Get A “Leg Up” In the New Decade!

By Ryan Unverzagt

Get A “Leg Up” In the New Decade!

Welcome to 2020 and a brand new decade! Hard to believe that I have been penning this column for well over 10 years! Each New Year brings exciting opportunities for all of us, especially in the world of fitness. A few words of advice for sticking with your resolutions: Keep at it, even if you stumble at times. Don’t expect to be perfect. Try to establish a regular routine by getting support from family and friends. Exercising with someone is more fun anyway, so let’s hold each other accountable. With that said, my objective is to provide you with safe, effective exercises that can help you reach your training goals.

This month’s exercise is the Leg Press (also called the Hip Sled). It strengthens all the muscles of the legs and hips, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus. The leg press is safer than a free-weight squat and can provide much needed back support too. This is a plate-loaded machine meaning that you slide on the weight plates before getting started.

Most machines should have a back support that adjusts to different angles. The highest setting provides the most back support. Once you have adjusted the back support to a comfortable angle, sit down into the seat and place your feet about shoulder-width apart on the foot-plate. Notice how the foot-plate has two different angles as well. I placed my feet towards the top, but you can move them lower to make the quadriceps work harder during the exercise. The last adjustment is the safety stops. These prevent the weight from crashing down on you in case your muscles fatigue before finishing your reps. Some machines may not have these, but you want to set them so you have about a 90 degree knee angle at the bottom.

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To start, push the resistance away from the supports to release them to the side. The legs should be straight but the knees not locked out to keep tension on your muscles (Figure 1). Lower the weight until your knees reach a 90 degree angle. This should take about 2 seconds (Figure 2). Without pausing at the bottom, push the resistance back up until the legs are straight again but remember to avoid locking the knees. You can press the weight up at a faster pace than lowering. Try at least 2 sets of 10 reps. You can begin with a lighter weight for the first set and progress to a heavier resistance in successive sets.

A strong body starts with strong legs! Remember to encourage one another in keeping those New Years fitness resolutions alive. Until next time….

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