How to do the Leg Press

I always sense people’s disappointment and sometimes sheer mortification when I tell them the best way to develop their quads is to squat. But, the simple fact of the matter is, some people will never squat no matter how great this exercise is. That’s life.

The simple fact is it’s better to do some kind of quad training than none at all, so for those looking to avoid squats, or simply want a worthwhile alternative to provide variety, I recommend you go for the leg press machine – also known as the sled leg press.

Leg press machines are set at around 45 degrees angle, meaning your legs will be higher than your head when fully extended, but being a machine exercise, once you’ve gotten used to it it’s a very easy exercise to execute.

Here’s how to do leg presses…

Take your position in the leg press machine, and adjust so with your back flush against the back rest, butt firmly into the crux of the seat, your legs can be fully extended against the plate.

(This is very, very important – you need to be sure you don’t slouch forwards when extending as this puts the back in an unsafe position, as well as being a totally unsuitable ‘wall’ to push the legs from. Equally you want to be sure you can lock out whilst retaining this position, and aren’t forced into an incomplete range of motion – be sure you adjust it!)

Anyway, once you are seated in, butt firmly in place, back flush against the back rest, place your feet on the foot platform. Ensure your legs are locked straight before you release the stop lever.

Take a hold of the handles by your sides and begin lowering the weight in a slow, fluid motion. Lower until the knees are almost fully bent, but not quite – giving you enough leverage to force the weight back up using the quads. Repeat for reps. Once reps are complete or if you run into trouble, hit the stop lever, or you may find yourself being pinned into the machine!

Just as you would in squats, the knees will follow the direction the toes point in, so go for however feels comfortably to you. Be sure you keep you feet completely flat against the platform at all times and push with the complete flatness of the foot – not simply the toes or heal, but all of the sole.

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