While squats are undoubtedly the greatest exercise for building lower body strength, particularly the quads, it’s fair to say that squats aren’t a well-loved exercise for many people. Some people do have a legitimate beef: For people with long legs and a short upper body, squatting can be awkward. The immense forward lean to retain balance not only places the lower back under considerable pressure, but it also makes it almost impossible not to drive up from the toes, instead of the heel.
The fact is those with normal proportions (or better yet, shorter legs and a longer back), have much better balance and will get much more out of squats, particularly in so far as hitting the quadriceps. That’s not a cop out, that’s just common sense and I don’t care what anybody says.
If barbell squats are difficult for you and your quadriceps training is suffering, you could try the leg press machine which will enable you to handle much heavier weight without balance issues or lower back pressure.
This is how to use the leg press machine:
1. Take your position on the leg press machine, butt firmly in place, back firmly against the rest to provide a stable, spine-free pressing position, and place your feet close together on the foot platform, toes pointing straight forwards or near enough, and feet quite low on the platform to target quadriceps (higher will add glute involvement, taking away from quadriceps).
2. Press the weight up and release the break lever and then use hands to grip the handles to the side for stability.
3. Slowly lower the weight until your knees are bent almost to their maximum range, then press back up with the whole of your foot – keeping your heel in contact at all times. Keep your knees going in the same direction as your toes are pointing to maintain a safe and stable pressing position, as you would do for regular squats. As with all exercises, a smooth movement is important to avoid injury.
When you want to stop, or should you get into trouble at any time, always be aware of where the break lever is so you can lock the weight at the drop of a hat.