Leg Press And Its 6 Best Variations You Must Try
When we talk about leg training, the leg press is one of the most popular exercises out there. You can also find leg press machines in almost every gyms. But most people do leg presses the same way for months and after some time, your body stops showing results.
To get continuous results you should add some variation in your workout program. And when it comes to leg press machines, you can use them in many different ways to target your legs, from glutes to quads or even calf muscle. So here, in this blog, I will share with you some different and unique leg press exercises which you can try in your next leg workout session. So first let’s look at the regular way of doing the Leg press and some common mistakes during leg press.
Leg Press ( Regular)
This is the normal stance that is performed generally by most people. Here you will place your leg right at the mid part of the platform. This works your entire leg muscle i.e your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Now let’s discuss the form.
Quads, glutes and hamstrings
How to do (Form)
1. Place both feet right at the middle of the platform and keep your feet at a shoulder-width stance.
2. Your toe should point slightly out and keep your back straight, resting on the seat. This will be your starting position.
3. Start the exercise by bringing your legs down and keep the tension on the legs.
4. Stop at the bottom at a point where your hips start rolling forward. Your lower back should not bend.
5. Press the weights up and bring your legs back to the starting position with a slight bend in the knee at the yop.
Note- Remember to breathe in on the way down and breath out on the way up during each and every leg press.
This is the traditional way of doing leg press now let’s look at some variations.
Common Mistakes During Leg Press
Before looking at the variations, it’s very important to know some common errors people make during the leg press. You can make these mistakes during any kind of leg press so it’s important to know them before proceeding further.
Going Too Heavy
I have seen so many people doing a leg press at a very limited range of motion. They just move the weights at a partial range of motion and don’t take it deep down to the bottom. This usually happens because of ego lifting. This will not give you the proper results which you are looking for so avoid a partial range of motion.
Hips Rolling Forward
Another common mistake is that when you go take deep down because of which, the hips are rolled forward. This rounds the lower and you can get injured. So stop at the bottom position when your hips start to roll forward.
Overextending your knees
There is no problem stopping at the top when your knees are slightly bent. When your knees are overextended, then it can put an extra load onto your knees which is not good for your joints. Also, maintaining a slight bend in the knees will put continuous tension on the muscles which is good for muscle building. So avoid overextending your knees.
Lifting too heavy
This is one of the most common mistakes people make. Either they want to look stronger in the gym or want to impress the ladies by showing strength. But there is no point in lifting too heavier a weight which you can’t even do a single rep with the full range of motion.
I have seen people getting hurt due to lifting heavier weights in a leg press machine. If you are very serious to increase the strength and power of your lower body, then do heavier squats or deadlifts as those are the godfather of strength training.
Now let’s dive deep into some of the best and unique variations of leg press
Leg Press Variations
Best leg press variations are narrow stance leg press, wide stance leg press, single-leg leg press, and high- low foot placements to target different muscles. Let’s discuss more here.
1. Narrow Stance Leg Press
You can do leg press in many different ways and one of them is a narrow stance leg press. The important point to note here is that the more you narrow your stance, the more you target the outer leg muscles. This means that your outer quads will work the most at a narrow stance.
Outer quads and hamstrings
How to do
The form and technique of this exercise are similar to the regular leg press. The only important thing to note here is that your knees are in line with your toes. It can go slightly out but make sure that your knees are not caving in. This puts extra load on your knees and is not a good biomechanical position.
Another variation you can add here is by changing your stance position. The more you bring your foot up, the more you activate your glutes and hamstrings. So if your focus is to build the backside of your leg then keep your feet at the top end of the platform.
2. Wide Stance Leg Press
This is the complete reverse of narrow stance leg press. As you wider your stance, the more you target the inner part of your leg. This means that your inner thighs and inner quads will work the most. So if the inner part of your legs is weak or is underdeveloped, then start adding this variation into your workout program.
Inner quads, glutes and hamstrings
How to do
Talking about the form, it is quite similar to the regular leg press. But make sure that your knee doesn’t cave in similar to what we discussed before. Also, remember to keep your back straight on the seat rather than leaning forward.
Another variation you can add here is by placing your foot down at the bottom. A lower stance will put extra tension on your quads. Fo if your focus is to build quads, then lower your stance.
3. Single-leg Press
This is another variation that you can use to target each leg separately. This is a unilateral movement that helps to target each side of your leg. So if one side is weaker than the other, you can focus on the weaker side more. Therefore creating an equal strength in each leg.
How to do
1. Place one leg on the middle of the leg press platform and keep the other leg down on the floor. Keep your back straight on the seat. This will be your starting position.
2. Start the exercise by moving the leg down while keeping the tension on the legs. Breath in on the way down.
3. Pause at the bottom and squeeze your glutes and quads to push the weights. Breath out as you move up to bring the leg back to the starting position.
4. Switch the leg and then repeat.
Make sure that you reduce the weights if you feel heavy. Generally, the leg press is done at heavier weights. But reduce the weight when you do single-leg presses as the load is directly on one leg and there is less stability.
4. Paused Sumo Leg Press
This is another variation you can add to your workout program. This is a more advanced version of the leg press. Here, you pause for a second at the bottom to put extra tension on the legs. This can be used by powerlifters who want to focus on improving their depth in squats.
Inner quads, glutes, and hamstrings
How to do
1. Keep both feet at the top side of the leg press platform and keep your toes pointing out. Sit straight and unrack the weights.
2. Start the exercise by bringing the weights down slowly while breathing in on the way. Keep your knees pointing out.
3. Pause at the bottom for 2-3 seconds and then push the weights up at a faster pace. Bring the legs back to the starting position and then repeat.
If you are a beginner, then stick with the basic leg press exercise and don’t add too much variation to it. Once you develop reasonable strength and build a solid base, then go for this exercise.
5. Leg Press Jumps
This is a good plyometric exercise you can do on the leg press. If you play any game that involves jumping or running, then this will help you in increasing the speed and power in the sport you play.
Sometimes it’s good to try something new to shock the muscles and the body with surprises. This is that surprise for your body.
Quads, gastrocnemius, and soleus ( calf)
How to do
1. Place both feet on the platform at about shoulder-width apart and keep your back straight.
2. Start the exercise by bringing the legs down and then push the platform so hard that you can initiate a jump.
3. Push harder and bring your feet in the air at the top position. Then land onto the platform with the same foot position and then repeat.
This plyometric exercise requires good flexibility and power. This will improve your pressing speed, so if you are an athlete, then I would recommend trying this out.
6. Side Single-leg Leg Press
If you want to train your glutes and hamstrings uniquely, then try this move! It’s not just for women, all you men can also do this. Also, most men have weak glutes and hams, but big and thick quads. So we need to balance it out.
Outer quads, glutes, and hamstrings
How to do
1. Lay down on the leg press machine. Tilt your pelvis to one side and place one foot on the middle of the platform.
2. Place your foot at about 45° angle, with your knees facing in. This will be your starting position.
3. Start by bringing the weights down with your knees moving inward. You should feel the stretch on your outer quads and hamstrings.
4. Stop at the bottom and then push the platform up to return to the starting position.
You can also do this exercise by completely moving your body to the side while keeping your foot on the platform. This will give room for more range of motion.
Machine or equipment is something that helps us to do various exercises to target specific muscles. However, we should not rely on one method or technique to perform an exercise. We must have a variety of exercises in our workout program which targets and cover all major muscles of our body.
By adding these variations, you can create a new stimulus to your muscles. These leg press variations should be used whenever you stop getting results or hit a plateau. If you are already getting results, then stick with the same routine and don’t create too many variations in your workout program.
If you found this blog helpful, then do share it with your friends or share it on social media so that more people can read it. Also, if you know of any other leg press variation, you can mention that in the comment section below.
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Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com, and has worked as a fitness coach in gyms and is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.