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The leg press machine has become one of the most popular pieces of gym equipment today. A leg press is easy to use, poses many long-term benefits, and offers lasting results in the lower body area.
A leg press machine can be one of the most effective tools to build strength and muscle in your legs. It allows you to work out multiple muscle groups at the same time, which is why it’s so widespread in gyms across the world.
However, if you don’t know how to use it properly, chances are your workout will be ineffective and you won’t see any results. We know how frustrating working out without seeing any improvements can be, so we put together all the information you need to use the leg press machine in the most efficient way.
In this article, we’ll look at exactly how to use the leg press correctly so that it will offer you better results from your next session in the gym.
Using The Leg Press Machine: Benefits and Drawbacks
The leg press is a popular choice in many leg workout routines, as it is easy to use and it comes with a lot of variations which makes it a versatile machine.
When it comes to making the most out of your leg day, there are plenty of effective leg press exercises that can help you build muscle mass, boost strength, improve cardiovascular health, and burn fat.
Here are some of the major benefits of using a leg press:
- It is easy to use (beginner-friendly exercise).
- You can adjust the weight (add more heavy weights for increased muscles or subtract weight if you’re just starting out).
- It doesn’t add more weight to your spine (great for those with back problems)
- There are many leg press variations to try out.
- You can target many key muscles at once (quad muscles, calf muscles, inner thigh muscles, outer thigh muscles, hamstrings, and even glutes).
- It has a stable range of motion (unlike squats which require more balance).
- A leg press is a better option than squats when it comes to knees (especially if you’re experiencing knee pain or you’re trying to prevent injury).
Here are some of the drawbacks of using a leg press:
- It is possible that one leg will push more than the other, which can result in disproportionate muscles in the lower body area so always make sure to engage both legs.
- The leg press doesn’t engage your core or other parts of your upper body.
- There’s a risk of rounding your back or fully extending your knees, which causes the weight to shift to the joints. If you want to prevent injury, you need to master the correct way of using the leg press machine.
The Narrow Stance Leg Press Vs. The Wide Stance Leg Press
The leg press is an exercise machine designed to target different parts of your legs (mostly the glutes). The machine works by providing resistance against push-off and by adjusting it to your needs (weight, seat, height). It allows you to perform multiple exercises on it and helps in building muscle mass in your lower body.
Essentially, your foot position on the stance before you begin leg pressing makes a difference in the outcome of your exercise.
The leg press is a great exercise for targeting the majority of your leg muscles, but if you have any particular preferences, there’s a way to work your inner quad muscles more than your outer thigh muscles, per se.
The Narrow Stance Leg Press
We recommend trying the narrow stance leg press if your goal is to build the outer thigh muscles or the exterior quad muscles.
The key to this leg press exercise is to place your feet closer together on the foot pad and then begin pressing as normal.
The narrow stance leg press involves using the leg press machine in a way that predominantly works the exterior parts of the legs, which is why you should feel pressure in the lateral quad area.
The Wide Stance Leg Press
The wide stance leg press involves placing your feet on the foot pad wider apart than usual. During this type of exercise, you should feel your hip joints stretching extensively.
This is because when you do the wide stance leg press variation, you put more emphasis on giving your inner thighs and hamstrings a proper form.
However, since the leg press itself is a quad-dominant exercise, you’ll work other leg muscles as well and enjoy the overall strength-building benefits that come with using the leg press machine.
How To Build Leg Muscles Using This Workout Routine (Even at Home)
Leg presses are essential when it comes to greater leg strength and developing a complete mix of healthy workout exercises. However, if you want to build key muscles in the lower body, you need to make sure that you’re using proper techniques, regardless if you’re squatting or using the leg press.
Here is our favorite leg press workout routine that you can try out at your home gym or your go-to fitness center:
- Warm up – get your muscles ready before jumping on the machine circuit workout if you want to begin and end the workout in a good form. If you’re into home gym equipment, check out some of our top stretching machine recommendations (for a complete warm-up, you can try the standard sumo squat for a few reps before jumping on the leg press).
- Adjust the weights by distributing them evenly on both sides of the leg press machine.
- Get on the leg press seat and place your feet on the pad. Begin with the standard foot placement before trying the narrow stance or the wide stance leg press.
- Safely detach the safety hooks in order to begin your leg press exercises.
- Start with a few reps and make sure to never fully extend your knees, as this can lock them and cause knee pain on top of stressing your joints.
- Repeat your sets of 10 or 15 reps as usual, and then switch to trying out the narrow or wide stance leg press exercise.
- Carefully set the safety hook back in place before getting off the leg press machine.
Pro Tip 1:
Always increase the weight gradually if you don’t want to suffer from knee pain or overwork your glutes. The point of this workout is to build leg strength, not stress your joints and muscles in an unhealthy way.
Pro Tip 2:
-> If you move your feet up on the pad, you’ll work your hamstrings and glutes even more. This is called the high feet leg press and it works the gluteus maximus predominantly. If you place your feet low, you’ll work slightly different muscles, such as the quadriceps.
-> This exercise is called the low feet leg press (be aware not to overdo this one as it forces the knees and can cause knee pain).
Find out more about the right leg press for you and how to kick off your leg day routine now!
The leg press is a staple exercise for lower body strength training for many people as the machine provides support for the lumbar region while allowing heavier loads to be used than in free weight exercises.
If you’re going to do leg presses, make sure that you always perform them with a straight back and an intense focus on pushing through your heels.
If you want to target additional muscle groups, try coupling the leg press with exercises such as the barbell squat, hamstring curls, chest flies, and dumbbell lateral raises.
Learn more about other blog articles on best-reviewed home gym equipment, how to improve your fitness level, and how to take control of your health journey today, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a pro.
Nadia is a USA-HomeGym.com Senior Editor with 15 years+ experience in the health, supplement and nutrition niches. Nadia became a health & fitness evangelist after rebuilding her gut health in 2008 using the Weston A. Price method. She developed a Facebook group that grew to more than 15,000 members sharing information on diet for allergy reduction, eczema & psoriasis cessation. Since 2011, Nadia has been an avid stair climber, achieving race times in the top 5% of her age group and maintaining average times of 3’40 – 3’55 minutes per 12 floors.