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  1. #1
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    When was the last time you did leg extensions?

    When was the last time you did leg extensions?


    For me, it has probably been about 10 months. This winter the weightlifting I've been doing (at home, using my own weights) has been focussed on my upper body and core ... I've been walking and riding my trainer to work out my legs.

    Yesterday I got a sports center (weights room, swimming pool, track, climbing walls, etc. etc. etc.) membership for a month, and headed into the weights room to check things out. The first machine I decided to try was the leg extension. I chose a fairly light weight and did a very basic 3 sets of 10 reps .. then continued on with a few other things, mainly just checking it all out because I've never been to this facility before. And then I ended it off with 20 minutes on the treadmill. Easy.

    Until today! My vastus medialis is killing me!! The rest of my quad muscles are fine ... it's just that one.


    This article talks about how important it is for cyclists to develop all their quad muscles ... and my physiotherapists have also told me the same thing.
    http://www.velogear.com/sample/sample_ZCP.pdf

    "Cycling tends to overdevelop the large outer thigh muscle of the
    quadriceps group (the vastus lateralis) relative to the smaller
    quadriceps muscle to the inside of the knee (the vastus medialis),
    resulting in the kneecap being pulled to the outside so it does not
    ride in its smooth groove on the end of the femur."


    The article also gives some tips on how to do the extension effectively so as to build the muscle without damaging anything else.


    If it has been a while, you may just want to consider adding it to your exercise routine once in a while.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Wow, I wonder if that muscle imbalance is harder on some women, because of hip width. Plus are you talking one leg or both?

    I did leg presses/extensions etc... last month and the first thing I realized is that my "tilted" pelvis is becoming worse, making it necessary to shim an extra insole in to one of my shoes. I had not realized how pronounced the difference of my effective leg length was - until I tried these machines with some excessive resistance.

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    I have been supplementing ride training with strength for 15 years. Squats, Leg ext./curls, calf raises, Lunges, 4 or 5 upper body exercises, and core.
    All of these have helped me build, maintain, and prevent musculo-skeletal injury. Summer riding and climbing up to 650k week in Italia have not hurt either.
    Keep up the good quad work!

    www.bicitreregioni.com

  4. #4
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    rarely. They trap your legs into a specific range of motion so are much more likely to cause injury than other exercises. Still, I will do them as long as I use lighter weight and very specific tempo.

  5. #5
    '05 NUEser EJ123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aikigreg
    rarely. They trap your legs into a specific range of motion so are much more likely to cause injury than other exercises. Still, I will do them as long as I use lighter weight and very specific tempo.
    +1

  6. #6
    Hopeless Romantic chadasm's Avatar
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    Leg extensions can be a pretty dangerous exercise. I've seen a lot of information on how they actually reduce the activity of the VMO (vastus medialis oblique) and reduce the range of motion of which it activates. This is all I could find right now, http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1306675 .

    The type of leg extensions that are talked about in that pdf are often called terminal leg extension or terminal knee extensions. They can be done in quite a few ways.

    I would much rather do squats, lunges, TKEs or step ups over leg extensions.

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Leg extensions can be fine as long as you do not straighten your leg. The ideal is to stop short of a full extension by 10-20 degrees.

    Other exercises will also work the quads, and if a person has knee problems other than patello-femoral pain syndrome, those exercises may be more appropriate. However, according to my "Effective Strength Training" textbook, "sitting forward, with the hips flexed to a greater degree, places the rectus femoris on "slack" meaning it is not on stretch. Because of this, it is less effective at producing force, and as a result, places more load on the vastus group, which may play an important role in keeping the patella properly tracking." The book also notes that "the patella should be oriented forward or up throughout the exercise, avoiding internal or external rotation of the legs."

    I had heard the myth that leg extensions are bad too ... the truth is that they can be bad if they are performed incorrectly, or performed by people with certain knee problems ... but they are all right if a person knows how to do them and why he/she is doing them. I found it very interesting that several physiotherapists I have spoken with recommend them (to cyclists in particular), over other exercises, to correct that quad development imbalance.

    Whichever exercises you choose to do, the main point I'm trying to get across is that cycling doesn't develop all the quad muscles evenly, and the uneven development can create knee problems.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Kris Flatlander's Avatar
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    Should I be working on explosive power through my stroke on the leg extension machine? I've been doing 20 reps at 105 lately and I try to do them explosive and fast to top of the stroke, then a slow back-take. Is this right or should I be doing it slower in one way or another?

  9. #9
    Hopeless Romantic chadasm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Leg extensions can be fine as long as you do not straighten your leg. The ideal is to stop short of a full extension by 10-20 degrees.
    In your link from your first post it says to only do the last 15 degrees of the extension, and here you are basically saying the ideal way to do it is to skip that whole portion of the movement that the VMO kicks in. If you skip the last 10-20 degrees you are not working the VMO at all and just building up the other parts of the quad. I thought that the point of this was to stop neglecting the VMO as cycling already does...

  10. #10
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    15 years ago. Leg sled and squats is all the legs I do now. Only sets of 30 since I tore a miniscus doing 4X body weight on the sled. Too easy to make a mess of your knee joint with the extension machine, and why work something in a way that the bike doesn't work it? Did 100k today in 4:05 ET, 3:50 riding time, so only 15 minutes with wheels not turning, 2800' climbing. Rode solo in cold and fog, so pretty slow. But I can sprint like a banshee.

    Hey Machka! You ever do Tempo intervals, CTS and Lippert style? On the trainer, 70 rpm, 90% of AT + 5 beats. Do one for 30 minutes, or until your legs don't like it anymore. Try to work up to an hour, no breaks, or split the time into two intevals with Z2 recovery between. I do them once a week in March. You won't believe the effect. That'll fix your everything right up. No point in doing them for more than 4 weeks in a row. I stop improving.

  11. #11
    Aut Vincere Aut Mori Snuffleupagus's Avatar
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    In High School about 7 years ago

    Since then I've torn the ACLs in both of my knees, and had them surgically repaired. No more leg extensions. I can get the VMO engaged through leg presses and leg lifts, without applying the nasty shear forces that extensions place on my already crappy knees.

  12. #12
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    I have been training 20 to 30-hours a week for the last 10 years, race primarily XCO all summer and part of the winter. I work on aspects of endurance, strength, and power all year. I used to do the leg extension machine, then I finished my sports science degree and decided I was wasting my time, and compromising my knee health. There are safer ways of developing your vastus medialis both on and off the bike.

    As a strength coach who has been working in gym for the last 30 years, I agree that leg extensions can be a pretty dangerous exercise, actually a knee joint grinder. Having strong quads alone will not make you a faster and more enduring cyclist. If this was the case football players would be the fastest cyclists on the planet. It not just the uneven balanced development of the quads that leads to knee problems. This exercise ,a holdover from bodybuilding, tends to exacerbate quad-ham imbalances and fewer and fewer modern coaches use this exercise. We used to think 80-20 was a good quad ham ratio, but the latest thinking is 60-40 closer to the mark. Finally, one needs to consider the innervations and patterns you are trying to learn or reinforce, and the biomechanical imbalances you are trying to undue or prevent, and sex differences (e.g., Q-Angle) etc. The research is out there if you are interested in the specifics of why.

    Although this exercise can be modified to make it less dangerous, why bother when so many functional or sport specific exercises can be employed to achieve the same ends. Lunges and squats are common and popular, however, they both tend to build the upper body more then might be desired by racer types. Until 2-years ago I was doing lunges with 130-140 lbs dumbbells for lunges in my hypertrophy phase, but would put on 10-15 lbs of back muscle through this phase of training. Leg press, however, dose not increase upper body mass. Admittedly leg press can cause hip problems, and most absurdly knee problems if done incorrectly. Last year, with focusing only on functional exercise, and plyo I was able to maximize development without gaining weight where it was not wanted. My sprints were better, and I was explosive on all the focused hill runs and grunts.

    I have ridden with Machka and she is born to ride. Some people will never have problems with leg extensions. Leg extensions might be fine as long as you do not straighten your leg as Machka suggested. However, they are still high risk, low benefit, and having strong quads alone will not make you a faster and more enduring rider.


    CXFREAK

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    high risk, low benefit, and having strong quads alone will not make you a faster

    I have been training 20 to 30-hours a week for the last 10 years, race primarily XCO all summer and part of the winter. I work on aspects of endurance, strength, and power all year. I used to do leg extension machine, then I finished my sports science degree and decided I was wasting my time, and compromising my knee health. There are safer ways of developing your vastus medialis both on and off the bike.

    As a strength coach who has been working in gym for the last 30 years, I agree that leg extensions can be a pretty dangerous exercise, actually a knee joint grinder. Having strong quads alone will not make you a faster and more enduring cyclist. If this was the case football players would be the fastest cyclists on the planet. It is not just the uneven balanced development of the quads that leads to knee problems. This exercise is a holdover from bodybuilding, which tends to exacerbate quad-ham imbalances and fewer and fewer modern coaches use this exercise. We used to think 80-20 was a good quad ham ratio, but the latest thinking is 60-40 closer to the mark. Finally, one needs to consider the innervations and patterns you are trying to learn or reinforce, the biomechanical imbalances you are trying to undue or prevent, and sex differences (e.g., Q-Angle) etc. The research is out there if you are interested in the specifics of why.

    Although this exercise can be modified to make it less dangerous, why bother when so many functional or sport specific exercises can be employed to achieve the same ends. Lunges and squats are common and popular, however, they both tend to build the upper body more then might be desired by racer types. Until 2-years ago I was doing lunges with 130-140 lbs dumbbells for lunges in my hypertrophy phase, but would put on 10-15 lbs of back muscle through this phase of training. Leg press, however, dose not increase upper body mass. Admittedly leg press can cause hip problems, and most absurdly knee problems if done incorrectly. Last year, with focusing only on functional exercise, and plyo I was able to maximize development without gaining weight where it is not wanted. My sprints were better, and I was explosive on all the focused hill runs and grunts.

    I have ridden with Machka and she is born to ride. Some people will never have problems with leg extensions. Leg extensions might be fine as long as you do not straighten your leg as Machka suggested. However, they are still high risk, low benefit, and having strong quads alone will not make you a faster and more enduring rider.

    Be safe and keep the rubber down!

    CXFREAK

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CXFREAK
    I have ridden with Machka and she is born to ride. Some people will never have problems with leg extensions. Leg extensions might be fine as long as you do not straighten your leg as Machka suggested. However, they are still high risk, low benefit, and having strong quads alone will not make you a faster and more enduring rider.

    Be safe and keep the rubber down!

    CXFREAK
    You've ridden with me?? Where?


    Squats and lunges might be better options, but personally, I dislike both of them. I have difficulties with them, and have ended up with knee and ankle problems (and occasionally some upper body issues with the squats). In fact, when I was bodybuilding, squats were on their way out because they were considered too dangerous. I gather they are back.

    However, the leg press is my favorite leg exercise. If every gym had one, I would rarely do leg extensions. Unfortunately most the gyms I've been to in the past few years do not have one. All they've got are archaic-looking squat racks, and leg extension machines.

  15. #15
    Videre non videri
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    Quote Originally Posted by CXFREAK
    Until 2-years ago I was doing lunges with 130-140 lbs dumbbells for lunges in my hypertrophy phase, but would put on 10-15 lbs of back muscle through this phase of training.
    No, you wouldn't. 10-15 lbs of lean muscle is what a beginner could hope to add in a year of very hard weight lifting and optimal nutrition/recovery. That you, as a veteran lifter would add that amount on your back alone, in a period which sounds to me to be shorter than a year, is simply impossible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CdCf
    No, you wouldn't. 10-15 lbs of lean muscle is what a beginner could hope to add in a year of very hard weight lifting and optimal nutrition/recovery. That you, as a veteran lifter would add that amount on your back alone, in a period which sounds to me to be shorter than a year, is simply impossible.

    not with the right amount of eating. It's still a lot of muscle, but possible.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by aikigreg
    not with the right amount of eating. It's still a lot of muscle, but possible.
    No, it's not, unless you're a giant (7 ft tall and 300 lbs of solid muscle, for example) to begin with, and it would possibly also have to involve illegal substances. I don't think people realise just how much FAT they gain when they add muscle. If you add 5 lbs of lean muscle, you've likely added 5-10 lbs of fat along with it. Intramuscular fat will make it seem to be mostly muscle as well, but it's not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CdCf
    No, it's not, unless you're a giant (7 ft tall and 300 lbs of solid muscle, for example) to begin with, and it would possibly also have to involve illegal substances. I don't think people realise just how much FAT they gain when they add muscle. If you add 5 lbs of lean muscle, you've likely added 5-10 lbs of fat along with it. Intramuscular fat will make it seem to be mostly muscle as well, but it's not.

    *sigh* I've measured it myself, so I know it happens. Most often with skinny guys who have been training for years but never eaten for muscle, but it's happened. Even though they're at an advanced training age, I've takenn plenty of clients from 150-160 and taken them to 200-210. Eating like a horse and lifting like a machine produced pretty close to 50% muscle to fat ratio. Then we'd cut and these guys would end up close to 185 and 8%bf or less. It can be done, it has been done. End of story.

  19. #19
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    The earlier post said 10-15 lbs ON THE BACK! That's simply impossible - end of story!

    For a rare breed of genetic monsters, with optimal training and nutrition for a year, I can possibly believe 10 lbs lean muscle gained (except for absolute beginners, where the consensus seems to be that 15 lbs in a year is possible). But I'm sure the other 99.99% are delusional regarding how much actual muscle they've gained.

  20. #20
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    leg extensions can work as long as you do not extnd to lock your knees.

    Basically if you do body core weight movements like

    deadlifts
    squats
    rows
    chest
    you can cut out alot of other movments that require more joint involvment
    "Advantages Must Be Pressed, Disadvantages Must Be Overcome"

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    When was the last time you did leg extensions?

    I used to to them when I trained for canoe tripping. I didn't cycle back then. Now I rely on "spinning full circles" for that muscle group. Don't seem to miss them.

    Al

  22. #22
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Squats and lunges might be better options, but personally, I dislike both of them. I have difficulties with them, and have ended up with knee and ankle problems (and occasionally some upper body issues with the squats). In fact, when I was bodybuilding, squats were on their way out because they were considered too dangerous. I gather they are back.
    Some suggestions for the squats: in your workout, do seated rows and hyperextensions before squats to warm up your back. Try doing sets of 30 squats, not going beyond, or much beyond, the knee bend which you have at the top of the pedal stroke. I don't think you'll have issues with the squat rack if you approach it this way. But oh yeah, it'll be difficult all right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CdCf
    The earlier post said 10-15 lbs ON THE BACK! That's simply impossible - end of story!

    For a rare breed of genetic monsters, with optimal training and nutrition for a year, I can possibly believe 10 lbs lean muscle gained (except for absolute beginners, where the consensus seems to be that 15 lbs in a year is possible). But I'm sure the other 99.99% are delusional regarding how much actual muscle they've gained.

    Somehow I missed that part. Purely back muscle? No way in hades.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
    Some suggestions for the squats: in your workout, do seated rows and hyperextensions before squats to warm up your back. Try doing sets of 30 squats, not going beyond, or much beyond, the knee bend which you have at the top of the pedal stroke. I don't think you'll have issues with the squat rack if you approach it this way. But oh yeah, it'll be difficult all right.
    I would definately disagree here. The best way to warm up for a movement is TO DO THE MOVEMENT. Warm up for a squats by doing squats with light weight, taking a few sets to get to your working weight. Also do some dynamic mobility work to warm up. Check out the writings of Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey for the best info out there. And as a strength coach, I'd never recommend sets of 30 squats. Of course, if you don't know how to do them properly, don't do them at all. Finally, I recommend front squats over back squats all day long. You use less weight, but it places better stress on the quads, you can go way past parallel, and you basically can't cheat by leaning over and thereby risking your back.
    Last edited by aikigreg; 03-05-07 at 12:20 PM.

  25. #25
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    High School, circa 1988

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