The leg press is a machine-based lower body exercise that can be used to strengthen squats and increase quadriceps hypertrophy. Although exercise cannot replace squatting, the leg press can aid novices in developing stronger, larger legs. The leg press can also help advanced lifters achieve greater training volumes to simulate growth while reducing additional physical strain.
During the leg press, as it is a triple-extension exercise, you work all of your leg muscles:
Leg Press Technique: A Step-by-Step Guide
A step-by-step tutorial for performing the leg press while seated on a sled is provided below. Notably, more recumbent leg press machines include a setup that is extremely similar.
1. Establish the Ideal Seat Configuration
The lifter’s lower back and hips shouldn’t protrude from the seat at the bottom of the press, so the seated leg press should be set up to allow for this. To achieve this, complete a few practice repetitions fully concentrating on maintaining a flat lower back and hips on the seat.
2. Position the Feet
For most lifters, placing the feet in the squat position will suffice. To optimize quadriceps engagement, on the other hand, take a narrower stance and position your feet closer to the bottom of the footplate. As a result of the narrow stance’s forced deeper knee flexion angles, the quadriceps will be under more strain.
3. Repeats Using the Full Range of Motion
Once the weight sled has been un-racked, gently budge your knees to let the sled be lowered. As the weight sled is lowered, be sure to feel the quadriceps being loaded. To fully maximize quadriceps engagement and growth, try to establish low and stable leg press repetitions.
4. Push Up and Continue
Push your feet through the foot plate and raise the sled up once you have completed the leg press to its maximum depth. Maintain tightness in your hips and core, keeping your lower back and hips firmly seated.
3 Advantages of the Leg Press
The leg press gives trainers and athletes a chance to build up their legs, become stronger overall, and correct any muscular imbalances. We’ll go through the advantages of the leg press in detail below.
- Increase Strength After Injury
For athletes and lifters who could experience pain and discomfort when loaded in the squat (due to an injury), the leg press can be a good alternative. The leg press can be used to develop the base quadriceps strength during periods of recovery, while it is not advised to ignore treating the pain and discomfort.
Please consult a sports medicine expert if you are feeling any physical pain or discomfort while exercising or outside of the gym.
- Increase Quadriceps Development
A number of athletes may benefit from improving knee extension specific performance and quadriceps hypertrophy. A effective auxiliary exercise to increase quadriceps mass while reducing overall stress to the body/lower back/spine is the leg press. Strength and power athletes rely on the quadriceps for big squats.
Although very beneficial, other exercises like back/front squats and split squats can be restricted by back, core, and balance strength. Lifters and athletes can assault the quadriceps with the leg press since no other muscles are preventing them from doing so.
Please take note that while the leg press can be a useful auxiliary exercise for strength, power, and fitness athletes, it shouldn’t be used as a major replacement for most unilateral and squatting exercises.
- Lessen direct loads on the back.
Lifters and coaches can still exercise their lower bodies while reducing the stress on their spines by using the leg press. Athletes who are healing from an injury or want to increase lower body training volume while limiting additional stress may find this helpful.
Sets, Reps, and Recommended Weights for Leg Press
Coaches and athletes can use the three sets, reps, and weight (intensity) suggestions listed below to appropriately program the leg press for the desired training outcome.
Recommendations for Reps, Sets, and Weight for Muscle Hypertrophy
The leg press is an excellent exercise for promoting quadriceps muscle growth while minimizing additional pressure on the lower back and core. The leg press can be utilized to increase the volume of training for the quadriceps after performing key strength exercises like squats, as was covered in the advantages section.
3–5 sets of 8–12 or 12–15 reps with a medium–heavy load.
The entire range of movements must be practiced. Put your ego aside and do a full, deep repetition of the leg press at a slow, controlled tempo. Reduce full knee extension/lockout at the top of the press as well to keep the muscles taut and promote muscle building.
Strength: Recommended Reps, Sets, and Weights
It is not advised to train the leg press for maximum strength (reps less than 5). Training for maximum leg strength in a stationary leg press may end up being more detrimental than beneficial for someone who cannot squat for some reason. Here are some tips on using the leg press to develop muscle hypertrophy and baseline strength before switching to squats for main strength development.
It is not advised to exercise for maximum strength on a machine if you are unable to squat for any reason (lack of mobility, injury, etc.). Instead, focus on improving your bodyweight squat and unilateral workout mechanics before using the leg press to isolate your quadriceps for development.
For suggested sets, reps, and weights, consult the guidelines for muscular hypertrophy and/or muscle endurance.
Recommendations for Reps, Sets, and Weight for Muscle Endurance
The leg press can be used to increase quadriceps muscular endurance in a similar way to other higher rep exercises. Unlike high rep squatting, the leg press places more attention on the quadriceps muscle endurance; while high rep squats can frequently be limited by lower back and core endurance.
3–4 sets of 15-20 reps with light–moderate loads performed with controlled tempos and breaks.
Make sure to repeat the repetitions at controlled tempos and in the deepest, fullest ranges possible. In order to maximize muscle development, be sure to avoid full knee extension or lockout.
3 Different Leg Presses
The three (3) leg press variations shown below will help you develop stronger and more flexible quads.
Banded Leg Press
The banded leg press is a cutting-edge variation that adds accommodating resistance to leg press training to boost concentric strength, accelerate force output, and extend duration under stress. Simply wrap a thin band around the seat frame and weight pegs of the leg press.
1 1/2 Leg Press
Like other 1 1/2 variations, the 1 1/2 leg press increases the quadriceps’ loading and time under stress, promoting muscle hypertrophy and strength development across a wider range of motion. To perform, push the sled halfway back up, drop it back to the bottom, and then push it back up to the starting position. It’s one rep, then.
Partial Leg Press
When stressing a muscle with more volume or with prolonged time under tension, partial reps can be helpful. By doing this, you can improve muscular hypertrophy and target specific ranges of motion that can be problematic during squat/leg press exercises.