, Jonathan Pryce as Russ, Duncan Joiner as Cole, Ato Essandoh as Gaddis, Nicole Law as May, Jane Alexander as Klara, and Tyler Barnhardt as Danny Jansson.

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Clif Bar’s New Coffee Selections Taste Test Review

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Welcome to MH Certified, where Men’s Health puts its stamp of approval on the best products you need to look, feel, and live better than ever before.

  • Clif Bar’s Coffee Collection is a mighty tasty, mighty potent form of easily tapped energy for endurance activities.
  • The coffee-infused snacks all contain about 65 milligrams of caffeine per bar—the equivalent of one shot of espresso.
  • Each bar also contains about 9 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 250 calories.

    Every year, my guy friends and I go on a ski trip. We live in the Northeast, so it’s usually to some dinky mountain where there may or may not be snow. As insurance that we’ll have a good time, we always book a rental place that has at least the following: a pool table, a hot tub (or “man pot,” as we’ve come to call it), a streaming service or well-stocked DVD library, and a full kitchen.

    That last part is important, because although many of us are moderately skilled skiers and snowboarders, we are all highly skilled eaters. You can tell this from the snacks we bring: tubs of cheese balls, nori-flavored potato chips, extra-salty pretzels, spicy cheese curls, white cheddar popcorn … and the list continues.

    None of this stuff is particularly good for us. I realize that. But when you’ve been snowboarding all day (or, okay fine, sitting in a man pot for an extended period of time), you need to replenish. And while we cook “real” food, we snack on all that other stuff.

    Yet while late-evening, pre-dinner snacks, abound, there’s another, arguably more important snack category that’s too often overlooked. These are the snacks that precede strenuous activity, which for us is tackling the terrain parks, but for others may be hiking, surfing, kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, parkour, or general horseplay.

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    No one ever remembers the mid-morning snacks. Until this year, when someone did—someone named me. This year, I brought Clif Bar’s new Coffee Collection, which had just come out in December. Here’s how our experience with them went down.

    “Oh, What Are Those?”

    “Those are Clif’s new coffee-flavored bars,” I told my buddy, a coffee fan. I knew his next question.

    “So there’s caffeine in them?”

    “Yeah, like the same amount as an espresso.”

    He looked over each bar: Dark Chocolate Mocha, Caramel Macchiato, Vanilla Almond Latte. Each one has about 250 calories, 9 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 65 milligrams of caffeine. I’m not sure if he cared about anything other than the caffeine, at least at first. But you might.

    “Oh, These Are Really Good.”

    The morning I tore into my first bar (I went with the Vanilla Almond Latte), we were all assembling toward the ski resort, timing it in the hopes that we’d arrive as the slopes first opened. Anyone who has ever tried to motivate a group of dudes to do something at the same time early in the morning knows what a challenging task that is—because there’s always That One Guy.

    So I pushed a Dark Chocolate Mocha on That One Guy. I chowed down on my bar, a sweet-and-nutty-and-bitter combo that went down easy, and he followed suit.

    “Oh, these are really good,” he said.

    “Oh, These Are Hoooooold Onto Your Butts!”

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    After eating one of the coffee bars, you have about T-minus 20 minutes before it’s go time. The caffeine boost isn’t the pull-your-hair-out kind you might be used to from energy drinks. Instead, you’re treated to a mellow, sustained hit of energy that can carry you through your next activity until it’s time to power through a tub of cheese balls.

    Plus, the roughly 45 grams of carbohydrates provide a lasting source of easily digestible energy for anything the terrain park might throw at you.

    The Bottom Line: At our guys’ trip, Clif Bar’s Coffee Collection finally gave some long overdue recognition to the mid-morning snack. But the quick energy boost they provide would be equally great whether you were staring down a mountain of fresh powder or a pile of emails at 3:00 p.m. Clif Bar’s Coffee Collection offers a powerfully nutritious, wildly delicious fuel for any challenge.

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