Erin Stern, a Figure and Bikini bodybuilding standout, is constantly finding new and innovative ways to enhance workouts. Taking to YouTube on September 28, 2023, Stern shared three of her favorite variations of leg extensions for building bigger quad sweeps.
“So today we are focusing on the leg extension. And this is just kind of an inherently boring exercise because it’s an isolation exercise. There’s really not much you can do with it, right? Wrong!” Stern said. “I have three variations that you should try in order to see better and faster results and to improve that mind-muscle connection. So if you really want to work on that quad sweep, let’s train.”
Kicking off her bodybuilding tenure in 2008, Stern’s presentation of symmetry, balance, and aesthetics instantly turned her into a fan favorite. Having led an active contest schedule for years, Stern is accustomed to testing her mettle against the world’s best. Her first Olympia appearance saw her take sixth in 2009, but she wasted no time in correcting the mistakes that held her back from title contention.
Stern returned with a vengeance the following year and won the coveted Figure Olympia title in 2010. She also holds the distinction of having won back her Figure Olympia title (2012). Despite her success in Figure, Stern decided to test the waters in the Bikini category — and found success there too.
In a show of longevity, Erin Stern won the 2022 Republic of Texas Pro title, which paved the way for her to step on the Bikini Olympia stage. While she placed outside of the top 15, there’s no denying Stern’s love for the sport and passion for exercise. This time around, Stern broke down how she maximized her gains using only leg extensions.
Erin Stern Shows Off 3 Leg Extension Variations for ‘Maximizing’ Quad Sweep Gains
According to Stern, isolation exercises like the leg extension are excellent for quad sweep development.
“If you want to look to add size very quickly or maximize your gains, really focus on those compound movements. Now if you want to add just a little bit more, you want to work on that quad sweep, you kind of want to work on the icing on the cake if you will, isolation exercises are going to be excellent for this,” Erin Stern said.
“You can actually place your isolation exercises at the end of the workout when you’re a little bit more fatigued. They’re not as taxing and they really allow you to work on that specific muscle.”
Below, you can find Stern’s explanation for all three variations:
Variation #1 – Toes-in isometric hold
During the first variation, Stern advises turning the toes inward and using an isometric hold to enhance the mind-muscle connection.
“Now for this exercise, you want to set up the same way you would for regular leg extensions. You want to make sure the seat is in the proper position and that you got the pads where everything is feeling comfortable, and you want to set the weight to something normally you would do.”
“As you perform this exercise, make sure you keep your butt in the seat. You extend your legs up and as you reach that mid-rep point, turn your toes from perpendicular to the floor to slightly in, and you’re going to hold that for about a second and then you turn your toes back to perpendicular with the floor and slowly lower the weight.”
“This isometric hold at the top is really going to isolate the outer part of the quad, you could place your hand on the quad or look down and see it working. It’s going to really help with that mind-muscle connection.”
Variation #2 – Double-up single-leg negative
Stern says the double-up single-leg negative variation will “really help you improve your strength as we’re working on the negative portion of the rep here.”
“For this exercise, you want to make sure you’re choosing a weight that is heavier than you can do for single-leg but lighter than you would do for a double-leg exercise. What this is going to do is really help you improve your strength as we’re working on the negative portion of the rep here.”
“Typically the muscle is going to be a bit stronger on the negative or the eccentric portion of that rep and this is also just excellent for just building strength.”
“As you go ahead on the eccentric portion of that rep, you’re going to raise the pad up, when you reach that mid-rep point, release one of your legs so only one leg is holding the weight and really control that negative. Really focus on using just the quad, the hinge should be at the knee.”
Most importantly, Stern suggested using heavier weight than typically used for single-leg exercises.
“The main idea here is just to use the weight that’s heavier than you would normally do for single leg and do some force negatives to build that strength which in turn is going to help you build size.”
Variation #3 – 21s
For her last variation, Stern introduced a “finisher,” adding that “you want to burn out the muscle.” Given how taxing this exercise is, Erin Stern says she only performs one or two sets.
“This is really best used as a finisher. This could be your very last exercise when you want to get a great pump. You want to burn out the muscle. For this exercise, you’re going to choose a relatively light weight. Possibly something you would do for that double-up single-leg negative.”
As we go into the exercise, you’re going to perform seven partial reps at the bottom portion of the range of motion – so you’re going to go from start to about halfway to the top and keep that to seven reps.
As you reach seven, you’re going to do seven reps from the mid-portion to that mid-rep point. So we’ve got seven, seven, and then when you finish the upper portion or the upper partials, seven reps, you’re going to complete seven full reps. This is why they are called 21s,” explained Erin Stern.
“It’s really going to burn but in a good way. For this particular variation, I may do one or two sets of this.”
Before ending the demonstration, Stern mentioned that this is not a “strength-based exercise” and cautioned that excessive weight could damage the knees.
“You can continue to challenge yourself without having to go heavy every single week,” explained Erin Stern.
“This is not a strength-based exercise, it’s going to really tear up your knees if you go super heavy. Go heavy on hack squats, go heavy on something that’s a bit more safe. Do something your body is used to naturally doing. This is why I love the leg extension.”
This wasn’t Erin Stern’s first educational training tip of the season. In July, the Bikini star went over a ‘modified low impact’ high-intensity workout designed to build muscle without incurring wear and tear on the body. Her biggest takeaway was ‘eliminating the eccentrics and the negative force on the muscles’ to mitigate joint damage.
Stern, who boasts almost 300,000 subscribers on YouTube, always brings an educational and informative flare to her videos. She encourages anyone to try out her three leg extension variations for better quad sweep development.