Standing leg exercises offer benefits that seated leg strengthening exercises do not.
If you go to a gym, there is no doubt that you'll see tons of leg machines and seated leg workout equipment. But all these multi-thousand dollar machines have flaws and can't compete with all the benefits of doing leg exercises from a standing position.
Some of the main benefits of standing while doing leg exercises include: improved balance and coordination,increased ankle, knee, and hip stability, increased muscle recruitment (and increased calorie burning), and improvement in daily functions and sports activities.
Improved Balance and Coordination: This is pretty straight forward. When you stand versus sit, you will improve your balance and coordination. Balance is important for athletes as well as regular gym goers. And as you age it is really important to include balance exercises in your workout and fitness routine.
Increased Leg Stability: You can use seated leg machines to increase the strength of your leg muscles individually, but the fastest way to improving stability in your legs is to perform leg exercises from a standing position.
When you stand, the stabilizer muscles in the arch of the foot, the hip girdle, and core all work to stop your body from collapsing against gravity. When you sit down the stabilizer muscles of the legs do not work as hard.
So standing leg exercises are far superior at developing your overall lower body stability when compared with seated leg exercises.
Increased Muscle Recruitment: Exercises like squats and lunges, will use far more muscles than a seated leg curl machine or a seated leg extension machine.
The more muscles you use, the more calories you'll burn, and the more efficient your workout will become.
Improved Functional Performance: Many people don't consider this when they workout. Functional training simply says that if you want to improve a function your exercises should closely mimic that function for the best results.
Walking, running, and jumping are all performed while your feet are on the ground, so it's best to perform leg exercises in which your feet are on the ground to improve those functions. Athletes in particular should spend most of their time exercising their legs from a standing position.
We were designed to move by foot. We were not designed to sit around on machines and exercise. So machines will never be able to replace natural movements like squatting, lunging, and bending.
Machines can be great for beginners and generally don't require a ton of balance and coordination to perform correctly.
Seated leg machines can definitely strengthen your leg muscles, burn calories, increase lean muscle, and tone and shape muscles. But the best leg exercises are natural movements that you would perform standing up.
In exercise, I don't like to think of any exercise as good or bad. I prefer to think pro's and con's and benefits versus risks. Each person is different and each person has a different goal.
So use your favorite leg exercise to construct your work, but don't forget to include a few standing leg exercises in your leg workout routine.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Charles PT/PT