By Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
You would think that after using the lower body for every aerobic exercise, this area would stay tight and toned. However, the thighs and hips can get out of shape pretty quickly. Squats on a leg thrust machine might sound ominous, but they are actually very effective for transforming soft and formless lower thighs, hips and buttocks to a lower body that is firm and fully contoured. Even though we are in the later throes of summer, it is not too late to begin this lower body transformation.
Parallel Squat on Leg Thrust Machine
1. You can either use a true leg thrust machine, or if your gym does not have one, you can do the exercise by facing into the back pad of a hack squat machine. It is a good idea to warm your knees up with a few minutes of stationary cycling and stretching before beginning the exercise.
2. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart on the angled platform. If you want more emphasis on the vastus medialis— the medially located muscle of the quadriceps— you can move your feet closer together. Position your shoulders/clavicles into the shoulder pads. Grip the handles by the shoulder pads for additional upper body support.
3. Keep your head up and tighten your back. Extend (straighten) your knees to lift the weight stack and to move the safety bar out of the way. Make sure you have full control of the weight.
4. Control the weight as you lower your buttocks towards the floor by allowing your knees to flex. Continue squatting downward until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the platform (not the floor) or when your knee angle has reached 90 degrees.
5. After you have reached the parallel position at the bottom, stand up in a smooth and explosive manner. Stop just short of fully locking the knees out straight. This will maintain the tension on the thigh and hip muscles. Keep your back tight and your head up both on the way up and on the way down in subsequent repetitions.
Squats on a leg thrust (or hack) machine provide an excellent approach to safely (you don’t have to worry about balance) work all four quadriceps muscles, the gluteus maximus and the hamstring muscles, even when fatigue sets in. This exercise is strict and therefore hard, but you do not have to go to the gym dreading it either.
Illustrations by William P. Hamilton, CMI
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