There is a lot of love and hate that surrounds the leg press.
Some think it’s not very functional because you’re sitting on your butt and pressing, which resembles nothing done outside the gym. Other lifters swear by it as it allows them to lift heavy weights and build muscle without the compressive load of the barbell on their back.
Most of us though, fall somewhere in the middle of this debate. However, when done right, the leg press can build some serious muscle and strength. With the fixed range of motion and the stability of sitting down, you can move some serious weight. Because you can go heavy, mistakes can be made.
Although the leg press is not a technical exercise, mistakes can creep in, leading to injuries and a loss of gains. Here we’ll dive into how to do the leg press, what’s needed for good form, and four common leg press mistakes and how to fix them.
How to Perform the Leg Press
Depending on your body type, the leg press will look different for different lifters. Before starting, adjust the machine to provide maximum safety and comfort for your body.
- Sit on a leg press machine and place your feet on the platform in your preferred position.
- Lower the safety bars and press until your legs are fully extended but with a soft knee bend.
- Lower the platform until your knees are at a 90-degree angle.
- Push the platform back to the starting position.
- Reset and repeat.
What’s Needed For Good Form
The beauty of the leg press is that even if you have hip mobility shortfalls or lower back pain, you can do it. Here are a few basic things needed for good leg press form.
- Take the time to set up. Because we all come with different limb lengths, take the time to adjust the seat and perform a few reps with the empty platform to see if you can get a 90-degree angle with your knees without compensation.
- Keep your feet flat on the platform for the duration of the set.
- There is no need to go wild with foot width as shoulder-width apart works for most lifters.
- Always keep your lower back and glutes glued to the seat.
- Keep control of the load on the eccentric and be explosive on the concentric contraction.
4 Common Leg Press Mistakes
Mistakes are not bad. It’s the primary way we learn to do it right; once you know better, you do better. Here are four common leg press mistakes besides ego and too much weight because you know about those two, right?
Lay Off the 1RM
Going heavy and finding your 1 RM max on the leg press is only something you should occasionally do. Mostly, you should leg press to add muscle to your quads, and the best way to do this is to control all parts of the rep, including the eccentric. The weight is too heavy if you cannot control the eccentric contraction.
Fix it: Focus on tension and control and a little less on the weight on the platform.
Keep It Glued
The only part of your body you should move and feel is your knees and glutes. That’s it. If your feet are not glued to the platform or your lower back, and hips are not glued to the seat, then you are doing it wrong.
Fix It: Pay attention to your setup. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart in the middle of the platform, and your knees should get to a 90-angle without butting into your torso. If this is happening, change the seat angle to one where all your body parts stay glued to the platform and pad.
Don’t Short Yourself
Your knees must get to 90 degrees to benefit from the leg press most. It might feel good for the ego to half-rep a massive weight, but it will do nothing for your gains, and your knees may end up hating you.
Fix it: A little less ego and weight on the platform is needed here. Use a weight you can control at a 90-degree knee angle.
It’s A Quad Exercise
This may ruffle some Instagram influencer feathers, but the leg press is primarily a quad exercise with a little hip extension thrown in. Placing your feet higher on the platform to target the glutes and hamstring more is, IMO a waste of time when there are way better exercises to target them than the leg press.
Fix it: No fix for this per se. Use better exercises to target your hamstring and glutes, like hip thrusts, RDL, and hamstring curl variations.