The leg press is an amazing movement that builds the lower body and reduces stress on the back.
Leg press is a machine-based lower-body exercise that can be used for quadriceps hypertrophy or to improve squat strength. Although the leg press cannot be used in place of squatting it can help beginners build leg strength and increase their growth. Advanced lifters can also use the leg press to increase training volume and simulate growth, while minimizing body wear.
This article will cover everything you need to know regarding the leg press.
* Leg Press Technique and Form
* The Leg Press has many benefits
* Leg Press Muscles
* Who Should Do the Leg Pressure?
* Leg Press Sets, Reps and Programming Recommendations
* Leg Press Variations & Alternatives
How to perform the leg press: Step-by-Step Guide
Here is a step by step guide to performing the leg press using a seated sled. You will find a similar setup for recumbent leg presses.
Step 1. Step 1.
Photo by Alfa Photostudio / ShutterstockThe seated legs press should be set up so that the lifter can sit comfortably without their hips and lower back being exposed. You can practice this by doing a few repetitions until you reach full depth. Keep your hips and lower back down while pressing the press.
Coach’s tip: If you feel pain in your bottom, either in your hips or knees (step 2), adjust the recline of seat and/or foot width.
Step 2. Step 2.
Most lifters will find that the standard stance of placing your feet in a squat position is sufficient. To maximize quadriceps engagement, however, place your feet in a squat stance. A narrower stance will result in deeper knee flexion angles which can increase the load on the quadriceps.
Coach’s tip: Keep your hips and lower back stable while doing deep leg presses. Failing to do this could cause the hips to curl upwards from the seat, which can lead to more strain on the lower back.
Step 3. Step 3.
Phot by Oleksandr Zamuruiev/Shutterstock As the weight sled falls, feel your quadriceps loading. To maximize quadriceps growth and engagement, do your best to perform low and steady leg presses.
Coach’s tip: Slow, controlled lowering is best. Make sure you master volume loads before increasing overall load.
4. Continue pressing the Up button.
After you reach your full leg press depth, press your feet into the foot plate. Then lift the sled up. Keep tension in your hips, core and hips intact.
Coach’s tip: Don’t extend your knees too far at the end of the leg press. Instead, keep them slightly bent at each repetition. This will increase the loading and time under tension for your quadriceps.
Three Benefits of the Leg Press
A leg press allows athletes and coaches to increase their leg size and strength and correct any muscular imbalances. We will now discuss in detail the many benefits of the leg presse.
1. Build Strength Post Injury
For athletes or lifters who are experiencing pain or discomfort due to injury, the leg press may be an option. It is important to address the discomfort and pain as soon as possible. The leg press can also be used during rehabilitation to strengthen the quadriceps.
You should seek medical attention if you experience any pain or discomfort while training, and/or at the gym.
2. Quadriceps Development to Increase
A variety of athletes can benefit from quadriceps hypertrophy or knee extension performance. Power and strength athletes depend on quadriceps to perform heavy squats. The leg press is a great accessory exercise that adds quadriceps mass and minimizes stress to the lower back/spine.
While other movements, such as the back/front and split squats are highly beneficial, balance and strength can limit them. A leg press allows athletes and lifters to target quadriceps with no other muscle groups.
The leg press can be used to supplement squatting or unilateral work, but it should not replace them.
3. Reduce Direct Load in Back
Leg presses allow coaches and lifters to decrease the load on the spine while still training the lower body. This is a great option for athletes who are recovering from injuries or looking to reduce stress and increase their lower body training volume.
Muscles Worked – Leg Press
The quadriceps are targeted by the leg press. Due to the limited hip extension and hip flexion while seated, the leg press is less active than a squat.
Who should perform leg presses?
Here are some athletes who can benefit from leg presses in their training programs.
Athletes who are strong and powerful
Power and strength athletes are well aware of the benefits of squat-training. Leg pressing, although not an alternative to squatting can be useful for adding volume to the legs (quadriceps), without putting additional strain on your spine, central nervous system and lower back.
* Strongman and Powerlifting: Strength athletes can use leg presses to increase quadriceps volume to induce muscle hypertrophy.
* Olympic Weightlifters – Similar to powerlifters or strongman athletes, weightlifters may use the leg press for quadriceps strength and size. It also reduces lower back strain and spinal strain.
CrossFit and fitness athletes who are competitive
Leg presses can be beneficial for CrossFit and competitive fitness athletes. They are useful when they want to increase lower body volume, develop their muscles, and reduce lower back strain.
Additionally, the leg press can be a viable alternative to squatting at times when injury/rehabilitation purposes contradict the usage of squats.
This is not to suggest that leg presses can be substituted for squatting in general. They are only recommended in cases of injury or at the suggestion of a professional in sports medicine.
Sport Training and General Fitness
Although the leg press cannot be considered an alternative to squatting it can be used by coaches and athletes who are looking to increase leg training volume while limiting spinal loading and reducing back stress.
Leg Press Sets, Reps and Weight Recommendations
Here are three sets, reps and weight (intensity), which coaches and athletes can use to program leg presses that correspond to their training goals.
These guidelines are not intended to be a guideline for athletes or coaches.
Muscle Hypertrophy – Reps, Sets and Weight Recommendations
The quadriceps muscle hypertrophy exercise, the leg press, is an excellent way to strengthen the quadriceps muscles. It also reduces strain on the lower back and core. The leg press, as discussed in the benefits section can be used to increase quadriceps training volume after main strength /squat work.
* Repeat with a heavy to moderate load in 3-5 sets of 8-12, or repeat the process three times.
* Train in all ranges of motion. You can forget about your ego and do a full, deep leg presses at a controlled speed. To maintain muscle tension and increase muscular growth, you should minimize your knee extension/lockout at press’s top.
Strength – Weight Recommendations, Sets, or Reps
It is not recommended to train the leg press to maximum strength (reps lower than 5). Training for maximum leg strength in a fixed-leg press is not recommended for anyone who cannot squat. Here are some tips on how to use the leg presse to build baseline strength, muscle hypertrophy, and then to transition to squats to increase your main strength.
* It is not recommended to train for maximum strength on a machine if you are unable to squat due to injury or lack of mobility. Instead, work on improving your movement mechanics with the unilateral and bodyweight squat exercises. The leg press will then be used to isolate your quadriceps for further development.
* Refer to the muscle hypertrophy guidelines and/or the muscle endurance guidelines for weight, sets, and reps.
Muscle Endurance – Reps, Sets and Weight Recommendations
Leg press can be used to increase quadriceps muscle endurance, similar to higher rep movements. The leg press is different from high-rep squats in that it places more emphasis upon quadriceps muscle endurance, as high-rep squats can be often limited by core endurance and lower back.
* 3-4 sets of repetitions, with light to moderate loads and controlled tempos.
* Perform repetitions at controlled speeds. To maximize muscle development, you should minimize knee extension/lockout.
Variations on the Leg Press
Here are three (3) leg presses to increase quadriceps hypertrophy.
1. Banded Leg Press
Banded leg presses are a unique variation that adds accommodating resistance to leg press training to improve the rate of force production, concentric strength, time under tension, and concentric strength. Add a thin band around the weight pegs, the seat frame and to the leg press.
2. 1 1/2 Leg Press
Like other 1 1/2 variations of the 1 1/2 leg press (see below), it increases loading and time under strain of the quadriceps. This can help to increase muscle hypertrophy as well as strength development across a variety of ranges of motion. Lower the sled to its lowest position and push it half-way back up. Then lower it again to the bottom and push it back to the beginning position. This is only one repetition.
3. Partial Leg Press
Partially reps can help overload a muscle with more volume and longer time under tension. This will increase muscular hypertrophy, and can isolate motions that might be problematic in the squat/leg presse.
Alternatives to the 3 Leg Press
Here are three (3) leg presses alternatives to increase muscular hypertrophy and minimize back loading.
1. Narrow Stance Goblet Squats
Narrow stance goblet-squats target quadriceps. Because of the narrow stance, knee flexion is more severe, which makes it more difficult for quadriceps to stabilize and extend the knee joint.
2. Front Rack Bulgarian Split Squat
Front Rack Bulgarian Split Squats can be an alternative to the leg presse. This isolates quadriceps and decreases loading on the spine. Individuals who don’t have access to a bench press but want to increase quadriceps hypertrophy can use this.
3. Belt Squat
Belt squat is a lower-body movement that can increase leg strength, hypertrophy, and decrease lower back and hip stress. The lifter must either place themselves in a belt squat machine, or hang a load from the hips while they squat. Make sure you stand on platforms that permit you to squat deep without your load touching the ground.
Get bigger legs!
BarBend understands why many lifters train to increase leg strength and size. All fitness and strength sports depend on the performance of your quadriceps and hamstrings. The following leg training exercises will help you increase your muscle mass and improve your squat strength.