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Old 02-22-2012, 10:28 AM   #2
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Max Brawn
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How to Work It In

So let's say you're looking to use the leg press for three common goals:

Increasing your squat
Increasing your deadlift
Increasing lean muscle mass
Each goal will require slight variations in technique and execution to get the maximum benefit possible.

Let's start with the squat, since it has the highest carry-over. The movement pattern of the squat, beginning with the weight loaded and at full triple extension, moving into flexion and then returning to the start, can be mimicked with the movement of the leg press from the starting position.

Set your feet close to the same width that you'd use with a squat. Make sure your low back is tensed to prevent your lumbar spine from rolling into flexion as the weight is lowered.

Let's look at a typical 3-day per week squat program:

Day One: 6 x3 @ 80% 1RM
Day Two: 2 x10; 2 x3; 2 x1
Day Three: 4 x5 (for speed) @ 70% 1RM

There's a million other variations of course, but you get the idea.

For one cycle of training, substitute the same workload from one day each week of squat work for the leg press. For instance, in week one, substitute the leg press on day one, in week two sub it for day two, and in week three sub it for day three.


The deadlift movement pattern is different from the squat as the weight begins with the body in a fully flexed position and moves into extension. This can be replicated on most leg press machines by setting the sled at the bottom of the range, on the safety pins if your machine has them. See the image below:

By lowering the sled onto the supports, it lets you closely mimic the movement of the deadlift.

This starting position can give you the full benefit of a concentric movement pattern without the eccentric loading found in the typical execution of the deadlift.

Now following a similar program as outlined with the squat, we could set it up like this:

Day One: 8 x3 reps @ 85% 1 RM
Day Two: 2 x10; 2 x3; 2 x1
Day Three: 4 x5 reps @ 60% 1RM

Start by substituting the leg press for the deadlift one day a week.

For developing muscle hypertrophy, the leg press allows you to do some really cool things such as drop sets, cluster sets, eccentric overloads, and high rep sets, all of which make you question your sanity just a little bit during the sets.

Drop sets involve doing maximum reps at a given weight, having a partner strip off a plate or two, and doing as many reps as possible before stripping off another plate or two. This continues until the sled is empty or your Fruit of the Looms resemble a gastrointestinal Rorschach test; whichever occurs first.

Cluster sets are performing 1 or 2 reps with about 90-95% of your 1RM, racking the weight, resting 20 seconds, and then performing another "cluster" for about 10 or 12 reps of total volume. This allows you to extend a set beyond your normal capacities while keeping the relative intensity high.

Eccentric overload sets require a partner to provide additional resistance by leaning on the machine during an extended 3-5 second eccentric phase, then releasing before you drive the weight up through the concentric phase.

This requires a partner or spotter with at least a few functioning brain cells; if you're stuck with someone who's more interested in watching his swole biceps as he pushes the loaded sled up into your nostrils, then just stick with the other versions.

It must be noted that any of these workouts should only be performed when you have absolutely no need to use your legs for the next three days, or at the very least when you have a wheel chair available to get around.
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