Leg Press: How it Works

Knowing how to use gym equipment properly ensures you maximise your exercise opportunities, but crucially, it helps to prevent injuries.

Take a trip down to any gym and there’s a good chance you’ll stumble across a leg press. As one of the most effective pieces of equipment for working out the leg muscles, it’s easy to see why gym goers flock to this machine.

Leg Press


Why use the leg press?

A vital part of any gym user’s fitness routine, the leg press builds and strengthens the quads, hamstrings and glutes. Leg bones are also strengthened, thanks to the load-bearing effect of the press.

By only allowing movement in a fixed pattern, this machine is ideal for isolating the leg muscles without relying on other muscles. This makes the leg press a good option if injuries in other muscles are a problem, or if squats are causing knee pain.


How to use the leg press

Like any piece of gym equipment, get to know how to use the leg press properly. Ask a trainer for guidance so they can assess that you have correct form and positioning of your body.

There are two types of leg press that you might find at the gym. One where you sit up straight and work your legs horizontally, and the other where you move your legs at a 45-degree angle.

Before you get going, don’t forget to do a few warm-ups. Rest your back and head comfortably against the padded support of the leg press. Your heels should rest flat against the footplate, about hip-width apart. Legs should be about 90-degrees at the knees. Keep your knees aligned, without locking them, or bowing them in or outwards. Push the platform away with your heels and forefoot and extend your legs. Pause before returning to the starting position. Remember to always keep your feet and back flat.


Essential tips

Focus on your breathing during the movement, as this will help you develop a steady rhythm. Exhale as you slowly extend your legs, and inhale on the release to the starting position.

Avoid lifting too much and stay in control at all times. Getting your form spot on and focusing on range of motion is more important than loading up on weights. Three sets of 10 leg presses is a good starting point for beginners, allowing you to build up your reps slowly.

Correct form is essential to avoid injuries when using the leg press. Common mistakes include raising your buttocks or hips off the seat, which puts pressure on your back. Glutes will also become stressed if your feet are placed too high on the footplate, while your knees may suffer if your feet are too low. Avoid placing hands on your knees as this can undo good form. Instead, make use of the assist handles.

If you feel any pain, stop. Check with a trainer to see if you need to make adjustments to the seat, or your form.

You can vary your foot position to influence how much you work different leg muscles.

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