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big_swede 02-22-2012 10:22 AM

Uncommon Benefits of Leg Presses

Uncommon Benefits of Leg Presses
The level of difficulty of performing a good, strong squat is almost tenfold to that of a leg press. The heavier the weight becomes, the more precise the lift mechanics become, meaning that everything from foot position to weight balance to scapular positioning plays a huge role.

This level of difficulty isn't the case with the leg press, meaning it's easier for beginners to learn and can work with a full spectrum of individuals, from rehab to advanced. It's also a lot easier to perform dropsets, pyramids, rest-pause sets, and eccentric-emphasis sets compared to squats.

When training rehab-based clients, the leg press is fantastic for grooving the triple extension pattern using a fraction of their own body weight. I can have a client fresh off a total knee replacement performing a single-leg press with 10% of his body weight in a controlled manner, which will help to retrain the hip and knee musculature to fire together and limit the stresses on the new joint. I can also take a more advanced client and load up a single-leg press to a point where they can only perform one or two reps with full range of motion.

Another benefit is developing bottom range strength in the hips, such as when the hip is flexed to terminal range of motion. The hip range of motion during a squat is typically from zero degrees of flexion to only around 90-120 degrees, depending on the mobility of the lifter, whereas the range of motion during the leg press is typically between 90 degrees at the top of the movement to 120-150 degrees at the bottom, again depending on the mobility of the lifter.

This means that a completely different range of motion is being trained for the hip joint, so that if you rotate between squats and the leg press, the hip is being trained through a more complete range of motion than one or the other.

Full article at T-Nation - T NATION | Is the Leg Press Worthless?

big_swede 02-22-2012 10:28 AM



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.

Fazc 02-22-2012 12:02 PM

I've been saying it for 9 years, the Leg Press is good assistance for some lifters.

But hey, what does Fazc know!

MC 02-22-2012 12:59 PM

The leg press gets a bad rap.

BigJosh 02-22-2012 01:03 PM

Just like many other subjects, people (usually on the internet) tend to take extreme stances about the leg press. When the reality is, it has a place and can be useful when used correctly.

big_swede 02-22-2012 01:36 PM

I like it, it absolutely has its place in my training.

BendtheBar 02-22-2012 01:46 PM

I like leg presses, especially 20-40 reppers.

Back in my bodybuilding days I always trained them together. No reason. I just liked them. I like the synergy with squats.

Truth is, if I had a leg pres at home I would probably still use it. Guilty pleasure I guess.

muscle_g 02-23-2012 05:34 AM

I love doing 1-legged leg presses. Get to work on each leg individually and you don't have to take off as many plated lol.

Davis 02-27-2012 09:15 PM

I was doing RDL or leg press depending on which cycle on squat days, but today I decided to such to front squats. When I leg press, the skin on part of my left quad begins to burn and feels like it will rip off. It's always the same spot too. Although, it's a great exercise if that doesn't happen. (Plus the fronts get me extra ab and back work)

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