I’ve spent 40+ hours comparing 28 machines in 18 quality categories.
I’ve also used these machines over the past twenty years as a gym owner and a personal trainer – I know them bolt-to-paint.
For what it’s worth, I think if you’ve got the budget and the space then a leg extension is a great addition to a home gym. It’s one of the few movements that truly are a challenge to replicate in other ways. A good leg extension is a great investment.
If you want a long-story-short – the XMark Rotary is the best leg extension machine for most home gyms.
It’s one of the 4 machines that get the extension/curl combo right in the below 1K price range.
Out of those 4, Xmark is by far the most well-rounded – from the basics like angles, steel gauge, and padding to the nuanced stuff like welds and coat.
The longer story is that getting to the Top 5 picks was hard.
And I’m writing this in my home, so there’s a lot of sleeve-pulling and family ignoring involved.
I’m doing it as I type this.
I’m talking scenes like my kid asking for food and me spending the day trying to find out where XMark is made these days.
I feel it was worth it…kinda…now, you read this, and I’ll go see if I still have a girlfriend.
- Best leg extension and leg curl machines – Top 5
- 1 – Best leg extension machine overall – XMark Rotary
- 2 – Top-rated premium leg curl and extension machine – Rogue Reflex curl/extension
- 3 – Body Solid CAM leg extension and leg curl machine
- 4 – Top splurge (best leg extension machine if money is no object) – Cybex Ion
- 5 – Best leg extension/curl machine for small spaces and top budget pick – Titan V2
- Buyer’s guide to choosing a good leg extension machine
- Methodology – how we rate leg curl and leg extension machines
- FAQs about leg extension and leg curl machines
- Other leg curl/extension machines – close-but-no-cigar
- Best leg extension and leg curls machine – resume and key takeaways
Best leg extension and leg curl machines – Top 5
|Name||Best in category||Rating out of 100||Price||What defines it|
|XMark Rotary||Overall||80||$$||great value|
|Rogue REFLEX||Money-no-object||76||$$$$||weight stack, premium build|
|Body Solid CAM||n/a||73||$$||Oversized pad rollers|
|CYBEX ION SERIES||premium||72||$$$$$||Commercial-grade build|
1 – Best leg extension machine overall – XMark Rotary
Rating: 80 out of 100
Xmark Rotary is the best leg extension machine for most people for two main reasons:
- It’s better than the machines in its price range
- And costs less than similar machines.
In other words, it’s all about value with this one.
Let me dig deeper for a sec.
There are four similarly designed machines that I fully expected to see in the top 10.
They also (appear to be) of similar quality.
I’ve been asked to compare these dozens of times over the years – XMark Rotary, Body Solid CAM, Valor CC-4, and Titan V2.
So, let me put a few dilemmas to rest:
- XMark and Body Solid CAM are similar in many ways. I’m labeling the XMark as better for home gyms because it’s smaller and more solidly built.
- Valor CC-4 and Titan V2 cost less, but they aren’t really close quality-wise. There are specific scenarios where they might be a fit (like Titan for small spaces), but the sub-par warranties always tell a story.
…more on that story in a minute.
|Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)||41 x 55.75 x 45.5|
|Type of load||Weight plates|
|Warranty (on the frame)||Lifetime|
- Great value – you’d pay a fraction compared to machines like Rogue or Cybex, which will leave more room in your budget for other awesome gym stuff. BIG plus, this one.
- Solid build – the 12-gauge steel frame will not rattle, feel unstable, or unsafe.
- Biomechanically accurate angles – the lifts will feel natural and comfortable. Improved user experience – not to be overlooked.
- It’s adjustable at all the right spots – from the sundial roller pad and the thigh pads to the backrest and the seat; the adjustment settings will allow you to choose what feels right.
- Can be used with standard and Olympic weight plates – whatever plates you have right now, they’ll do fine…no need for new ones.
- Easy to put together – the previous version of the machine had serious issues in this area. That’s not the case here – the instructions are detailed and clear.
- Plate storage – it’s convenient and further stabilizes the machine.
- The weight horn is slightly undersized – it’s 1.9 inches thick, which leaves room for movement on more aggressive lifts. Including a simple clamp would solve this….no such luck.
- Not all pieces are labeled – I did say that it’s easy to put together, and that’s true, but not everything is labeled, and there’s some guesswork still involved.
- Load through the range of motion is not uniform – like with all plate-loaded machines, the load is lighter at the bottom and top. To get a fully uniform load through range of motion, you’d have to upgrade to a stack machine like the Rogue Reflex
2 – Top-rated premium leg curl and extension machine – Rogue Reflex curl/extension
Rating: 76 out of 100
When Rogue bought Reflex in 2018, I hoped they would keep the weight-stack mechanisms and the minimal aesthetic.
That they did.
This behemoth of a leg machine is built on an 11-gauge steel frame and comes with a 250-lb selectorized stack (selectorized means you pop a pin in to choose the load instead of loading plates on).
It’s generally fine, but the benefit of the plate-loaded approach is how precise you can be with your weight. In general though, it’s not a big enough advantage to really make either one a deal breaker.
To put the selectorized point into perspective, only one other weight-stack machine made it to the Top 5.
It’s the Cybex Ion.
Compared to it, the Reflex comes with about 20% more weight and costs about 20% less.
Who is it for?
If money is not a primary decision point, but you still don’t want to break the bank, this is the machine for you.
No matter how good, simple weight plate machines can’t match the uniform resistance of a weight stack.
It’s just physics.
(We’ll dig into that in the buyer’s guide).
|Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)||50 x 43 x 73|
|Type of load||Weight stack|
|Warranty (on the frame)||Lifetime|
- Selectorized weight – switching between weights is fast, easy, and convenient. More importantly, the load through the range of motion is more uniform – there are no “light” sections.
- 250 lbs of weight in the stack – this allows you to go heavier compared to other selectorized machines.
- Beefy build – it feels stable and safe, with minimal to no rattle.
- Precise finishes and color choices – it will inject some old-school coolness and ruggedness into any space.
- Premium materials -everything about it feels high-end, from the pads to the pulleys and handles. You can see and feel exactly where your money goes. This is a motivator in itself.
- It costs more than your average leg extension machine – it will knock a few dozen Benjamin’s out of your home gym budget.
- Returns are problematic – since each machine is made to order, they will accept a return for black units but keep 20% of your money. If you get a custom color, you can’t return it.
3 – Body Solid CAM leg extension and leg curl machine
Rating: 73 out of 100
At spot 3, we have a similar design to the top overall pick.
Bigger but lighter – and what that means for you
It’s bigger than the XMark, yet not as hefty, which cost it a few points.
I have to use my experience here and make some estimates.
The bigger footprint (17.1 square feet) means we should be looking at more steel and a heavier machine.
Instead, the Body-Solid weighs 28% less than the Xmark, which means two things:
- Lower gauge of the steel (I’m guessing 14-gauge)
- Lower cross-section of the frame (at least at some sections)
To be fair, the extra footprint is due to the extra rod on the side, which will add to the stability.
I prefer the Xmark design with the storage station as the stabilizer, but the Body Solid is still great value…especially if you have in mind that it’s rated for commercial use.
|Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)||44 x 56 x 37|
|Type of load||Weight plates|
|Warranty (on the frame)||Lifetime|
- Oversized 8-inch roller pads – more padding and better protection for your shins.
- Stand for the thigh pad when not in use – if you’re only doing leg extensions, the thigh pad won’t just be lying around and making a mess.
- High number of position settings – the fixed 7-gauge sundial allows for a wide range of adjustments. This makes the machine more versatile – both in terms of adjusting it to your body type and if more people are using it.
- Can be used with both standard and Olympic weight plates – no buying of extra plates. Use it as is for standard and add the included sleeve for Olympic plates.
- The footprint is over 17 square feet – it will take up more space in your home gyms than most similar machines, including some commercial units.
- Removing the thigh pads could be simpler – instead of a simple spring-loaded pin, to remove the thigh pad, you turn and then pull it out, which takes longer.
- Incomplete assembly instructions – there’s no assembly diagram in the physical manual, and the online version is imprecise…so assembly can be a pain.
- Rated for commercial use – this means there’s little space for the maker to skimp on anything.
4 – Top splurge (best leg extension machine if money is no object) – Cybex Ion
Rating: 73 out of 100
Cybex Ion is the absolute master of its domain regarding materials and craftsmanship – from the super-clean welds to the molded padding.
Look at it through that lens, and Cybex Ion suddenly becomes good value.
Because a machine like Technogym Selection 700 will set you back about 50% more… without giving you a leg curl station.
Still, the fact remains that the Ion is by far the most expensive machine on our list.
Getting a machine like Cybex for a home gym is justifiable in three scenarios:
- You’re rich.
- Leg extensions and curls are a priority.
- You’re working around an injury.
|Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)||63 x 40 x 53|
|Type of load||Weight stack|
|Warranty (on the frame)||Commercial – 10 years on rods and pulleys|
- Weight stacks instead of plates – easier to use, with no “gaps” at the top or low points.
- Sealed ball-bearing mechanism – smooth and quiet movement through the lift.
- High-density, molded foam – more comfortable and yet more durable in the long run. No sagging and little wear.
- Small, 7.5-lbs increments – this makes it more beginner-friendly and gives you more control in progressive-load workout programs.
- Premium make and materials of the cables – high tensile strength and nylon coating mean the cables won’t change or split with time.
- Expensive – buying machines like Cybex for home gyms makes the project crazy expensive…and fast.
- 10-year warranty – less than any machine we’ve talked about so far. This is a commercial warranty for heavy use, but you still have to abide by it….even when using it in a home setting.
5 – Best leg extension/curl machine for small spaces and top budget pick – Titan V2
Rating: 68 out of 100
Titan V2 is small, cheap, and gets all the basics right.
Again, it’s a similar design to the XMark and Body Solid at a lower price point – about 20% lower.
How it compares to similar machines
The main trade-off here is the sub-par, 1-year warranty.
|Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)||36 x 42 x 39|
|Type of load||Weight plates|
|Warranty (on the frame)||1 year|
- It’s cheap/good value – this means more money for improving the rest of your home gym.
- It’s compact (smallest footprint in our top 5, only 10.5 square feet) – this makes it a great fit for smaller home gyms.
- Good sundial piece – precise, laser-cut holes all-around. This allows you to choose where you start your leg curl or extension, which is a big deal if you’re recovering from an injury.
- Good weight capacity – at 300 lbs it out-punches some of its more expensive rivals on this score.
- Problems with parts missing on arrival – if it happens, you’ll have to go through their customer service, which is improving but still not the fastest.
Buyer’s guide to choosing a good leg extension machine
The guide below is home to the most detailed yet clear and concise information on choosing the best leg extension machine for your home.
I know that sounds cocky, but it’s how I feel after reading everything on the topic that I could find.
It will be useful to you if:
- You already have a favorite extension and curl machine but want to understand how we choose them.
- You don’t like any of our picks and want to continue your research armed with the know-how.
- You’re just like us – a fitness nerd.
8 primary factors to look for in leg extension machines
1 – Type of the machine
There are three ways to categorize leg extension and curl machines – by load type, curl movement, and by how they combine (or don’t) the two.
This is a crucial section, so we’ll take our time here.
Weight-plate vs. cable leg extension machines
Depending on the type of load they use, you can group all machines into two main groups – weight-plate and weight-stack.
The weight-stack machines have built-in plates and pin weight selection (selectorized).
Commercial leg extension machines are typically weight-stack.
Which is better of the two?
For a home gym, the plate-loaded machine are the better value because they do the job and cost much less. They also allow you to use the plates you likely already have – you won’t have to buy extra.
In absolute terms, however, the selectorized machines are better.
I say that for two reasons:
- The resistance through ROM (Range Of Motion) is uniform.
With weight plates, you get “light” sections at the beginning and end of the lift (we’ll explain why in a second).
- Selectorized weight is more convenient and faster to switch.
This is a minor plus for the average lifter and a massive advantage if you’re doing a lot of drop and supersets.
The light sections explained
Everyone knows these exist and mentions them, but nobody talks about the physics behind them and what it means for you, the potential buyer.
By “everyone,” I mean other reviewers in the space…people recommending home gym equipment.
The problem and the 3-rule solution
The problem with not talking about the physics is three-fold:
- People either don’t know their stuff (and yet are taking liberties in recommending leg machines).
- Mentioning it out of context sounds like it’s a problem with one specific unit.
- Not understanding why the light spots appear can directly result in choosing wrong.
The rectangle of leg extension forces
Long story short – the light sections are simple physics and depend on the “portion” of the gravitational force you’re working against.
I’ve always explained it via the rectangle of forces.
It sounds dull, but bear with me…it’s the simplest way to understand it.
These are the key points:
- In the lower parts of the motion, the force you’re lifting against (Fus) is only a small part of the gravitational pull of the weight plates (Fg).
- At some point during the lift, Fg and Fus overlap, and you’re actually working against the full weight of the plate. The exact overlap point depends on the geometry of the machine and the length of your shins.
- As you move up, the difference between the two starts to appear again, and you get another light spot. It’s not as significant as the one on the bottom, but it’s still noticeable.
- On a weight-stack machine, the rectangle of forces looks different because the cables typically “arrive” from the back. With the better machines, their path is fixed in relation to the roller-pad arm.
It sounds like I’m geeking out here, but this goes to the heart of choosing a good plate-loaded leg extension machine.
What it means for you – the 3-rule solution
Make sure that:
- The seat is angled and well-padded.
- The backrest is adjustable.
- The length and angle of the roller pad are adjustable.
If these three conditions are met, you can minimize the light spots on the plate-weight machines and practically eliminate them on the selectorized units.
That sounds basic, right?
That might be, but understanding the WHY makes things a lot easier.
Lying leg curl (prone) vs. seated leg curl machine
This might sound counterintuitive because lying leg curls “feel more natural” (or so my clients tell me), but seated curls are better for hypertrophy.
- Because stressing a muscle while it’s elongated builds more mass – it’s been repeatedly proven in studies like this.
- Because seated leg curls call for more hip flexion, which chains to better hamstring activation.
For our purposes today, this isn’t of great consequence ‘cause all our top picks are designed for seated leg extensions and curls.
Standalone vs. dual leg machines
A commercial leg extension machine is usually designed for singular use – extensions only.
The advantages of that are minor.
For home use, a dual machine that houses both stations (curl and extension) is the better use of space and money.
The important part – all our top picks are dual.
2 – Size of leg extension and curl machines
(0 to 8.8 points in our ratings)
The footprint of leg extension machines is in the 10-17 square feet range.
Some compact machines (like the Titan V2) feature weight storage, so take that into account when planning out your space.
Even if you don’t NEED the storage, placing a few weights on there is a good idea for extra stability.
It goes without saying (but let’s say it anyway) – measure and plan
You should plan a few feet of extra space to maneuver around a plate-loaded leg extension machine.
The graph below compares the footprint of our top 7 picks.
3 – Build quality of the curl/extension machine
(0 to 26.1 points in our ratings)
Why 26.1 points?
Because the overall build quality is reflected in a few rating categories.
The 26.1-points gravity is a sum of those – from gauge and cross-section of the steel to construction, tolerances, and finish.
Gauge and cross-section – frame and weight post
Steel gauge ranges from 11-13 (lower means thicker), and the frame cross-section is between 4 and 12.
The weight post is the center point, so it typically boasts a large cross-section than the rest of the frame.
Beyond that, we look at:
- Padding – the roller pad and the seat are the critical points because that’s where the most pressure is exerted.
- Welds – precise finishes with no sharp edges.
- The sundial – should be laser-cut and thicker than the rest of the steel – I’d say 8 gauge or lower.
- Paint – typically powder coat. After all these years, we know who uses quality coats and who the cheap stuff.
You could argue (and be right) that the tell-all of build quality is the warranty and capacity…more on that in a moment.
4 – Maximum weight capacity of a leg extension machine
(0 to 18.8 points in our ratings)
The maximum weight capacity indicates how thick the frame is and how well it’s put together.
It’s more about that than an actual weight limit because you can only pack so much weight onto the “horn.”
Bumper vs. standard and Olympic plates
If you use bumper plates, you’ll run out of space before you max out the weight limit. With Olympic and standard plates, you’ll get close to capacity as you max out the space.
Below is a graph comparing the weight capacities of the top-rated machines.
Bonus tip: If you see a high weight capacity on a cheap machine, that probably includes the user’s weight. Read the fine print – in the graph above, that’s the case with the Marcy Smith bench.
5 – Adjustability of the machines – backrest, seat, and roller pad
(0 to 15 points in our ratings)
Imagine if someone was building a leg extension/curl machine just for you.
What would they measure?
Those same parts must be adjustable on a good machine.
At the very minimum, we’re looking for the following:
- Adjustable roller pad – length and angle
- Adjustable leg stabilizer – the top part that presses against your thighs on extensions
- Adjustable backrest – primarily depth relative to the seat. Angle/swivel adjustment is a plus but not a must; you see it on the more expensive machine like Cybex Ion or Reflex.
- Seat – most of the best machines have a fixed seat because you adjust the position by tweaking the backrest, the rolled pad, and the stabilizer.
6 – Warranty terms of leg machines – frame, parts, and upholstery
(0 to 15 points in our ratings)
Let me be succinct and give you a 3-point roadmap to what makes a good warranty:
- If you’re paying $700+, only settle for a Lifetime warranty on the frame. For parts and padding, 1 year is OK.
- The exceptions to rule 1. are the machines rated for commercial use. Ten years is good in this scenario because you’re not likely to claim it, anyway.
- Only consider leg curl and extension machines that offer a 1-year warranty or better.
7 – Leg extension machines cost
(0 to 25 points in our ratings)
The cost of leg extension machines ranges from $500 to $10,000.
My advice – the top value for most people lives in the $700-900 range.
It’s also where the better warranty terms start (lifetime, at least on the frame).
Below is a price reference graph.
Methodology – how we rate leg curl and leg extension machines
We take home gym equipment as seriously as anyone; I can vouch for that.
Our principles are data over opinion and value over absolute quality.
That means it took extra elbow grease to choose the leg extension machines we recommend, but it also means less work for you.
Here’s an outline of our process:
- Creating the initial database – this step is basically creating a list of ALL leg extension machines that are worth our time. To get to it, we manually searched through 25 sources – from the manufacturer’s websites to Amazon.
- Gathering all relevant data – based on my experience, I defined the data categories that might be useful for the comparison. Some of this data is readily available, and some were gathered over the 2-decades of working in the space. Sometimes, we can only get it by going directly to the makers.
- Creating and tweaking the rating formula – we define quality factors that would make a difference for you and award them “gravities,” which is the number of points they carry. We then consult in-house and with industry experts to tweak the formula and make it more accurate and, above all else, fair.
- Deciding on which units to present – nine times out of ten, it’s simply the highest-rated leg extension machine. We try to make the list versatile and accommodating for different budgets and needs.
That sounds commonplace, but it’s crucial to creating helpful content.
- Updating the list with new data and including new arrivals – choosing a leg extension and curl machine is an ongoing process. Stagnant lists and reviews that don’t keep up with the times are the enemies of reliable recommendations.
Recommending the wrong stuff is our pet peeve, so we stay on top of things and update our guides regularly.
FAQs about leg extension and leg curl machines
What does a leg extension machine work?
A leg extension machine targets the quadriceps and the hip flexors. Paired with a curl station, like on the Xmark Rotary, it also works the hamstrings.
Depending on the range of motion, different parts of the quad will be more activated – (vastus lateralis, medialis or intermedius, and rectus femoris).
What are the benefits of leg extensions?
The benefits of leg extensions are stronger knees – both at the patellar ligament and quad-to-knee connection. They’re particularly good at isolating the vastus medialis (‘tear drop’ on the inner quad, to use a bodybuilding term).
As shown in this comparison study, a leg extension workout also has clinical benefits in recovering from jumpers’ knee.
Do leg extensions slim thighs?
No, leg extensions alone do not slim thighs. None of the leg exercises does it on their own – you’d have to be in a caloric deficit for that.
They do tone and lift the leg muscles so your thighs will look better – slim or thick.
Is a leg extension machine bad for knees?
No, leg extensions are not bad for the knees, provided that you choose a biomechanically accurate machine like the Reflex.
If you already have bad knees, adjust the range of motion – start at 45 degrees of knee extension and lift up to 90 degrees.
Used like this, a leg extension machine creates less stress on the ACL and the patellar joint than closed-chain exercises like squats – Powers et al. (2014).
Other leg curl/extension machines – close-but-no-cigar
Below are some solid leg curl and extension machines that didn’t make it into the top 5 but still deserve a mention.
- Valor Fitness CC-4 leg extension machine – a popular unit that was a candidate in the value category. It’s a peg bigger than Titan V2. Still, every update is a chance for the Valor CC-4 to break into the Top 5.
- Force USA MyBench – this isn’t really a leg machine – it’s a good bench with leg extension functionality, and those rarely get the angles right. It might be an option if you’re on the tightest of budgets and need a bench, too.
- Marcy Adjustable 6 Position Utility Bench – similar story to the MyBench, only cheaper and not as good.
- Deltech leg curl machine – cheap and good for the money. Still, a level below Titan V2 and Valor CC-4.
- Inflight MEC – not popular, but good. A commercial-grade machine at the price level of Reflex.
- Body Solid leg extension and curl (Dual Pro Clubline) – another good machine with the bad fortune of being in the same price range as Reflex.
- Reflex lying and standing leg curl machines – two great units. If you got either, though, you’d be paying for a leg curl machine with no extension functionality.
While we’re at it, getting a standalone leg extension machine makes little financial sense, too.
Best leg extension and leg curls machine – resume and key takeaways
I’m proud of what we did here.
It might sound cocky, but I feel like this guide has the potential to become the go-to source for choosing a curl/extension combo.
We have a few clear winners.
- The best leg extension machine for most people is the XMark Rotary because it’s fairly cheap and gets all the critical stuff right.
- If you’re rich, kinda rich, or picky about what gets into your home gym, you’d love the Reflex machine and the Cybex Ion.
- If you’re on a tight budget, you can save a few Benjamins by getting the Titan V2.
Click here to skip back to the table with the top picks.