The leg press has always been considered the “coward’s choice” when it comes to leg training. Hardcore lifters have accepted the squat as the one and only king of lower body training and refuse to believe in anything else. It’s not unusual to see those radical squat lovers make fun of “noobs” who think they own the place by using 10 plates for a short range of motion leg press.
Back in the day leg pressing was not as convenient as it is today.
Regardless of fear, however, I am going to say something that may be a little hard to swallow, if you’re a squat fanatic: The Leg Press can replace the Squat.
The leg press is a compound close chain exercise that allows infinite progression which makes the movement an effective lower body exercise that can build some serious strength and mass.
Leg press’ biggest downside is its “sterile nature”. The exercise does not develop high level of overall athleticism compared to squatting and sprinting. It simpler terms: it’s a boring movement.
However, the leg press is sill a solid leg strengthener which is why it’s often used by cyclists and skaters to strengthen the legs. Why? Because similar to cycling and skating the leg press allows you to place stress on the lower body without being limited by how much weight your spine can hold. If you look from the side, the leg press mimics the cycling motion, albeit only to a certain degree.
People with long legs often experience disappointing results from regular squats expressed in large hips and small legs. The leg press can safe the day by allowing you to focus specifically on your legs, instead of performing a bastardized version of the squat. which is what most tall men do.
In similar situation adding the leg press to your lower body repertoire seems like a logical approach. You can even make it your main movement – it’s up to you.
The leg press is a dangerous exercise. If the machine you’re using does not have safety catchers, you may find yourself squeezed by the heavy sled. That’s why you have to be careful and use a spotter and/or safety catchers. Also, the leg press is known to be a back killer. When you perform the exercise with a really large range of motion your lower back can round. This places stress on the spinal ligaments and strain can occur. To reduce the possibilities of similar scenarios, just use smaller range of motion. However, you shouldn’t go to the other extreme. 1/8th reps are not accepted either.
Another potential weak link would be the knees. People often place their feet too low on the leg press pad and allow the heels to come up at the bottom. Don’t do that. The exercise would be quite easier on your knees, if you place your feet higher on the pad. This will also shift more stress to your glutes and hamstrings.
But Mark Rippetoe says the leg press is a gay movement? Should I do it?
The leg press is by no means a sexy exercise. However, it’s the approach that matters. There are plenty of people performing squats in a fashion that would be considered gay: light weight, half reps, buckled in knees…etc. If you put in the effort, you will see results from almost any movement. If the leg press fits the bill for you, do it. Life is too short to lose sleep over trivial matters like this one.
Think for a second: training your upper body while lying on a bench is considered fine, but training your legs without being limited by your upper body is considered “gay”. Where’s the logic behind similar statement?
Can I reach my genetic potential with the leg press?
Yes, it’s possible. Technically, the exercise allows for endless progression. You can always add more weight. The leg press is also a compound exercise. It’s not a joke, it’s just boring.
How many reps should I be doing?
Try to do higher number of reps – above 5. There is no need to max out on the leg press. What does you 1RM tell you? Nothing.
– The leg press is a fine compound exercise that allows you to work your lower body quite nicely.
– The leg press allows for infinite progression.
– Tall guys can use the leg press to add in some volume and finally feel their quads working.
– When doing the leg press you need a spotter/safety catchers. Don’t allow your lower back to round.
– To avoid knee pain and discomfort place your knees higher on the pad. Keep your heels planted.
– Don’t perform low reps. There’s no need to max out and do powerlifting work on the leg press.
– The leg press is often used solely as an assistance exercise, but it could be your main leg strengthener too.
– The leg press is a fine exercise but it does not develop great athleticism compared to squats and sprinting. However, it’s not supposed to be such a drill in the first place. It’s just a wrench. Use it when you need it.