45-Degree Leg Press
Leg press is a basic, heavy exercise for the entire leg and especially for the quadriceps and the gluteus muscles. This simple movement is a good confidence builder for beginners who are preparing for more functional leg exercises, such as the squat. It places little stress on the lower back (an advantage over squats) and is suitable for those who have not yet developed high core strength. It also allows relatively heavy weights to be used early on, providing welcome motivation for the novice. As when using all exercise machines, ensure that the leg press is set to match your height and limb length. People with back pain who are unable to perform squats can do this exercise. Leg press is an exercise that’s pretty difficult not to do right.
Exercise Instruction – Perfect Leg Press Technique
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Lie on the incline leg press machine with your entire back and hips supported (in contact with the pads). Place your feet shoulder-width (hip-width) apart (or little more) and in the middle of the foot platform with your toes turned out slightly or pointing straight forward. Release the safety lock on the machine, and press the platform all the way up until your legs are fully extended in front of you (do not lock you knees). Your torso and the legs should make a perfect 90-degree angle. This will be your initial position.
MOVEMENT (EXERCISE EXECUTION): Slowly lower the platform until your thighs approach your torso (or stopping when your knees are at 90-degree angle) but without raising your hips from the bench. Keep your foot flat and your back pressed into the seat. Pause a moment before pressing through your heels to return the platform to the starting position at full leg extension but without locking out the knees.
Leg Press Additional Notes & Key Points
- Keep your heels in full contact with the foot platform, your knees aligned with your feet (do not allow your knees to splay outwards as you push), and your back and buttocks in contact with the pads throughout the exercise.
- Do not lock out your knees at the top of the movement.
- Avoid raising your head from the support and cease lowering the weight if you feel your lower back begin to lift off the backrest.
- Common mistakes: lifting your hips as you lower the weight, locking your knees at the top of the movement, incomplete or exaggerated movement, using too much or too little weight and not pushing with both legs equally.
- Seated Leg Press. Horizontal leg press (where you select the weight with a pin) is probably the simpler variation of the leg press machine because your head is not declined (position that could cause issues in some people), but is not nearly as effective as a weight loaded unit (45-degree leg press).
- One-Leg Leg Press. You can perform the leg press one leg at a time, which helps you to address any strength imbalances between them.
- Different foot position/spacing. Change your foot position in the two-leg version to modify the focus of the exercise.
Foot position Focus muscle Feet low on the footplate Quadriceps Higher on the footplate Gluteals and hamstrings Foot spacing Focus muscle shoulder-width whole thigh wider foot spacing inner quads (vastus medialis), adductor, sartorius feet close together outer quads (vastus lateralis), abductors
Muscles Engaged in Leg Press
Main muscles: quadriceps, gluteus maximus, adductors
Secondary muscles: hamstrings
Antagonists: iliopsoas, sartorius