The leg press. What is it? What does it do? And why all of a sudden do all Instagram fitness girls love it? Whether you’re already a fan or a just a tiny bit skeptical, no matter where you look the leg press is becoming increasingly more popular within training routines, and when you understand the benefits you will soon see why!
There are several different variations of the leg press but the two main models you will most commonly find in a gym are the 45° angled leg press or Sled leg press, and the pendulum leg press.
The first style allows you to sit back in a reclined seat, while your legs are elevated at a 45° angle, pushing against a foot plate. This style of leg press is typically plate loaded, allowing you to increase the weight by adding or subtracting plates onto the machine.
The second variation of the leg press is known as a pendulum leg press. It typically involves sitting more upright and pushing out against the footplate that is directly in front of you. The weight on this style leg press is usually changed through a weight stack and pin.
Both leg presses provide great lower body benefits, however, the 45° angled leg press can be harder to get in and out of, due to the start and finish position and sitting at ground level. Like any plate loaded machine, if you’re training alone be prepared to get in and out when adding weights – consider it a few extra moves added to your daily cardio step count!
The leg press can be used to accommodate a multitude of training styles, whether you are completing a strength or hypertrophy style training program. By following a strength routine, you will typically be using a heavier load but with a lower amount of reps – somewhere around 6-8.
Most leg presses, no matter what angle variation, will have a safety feature and catch to prevent you from ending up a folded mess at the bottom. With this in mind, there are no excuses not to go heavy on leg day, even when you’re on your own!
If you want to incorporate the leg press into a hypertrophy program you will be using a lighter range of weights but increasing the rep count to 12-15. By following this rep count through 3-4 sets, you will really be able to focus and target your lower body muscle groups.
The quadriceps, which consist of four muscles, the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis. As you push away from the foot platform, you will activate and engage the quads until your legs reach a more horizontal position.
In contrast, your hamstrings will start to work as you eccentrically load and return back to the starting position.
Yes, it may be called a leg press but don’t underestimate its power to transform your entire lower body by changing your foot position and making a couple of tweaks you can directly target calves, hamstrings or glutes.
To help target your glutes, in particular, your glute medius, you can perform single leg pushes. While you push back with one foot in contact with the footplate, keep the other leg and foot tucked in. Not only will this help perform a more isolated muscle movement, but you will easily begin to develop and build up glute strength. Watch this video to see how it should be done:
Don’t forget to perform this exercise on both legs and consider combining it into a superset of double leg pushes too.
Basically, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! We all have to start somewhere and whether you’re a gym newbie looking to get started into a fitness routine and help build up some muscle, or an experienced internationally competing bodybuilder, we can all benefit from giving a different piece of equipment a go now and again.
Equally so, individuals who have undergone any rehabilitating surgery can also use the controlled support from the leg press to help build up muscular strength, confidence and increase their range of motion.
There is little stabilization required when compared to a free squat or lunges and so this machine is great for those who have had hip or knee replacements. Just make sure you’re doing everything right (watch the video below).
Training routines can get boring, but by using different equipment and bringing back your classic Supersets, Dropsets and Time Under Tension methods you can shake up your workouts and keep them interesting. But remember, leg press machines don’t come cheap!
Take advantage of them next time you visit your gym and see how it can help improve your workouts and build up your lower body.
Hey! My name is Paul Sheldon. I live in Nashville, TN and I love all things related to sports. Naturally I love workking out and I do it every day. If you want to talk feel freee to hit me a message or if you happen to be in Nashville we can get a coffee, I know a great place. Peace!
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