If you want an impressive masculine physique that can turn heads, you need to hit all the muscle groups on your body. While most men have no problem blasting their upper body with a ton of exercises, it's common for men to neglect the lower body and legs. While free-weight exercises like barbell squats and deadlifts are highly recommended, machine-based exercises can be an excellent alternative to sculpting strong, powerful legs if you have issues performing exercises with traditional weights. That's why we've rounded up nine of the best machine exercises for men to build powerful legs.
Whether you plan to compete in bodybuilding or want to get fit for summer, you need to train your leg muscles with some serious hypertrophy. The muscle groups you must hit include the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, each containing individual muscles that get preferentially targeted depending on which exercises you choose. The following workout includes our nine top machine exercises for men to build powerful legs. The workout collectively hits these muscles from many different angles, giving your legs a solid 3D appearance.
Perform each exercise for three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for the best results. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds between each set and two minutes between exercises. Be sure to eat a high-protein diet, drink plenty of water, and follow overall healthy lifestyle habits to lock in your gains. Keep reading to learn more, and next, don't miss 5 Quick Muscle-Building Workouts for Men That Trainers Swear By.
1. Leg Press
If you can't do traditional squats for whatever reason, the leg press is a good alternative. The leg press primarily targets the quadriceps while also engaging the hamstrings, glutes, and calves. You can use a significant amount of weight when doing this exercise, so it's definitely a major way to help stimulate muscle growth and strength.
To perform the leg press, adjust the seat and backrest on the leg press machine to fit your body. Sit down and place your feet on the platform, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed slightly out. Hold onto the handles on either side of the seat, then extend your legs and push the platform away from your body. Slowly bend your knees to lower the platform, maintaining control of the weight until your knees form roughly a 90-degree angle. Extend your legs, and return to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.
2. Leg Extensions
Leg extensions isolate your quadriceps muscles in a more targeted way, leading to major development of the individual quadricep muscles, including the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and rectus femoris. Be sure to work the "mind-muscle connection," and really aim for a squeeze and burn during each set.
To perform leg extensions, adjust the leg extension machine so the pad lines up on your shin, just above your ankle joint. Sit in the machine with your back pressed firmly against the backrest. Hold onto the handles for stability, then extend your legs. Pause briefly at the top, then slowly lower the padded lever back to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.
3. Leg Curls
Leg curls isolate the hamstring group, including the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus, providing balance to the quadriceps-focused leg exercises and building up the backsides of your thighs with some serious muscle fiber growth.
To perform leg curls, adjust the leg curl machine so the pad is on your Achilles area, just above your ankle joint while your knees are just off the end of the seat pad. Hold onto the handles for stability, then curl your legs upward, bringing your heels toward your butt. Pause briefly at the top, then slowly lower your legs back to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.
4. Calf Raises
Calf raises target the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles, helping improve overall calf size and strength. If you do not have a calf machine, you can perform this exercise on the leg press machine as well.
To perform a calf raise, adjust the seated calf raise machine to position the pads above your knees. Hold onto the handles for stability, then press your heels upward, lifting the padded lever as you flex your calves. Pause briefly at the top, then slowly lower your heels back to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.
5. Hack Squats
Next up in our machine exercises for men to build powerful legs is the hack squat. Hack squat machines train a squat-type movement pattern with a heavy emphasis on the glutes, especially the gluteus maximus.
To perform a hack squat, adjust the hack squat machine to fit your body, and select the desired weight. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back pressed firmly against the backrest with shoulder pads on your shoulders. Hold onto the handles for stability, then squat down by bending your knees and hips. When your thighs are at 90 degrees with your shins, push through your feet to extend your legs, and return to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.
6. Smith Machine Squats
Smith machine squats are a safe and effective way to build leg strength and size, particularly for those new to squatting or with mobility limitations.
To perform a Smith machine squat, set the barbell on the Smith machine to shoulder height, and load it with the desired weight. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, and position the barbell across your shoulders and traps. Hold the bar with an overhand grip, and disengage the safety locks. Bend your knees and hips to squat down, keeping your chest up and back straight. When your thighs are parallel to the ground, push through your heels to extend your legs, and return to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.
7. Leg Abduction/Adduction Machine
The leg abduction and adduction machine targets the inner and outer thigh muscles, rounding out the other exercises that have primarily been hitting the fronts and backs of your legs. Specially, these exercises hit your hips abductors and adductors, including the gluteus medius, gracilis, and sartorius muscles. Abduction involves "spreading your legs open," while adduction involves 'closing your legs.'
To perform the leg abduction/adduction machine, adjust the machine so the pads are just above the knees on the outside or inside of your thigh, pending on whether you are training abduction or adduction. Sit down and position the pads against your inner or outer thighs, depending on whether you are performing adduction or abduction, respectively. Hold onto the handles for stability, then either push your legs apart (abduction) or bring them together (adduction). Pause briefly at the end of the movement, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.
8. Machine Glute Thrusts
Building a large posterior is key for men and women if you truly want a buff lower body. The glute thrust machine blasts your gluteus maximus in the most direct manner, even more than squats and deadlifts. It also hits some hamstring activation as well.
To perform machine glute thrusts, adjust the glute thrust machine so the pad is directly across your waistline. Position yourself on the machine's seat with your back against the backrest and your feet flat on the platform. Hold onto the handles for stability, then push through your heels to extend your hips, lifting the padded lever upward. Pause briefly at the top, then slowly lower the padded lever back to the starting position, maintaining control of the weight. Repeat for the target repetitions.
9. Smith Machine Deadlifts
The last of our best machine exercises for men to build powerful legs is the Smith machine deadlift. This move is a safe and effective alternative to traditional deadlifts, which are a major builder for your glutes and hamstrings.
To perform a Smith machine deadlift, set the barbell on the Smith machine to mid-shin height, and load it with the desired weight. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Hinge forward at the waist, and slightly bend the knees to reach the bar. Grip the bar with an overhand grip or alternating grip. Disengage the safety locks, then push through your heels to extend your legs and hips, lifting the barbell and standing upright. Pause briefly at the top, then slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position, maintaining control of the weight. Repeat for the target repetitions.