Let's face it, some of the exercise machines at the gym can seem a bit complicated if you're not used to them. To make life easier, we've compiled a list of five different pieces of equipment for you to try in your next gym session, plus some tried-and-true variations to make the most of each machine. 


The leg press machine is a great way to target your leg muscles with less risk of injury than traditional squats. This machine allows you to get the benefits of a barbell squat, so you can develop key leg muscles that help you perform better in and out of the gym.

Targeted muscle groups: quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves

By varying your foot position or turning it into a single-leg press, you can target different muscles which can help overcome imbalances and target preferred muscle groups.


  • Using a narrower foot placement will allow you to work the outer thigh muscles.
  • A wider foot placement will work your inner thigh muscles.
  • Placing your feet higher on the footplate will allow you to work your glutes and hamstrings more effectively, and
  • Placing your feet lower on the footplate will emphasize the quads more.
  • You can also use the leg press one leg at a time if you are looking to work on imbalances in your legs.


This lever machine targets the largest and most powerful leg muscle – the quadriceps. This machine is one of the best to grow the rectus femoris muscle which occupies the middle of the thigh.

Targeted muscle groups: quads

The conventional method of using this machine is to sit on a cushioned seat and elevate the padded bar to align with the tops of your legs, keeping your feet neutral. This primarily trains the quadriceps muscles of the front of the thigh—the rectus femoris and the vastus lateralis muscles.


  • Dorsiflexing (toes drawn toward your shins) your toes and pointing them outward will help you grow your middle-thigh muscles (rectus femoris).
  • Pointing your toe downward or plantar flexing while using the leg extension machine will help you build the tear-drop muscle (vastus medialis) which is simply the inner quad above the knee.
  • Toes pointing inward will focus on growing the vastus lateralis – the outer sweep, which will help make your legs look bigger and rounder.
  • Toes pointing outward will help with building up the inner-thigh muscles, also known as your adductors. 


The lying hamstring curl machine uses multiple muscle groups but mainly focuses on the hamstrings. It is a very convenient machine compared to other machines that work the hamstrings and also reduces the risk of hamstring injury.

A neutral spine with hips pushed down and relaxed feet is the usual technique while using this machine. This helps in overcoming medial hamstring weakness.

Targeted muscle groups: hamstrings


  • Single leg uses both legs in the concentric phase (the upward movement where the tension on the muscle increases as it shortens), lower down gradually with just one leg in the eccentric phase.
  • Dorsiflexed or neutrally-placed feet will make the sagittal hamstrings stronger.
  • Toes pointed outward will cause contract the lateral hamstrings which are located off to the side of the back of the knee.
  • Keeping your toes faced inward will help focus on the inner or medial hamstring and will take tension off the calves.


This machine is an alternative to the traditional barbell squat. It simulates the squat exercise artificially. The traditional method of using this machine mainly focuses on the quadriceps but it can be used to work your hamstring and glutes with variations.

Targeted muscle group – quads and hamstrings


  • Stiff leg deadlift – take similar position to that of the reverse hack squat with the toes pointed forward and knees locked in the concentric phase. This is a great alternative that helps if you have dominant glutes and hamstrings.
  • Narrow stance - the closer you keep your feet, the more contraction you will feel in your upper quads.
  • Wide stance - pointing your toes outward creates more tension in the sagittal quads.
  • Perform single-leg squats with one leg backwards to help with muscle imbalances in your legs.


The glute drive machine helps you perform the hip thrust with more stability and less risk of injury. This machine helps fire up the glutes and hamstring muscles.

Targeted muscle groups: glutes and hamstrings


  • Attaching a doubled-up resistance band to the bottom and top pegs is a superior option to just using the weights. You don't have to go heavy with this band since a high-volume load allows you to go lighter. You may improve your game by adding weights and a resistance band to your workout
  • Single leg - helps improve hip mobility and strength while also targeting and strengthening the hamstrings.
  • Wide stance - typically targets more glute activation.
  • Narrow stance - helps activate inner quadriceps.