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Functional Training: Squats vs. Leg Extensions

On Michael Reid’s blog, his latest blog simplified one of my common rants, leg extension machines vs. squats:

< blockquote>I generally find that athletes who gravitate towards machines like leg extensions, smith machines and leg presses either have really crappy movement patterns and/or are just too lazy and unfocused to put in the necessary energy to learn and perfect basic movement skills like squatting, lunging and bending (i.e. dead lifts).

That describes the girl on her “strength coach” in my rants. She could not squat properly. I told her to tell her strength coach (her high school team lifted together in the off-season) that she needed to learn to squat properly. He promptly put her on leg extension and leg curl machines, which did nothing for her athletic development, as she still could not squat, which meant she still could not generate sufficient balance and leg drive to shoot three-pointers (aspiring varsity player).

Reid continues:

They take the easy way out and hop onto a machine. This goes for coaches and therapists as well who prescribe machine based exercises for their athletes or patients. I see it all the time here in Sweden. I have been to what is apparently the best rehabilitation clinic in the city and they have all machines. Am I missing something? I really don’t understand how they can go on training their patients like this.

I interviewed for a personal training job. When I went to the facility, there were almost no free weights. The head trainer advised putting clients on machines. Why?

Why does a person need a trainer to put them on a machine? I left. I’m not interested in cheerleading for a client as they bust out 10 reps on a leg extension machine. I’d have to slap myself to stay awake.

How can you have a gym without a squat rack? I went to a local high school and the athletic director bragged about the size of his weight room (which was impressive), but there was one pull-up bar in the whole facility. Why are you lifting weight if you can’t manage your own body weight?

Reid links to another article about the dangers of leg extension machines. One risk:

6. Constant ACL tension.

I see girls “rehabbing” their ACL injuries by riding stationary bicycles and doing leg extensions. It’s totally ineffective. Players go through this rehab for six 6-8 months, start playing again and tear their ACL a second time and wonder why.

They never strengthen the muscles which support ACL health (hamstrings) and never correct any biomechanical deficiencies because they are seated throughout their entire rehab.

If you are a high school or college basketball player, and you do one exercise, it should be a squat. Get off your butt and teach yourself how to move correctly. Once you develop the coordination, add strength through the proper movement.

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