T Nation

Leg Extension Hard on the Knees?

I never did leg extensions on my routine because i prefer squats, 1leg exercises even leg press and i tried in the past and it caused knee pain.
But today i was doing some ramdom leg stuff in the gym (easy, recover week) and decided to throw a few high rep sets of leg extensions. I’m surprised i could get some extra quad work with very little knee stress, so i’m thinking about doing them regularly after compound movements.

Any thoughts on this?
The leg extension recently has a bad reputation of causing knee problems. Do you think its true? Whats your experience with it?

I’ve read about this particular exercise being used FOR knee rehab so this just throws me off a little bit here.

They have never really caused me any problems. I just think it is one of those exercises that you shouldn’t push it on. I would think they should always been done at atleast 8 reps and if you are even beginning to think that you might fail the weight is probably way too heavy. My uncles have actually used them as rehab after knee surgeries.

leg extensions are great…unless you do them at home using a bench attachment with no handles to hold, you spend more time keeping your hands positioned than trying to straighten your legs

I think they are fine as long as you stay in a higher rep range. You can fuck up your knees kicking hard, and a leg extention is essentially a kick.

I did them in the 15-30 rep range to failure today, knees feel great.

IMO the only thing I’ve done that hurts my knees is leg pressing.

[quote]Sagat wrote:
I never did leg extensions on my routine because i prefer squats, 1leg exercises even leg press and i tried in the past and it caused knee pain.
But today i was doing some ramdom leg stuff in the gym (easy, recover week) and decided to throw a few high rep sets of leg extensions. I’m surprised i could get some extra quad work with very little knee stress, so i’m thinking about doing them regularly after compound movements.

Any thoughts on this?
The leg extension recently has a bad reputation of causing knee problems. Do you think its true? Whats your experience with it?[/quote]

I use it at the beginning and end of quads. I think it’s good to be used as a warm up and finisher exercise.

There is a lot of different variations of exercises performed on the leg press that are worth looking into. The direction your toes are pointed, feet placement, etc all play a role. Squeezing and flexing your quads at the top of the movement is great too. Then try flexing them for 15-20 second intervals between sets and oh my…a good finisher :stuck_out_tongue: lol

DG

[quote]Steel88 wrote:
I’ve read about this particular exercise being used FOR knee rehab so this just throws me off a little bit here.[/quote]

Leg extensions put a lot of shearing force on the knee that is unnecessary and the benefit to risk ratio is not in it’s favor.

Cressey talks about it, among many other well respected people.

They are used in rehab with the amount of weight is so low that any shearing force will be negligible and the idea is just to get the quads firing.

Leg extensions have also been shown to cause the quads to fire at different rates than what is natural.
I think if you look at a lot of athletes and knee injuries that shouldn’t have occured (Tiger Woods for example, how does a golfer tear an ACL, lol), you will find that leg extensions are part of the routine.
While for a BBer they may not be the devil in causing knee injuries like in sports, they still cause wear and tear on the knee that doesn’t need to be there.

That’s my .02

I know Prof X says he had a well respected ortho (IIRC) say if done properly they’re fine for the knee, I just still don’t see the need for them when there are many other great exercises for the quads

I like doing them for high reps as a finisher for a few sets, usually between 20-25 reps. I get a great pump and burn and I don’t feel anything going on in my knees after. If anything, my knees feel better after high rep leg extensions.

Also, someone here suggested that you should adjust the lever of the machine so that you aren’t really going past 90 degrees at the bottom (or start) of the movement. I noticed that before I started doing this, sometimes the first rep or two would feel ‘weird’.

I used to do them at the end of my leg days, i loved the burn I got from doing them. Then I got patellar tendonitis (not related to leg extensions) and no longer do them as they are the only exercise that really hurts to do. Squats, leg press, lunges, any other leg exercise feels fine.

Honestly I think if it hurts your knees to do them, then don’t, but before I got this over use injury I didn’t feel a thing in my knees when I did them, all in my quads. It’s a good exercise, but not necessary.

Branch “Quadrasaurus” Warren uses them so if theyre good enough for him theyre good enough for me.

Funny, the biggest voice on T-Nation against the Leg Extension is Eric Cressey.

But his partner in crime, and fellow T-Nation author, Mike Robertson, has claimed that Leg Extensions helped rehab his knee and strengthen his VMO.

I think as long as you find a Leg Extension machine that feels natural, and you’re doing enough hamstring work, you’re in the clear.

I find that I don’t like using some Leg Extensions if the movement starts with too much stretch. If my lower legs start too close under the seat, then I get the feeling that the ligaments and tendons are stretched and that they’re what’s initiating the movement and taking the stress. But if I can adjust the lever, then I’m in the clear.

Safety wise I think they’re probably superior to the leg press since you don’t have a shit ton of weight on your knees.

But I really don’t think you can beat a natural feeling hack squat since you can do sissy squats on it and hack squats with all sorts of foot placement.

Arnold wrote “except for the squat, there is no better exercise for the thighs”. Tom Platz was also a proponent of leg extensions. I always feel my quads more when I finish with them. As has already been stated, this isn’t an exercise for max poundage, which I suspect is the reason for any knee problems associated with it.

They can be bad if you have certain pre-existing conditions like petellar femoral syndrome. If you fall into this minority then you are probably doing more harm than good by using extensions in a routine, but for the average joe it seems to be a decent exercise. I dont do them.

I find doing leg extensions strenghten the muscles around the knee cap and you are less likely to get injured from doing other leg execises. If I did not do leg extentions I would have pain in my knees when doing other leg exercises. I don’t start heavy, I piramid my way up from very light to full stack. Also many people get pain because they don’t train properly. You need to lift with your quads.

I see many people are not even concentrating and are pushing with lower legs and adding pressure on the knees. Also make sure the knee is lined up with the pivot point of the machine. I also find it easy on the knees if you really grab on to the handles and make your ass stay planted. You don’t want to feel yourself raising when doing extensions.

Thanks for all the answers.

My reason for thinking about including the leg ext. in my routine is after i finish my squats, etc… seems that it will be easier on the knees doing leg ext. than say leg presses or hack squats. Maybe my knees just had a good day and it can hurt next time, so i will have to try it for a while to see how i respond.

jehovasfitness,

i’ve head Cresseys articles and think he have some solid arguments, but what i’m talking about is exactly that: what is suposed to happen vs. what actually happened.

DG,

What do you mean by flexing the quads on top of leg press (knees locked?)? Or you meant leg extension?

[quote]jehovasfitness wrote:
Steel88 wrote:
I’ve read about this particular exercise being used FOR knee rehab so this just throws me off a little bit here.

Leg extensions put a lot of shearing force on the knee that is unnecessary and the benefit to risk ratio is not in it’s favor.

Cressey talks about it, among many other well respected people.

They are used in rehab with the amount of weight is so low that any shearing force will be negligible and the idea is just to get the quads firing.

Leg extensions have also been shown to cause the quads to fire at different rates than what is natural.
I think if you look at a lot of athletes and knee injuries that shouldn’t have occured (Tiger Woods for example, how does a golfer tear an ACL, lol), you will find that leg extensions are part of the routine.
While for a BBer they may not be the devil in causing knee injuries like in sports, they still cause wear and tear on the knee that doesn’t need to be there.

That’s my .02

I know Prof X says he had a well respected ortho (IIRC) say if done properly they’re fine for the knee, I just still don’t see the need for them when there are many other great exercises for the quads[/quote]

I was thinking of using this to help get my right knee up to speed for squats again so I was thinking of going high rep anyway seeing as its always free for use at my workout time.

Very informative post, thanks alot!

i have had reconstructive acl surgery on my left knee, and i never do leg extensions. and it was done in my rehab, but with insanely minimal weight. im pretty sure it was only used to reteach my left quads how to fire, as the months of no pressure on the knee caused retarded atrophy.

I could see if you perpetually used leg extensions with like 5-6 reps, and kicked like an idiot. That would be bad for your knees.

I think DG meant to flex your thighs at the top of the leg press movement without locking knees out and taking stress off the quads…just contract it as hard as u can at the top of the press, then continue with your set, thats how i do it nehow.

[quote]Bondslave wrote:
They can be bad if you have certain pre-existing conditions like petellar femoral syndrome. If you fall into this minority then you are probably doing more harm than good by using extensions in a routine, but for the average joe it seems to be a decent exercise. I dont do them.[/quote]

So how do you exactly know if you have Petellar Femoral Syndrome?