I haven't done leg extensions or leg curls since my first year of working out. Somehow, I got it into my head that these are newbie exercises, and are less effective than other options like squats and lunges.
I know serious lifters who do use these exercises, but they are the exception rather than the rule. What is your opinion? Should they be part of a regular leg routine?
I don't see what's so "newbie" about these exercises. Is it because you have to use machines to do them? I personally use leg extensions to finish off my quads. I use high reps, 20+ reps basically to complete failure. It's been working for me. Those are just my $0.02.
I'm a big fan of leg curls, although I prefer the seated variation (usually have to pin an extra weight to the machine though). After several sets of SLD's, hitting a good hard contraction seated curls will leave you unable to walk too well for several days. I only started doing this combo the past year, and at my show last May I received compliments from the head judge on my Hams (Thibs mentioned them as well last week, which was damn cool, because I'm trying to bring my legs up before next Spring).
I don't really see the point of doing leg extensions unless you have trouble with putting size or separation on your quad. Front squats and leg press variations work very well for me. Not sure if it is true or not, but for athletic purposes I have heard that leg ext can teach your quads to fire improperly, which would not be good.
But if they work for you, than use them.
On the other hand I feel leg curls hit a part of your hamstring that is not hit with RDL's or squats, or maybe it is just hit differently. RDL's hit the hamstrings at the hips while curls hit them more at the knee, as felt from my experience. I also feel a carry over to my sprinting from leg curls.
I feel leg curls or some variation is a must for optimal hamstring development.
IN an effort to really bring up my quads (especially the sweep), I figured using extensions would serve as a nice pre-exhaust, the rock bottom hacks with close foot placement would really target the Vastus Lateralus, and the front squats would just further toast whatever's left without my glutes or hams taking too much of the stress away. But hey, whatever works for you
Leg extensions are a great way to target the quads, but there is a drawback to them. Because the pad puts pressure at the bottom of your shins down around your ankles throughout the lift, when the weight is lowered, the lever action of the weight being at the bottom of your legs places a lot of stress on your knees. I suppose if you do really high reps, the stress is minimized to a certain extent since the weight is naturally much lighter.
If this is a concern to the OP, I've found that performing front squats with my heels on top of a 2x4 for high reps to failure (anywhere from 15-30 reps) at the end of a leg workout blasts the shit out of my quads. It seems to be a suitable replacement for me and I have pretty good quad development. I do a lot of mountain biking and climbing uphill on my bike also destroys my quads. If knee health is an issue, I'm sure you could get a suitable quad workout with raised-heel front squats and some stationary bike time with a high resistance setting. I've actually experimented with deadlifts with my heels elevated, but this didn't work out too well.
I think leg curls are an excellent exercise for a couple reasons, they allow for the trainee to achieve a strong mind/muscle connection, and due to the versatility of the machine; variations of leg placements, the direction you point your feet, etc. one can really narrow down what hamstring training is "for you", not just what someone tells you to do.
Leg extensions as well, but to a lesser degree, only because of the stress it places on the knee joint when done too heavy. I think doing these at the end of squats/leg presses, will allow for a nice burn out set if you so desire. Some people have knee problems, so I would say don't do them. But if your knees are fine, and you want to burn em out, then do em....just my opinion.
Both are good but I've used some leg extension machines that just don't feel right on my knees no matter how I adjust. At certain gyms I won't do extensions at all for that reason. I've also heard curls are done better in the lower rep range such as 8 max, if anyone wants to correct me on this I understand. I have never read anything on the extension for that but I personally keep it at 10+ reps.
I think this is one of those questions with no answer, other than "it depends". It depends on structure, it depends on goals, it depends on how an individual responds etc etc etc...
I would say, that from a bodybuilding perspective.. the fact that the muscles can be targeted easier and the fact you can use a lower weight and therefore go to complete failure and beyond to overload the muscles.. both are excellent.