Benefits of Leg Press – Why & How to Do the Leg Press

Jeff Baldelli
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What is the Leg Press?

The leg press is a powerful exercise that targets your lower body. It works to strengthen and tone your hamstrings, glutes, quads and calves. With the use of both the upper and lower body, it’s no surprise that this exercise offers so many benefits.

The two leg press options available are:

Stationary Leg Press

This exercise is exactly what you think it is: a leg press on a machine. It is safer to use and allows you to feel more secure while adding significant amounts of weight. It isolates each leg individually allowing for more symmetry and greater strength in your legs.

How to do the stationary leg press:

Position the feet inside of the leg-press platform with the heels just on the edge of the platform.

Seat yourself on the upper platform of the leg-press machine, and then place the back of your lower legs against the platform’s upper pad with your heels hanging off the edge.

Grasp the sides of the seat with your hands, and then press the platform back until the hips are extended and the body is flat against the seat.

While keeping the feet in the same position, lower the weight by flexing at the knees until the thighs are almost completely parallel to the floor.

While you lower the weight, make sure to keep the back flat against the seat.

Why Use the Machine?

The leg press machine is a popular addition to most gyms.

It’s available in many varieties, so it’s fairly easy to find the one that’s right for you.

Once you figure out how to use it, the leg press can help you create strong thighs and improve your metabolic health.

No matter how you use it, you’ll be able to get more out of your leg workout.

Understanding how this machine works will help you become a more efficient user.

Leg extension is a similar exercise that works your quadriceps more than your hamstrings.

There is a lot of confusion about this important movement. Let’s dig in and figure out how to use it effectively.

Benefits of the Leg Press

The Leg Press is one of the best overall weightlifting exercises to build leg muscle. It targets the quads especially, but there's a reason why this exercise works so much muscle. It also works the glutes, hamstrings, hips, and more.

The reason this exercise is so powerful is because it can be used by pretty much every level of fitness.

Plate Loaded Machine

This exercise is almost exclusively done on a plate loaded machine. Most free weight enthusiasts agree that it is better to use the plate loaded versions.

The machines are preferred because they provide support. The reps tend to be less, and they force you to work harder and do more repetitions than you thought possible.


Most plate loaded machines are pretty efficient; they use the pin or some sort of guide to help you make each repetition. You can adjust the weight or adjust your form to do a wide range of different rep and set combinations.

Even when adjusting your form, you can still use the plate loaded version. This is very important for someone just starting out because it allows you to focus on form, balance, and getting the correct weight for each exercise.

The Leg Press is a solid lift because you can adjust and find a happy balance with how much weight, how many reps, and how many sets.

The Benefits of the Leg Press

There are many benefits of the Leg Press.

The Main Muscles Worked

One of the best machine exercises that you can do in the gym is the leg press machine. The thing that makes this machine different from other machines is that it allows you to work both your muscles and joints. You can target muscles, such as your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, or you can overload your joints, such as your knees and hips.

Helps Prevent Shin Splints

Of course, the leg press can help prevent shin splint injuries. Shin splints occur when you overwork the lower leg muscles and the joint cartilage. This is a common injury among runners and other endurance athletes. You’ll use your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves when performing this exercise.

Strengthen Your Lower Explosive Power

The leg press can be used to strengthen lower explosive power. This can help you develop agility and endurance. For weightlifters, this exercise can improve your lower lifts.

Builds Strength and Conditioning

The leg press is one of the best exercises that you can do. It’s great for building strength and cardiovascular conditioning, especially with beginners. You’re able to adjust the leg press for every ability level, from beginner to advanced.

It’s an Effective Warm-up Exercise

Before moving on to other exercises in your training routine, you should first make sure that your body can coordinate the movements. Ever wonder why sprinters stretch before sprinting?

It’s because many athletes can pull a muscle when they’re performing an intense sprint. An injury like that can ruin your entire season if you’re not careful.

Something as simple as warming up the muscle fibers will prevent you from pulling any muscles in the future by strengthening them and making them more flexible. Doing leg presses before you move on to plyometrics or running can warm up your muscles and make them more flexible.

This will make it easier for you to perform plyometrics and longer sprints without injuring yourself.

Additionally, the leg press can also help you get the right form for other exercises. An exercise machine can be a very effective way to make sure that you have the right form before you proceed with free weights or other weight training equipment.

Weight machines like the leg press machine give you a lot of freedom to practice. It will also push you in the direction you want to go by mirroring the effects of free weights.

It will Help You with Other Exercises

If you are looking for a muscle that gets a lot of attention at the gym, then thighs are a great option. Squats, lunges and any other exercises that seek to build this muscle, do so by targeting both the quadriceps and the hamstrings.

The leg press is a great way to experience resistance for your hamstrings, as well as your quads. Squats push your legs and upper body in one way, while the leg press puts pressure on the top of your legs. Both of these exercises can be done one after another to get a full-body resistance session.

The leg press is also unique in that it offers you a way to compare your progress with others, since it is a very measurable tool. It is similar to the push-up in that there are certain parameters you can use to gauge your success.

If you are looking to improve your stamina, then this exercise is also a good way to do so. Although it is very strenuous, there is still a lot of endurance needed to do a complete leg press.

Doing a leg press also requires a lot of technique. If you fail to do it well, you are not going to get the best results. It is possible to feel a lot of pressure for not being able to do the exercise properly.

It can Boost Performance in Sports

Weight training is a great way to add muscle and strength to your body, and the leg press is one of the best exercises you can do.

Why? Because it is easy to learn, and there are no complicated techniques to master. There is also very little stress if any on your joints and ligaments.

In the gym, it is common for men to grunt and women to scream when lifting weights, but you won’t make a lot of noise when doing the leg press, which makes it socially acceptable.

Because the leg press involves a heavy load of weight, you will find it challenging to complete a set when you first start out. But as you build up strength, it is reassuring when you notice that you are not so dependent on others to help you load the pin.

Part of the reason why using the leg press instead of squatting is that the leg press can isolate your quads and your glutes, which can be problematic if you don’t build these areas separately.

When you are doing squats, there is always the risk of your quadriceps overpowering your glutes. That is why doing squats with the help of a spotter is really advisable. It allows you to be held in place.

It’s a Beginner-Friendly Exercise

The leg press can be performed using either a leg press machine at the gym or the Smith Machine’s variation. It can also be done with dumbbells, and this will come in very handy if you are lifting at home. What’s nice about this exercise is that it will help you build leg strength without putting undue stress on the back, shoulders, or spine like some other leg-strengthening exercises do.

There are certain things that a leg press machine won’t be able to do, though. The Smith Machine, for instance, only allows you to work one leg at a time. It also doesn’t allow for a full range of motion, so it’s actually a relatively limited exercise. What’s more, it can also be dangerous to use unless you’re a very experienced lifter.

The leg press done with dumbbells is clearly a better option, as it’s a full body movement. However, if you have a lot of weight to move, then you may end up needing to add weight to the weight of your body, which means that squats or other exercises are a better choice for you.

Form Guide for the Leg Press

When starting, make sure you are sitting on the bench with your back supported but not smashed against the machine. Feet should be set in a natural position with your toes slightly pointed out. Make sure your lower back is in contact with the bench. This area needs to be supported, but not smashed.

You can add some variety in wiping your hands on your thighs for added grip, or you can also grasp the handles of the machine to assist with the pressing motion.

All other aid for the leg press is not really necessary – it’s all about strength.

Start Light

Progress to Heavy.

When you first begin to do leg presses, start with a lighter weight than what you’re capable of handling because you will likely be more nervous than usual about the exercise. Use a weight that you’re capable of doing 10 consecutive reps with, and you’ll be good to go.

As you become accustomed to the exercise, you’ll be able to handle heavier weights and will surprise yourself with your results. It’s important not to start with a weight that’s too heavy because it’s easy to get injured, especially if you’re not used to working out.

This is also why it’s important to consult with a trainer before you begin the leg press exercise. Knowing how to do this exercise correctly is essential to not suffering a catastrophic injury.

Keep Your Lower Back Against the Seat

There are dozens of weight-lifting machines on the market, each with its own set of benefits. The one you use depends on your fitness goals. Some machines allow you to isolate one part of the body exclusively. Others let you engage multiple parts of the body. The leg press, for example, lets you lift a heavy amount of weight while activating the greatest number of muscle groups.

4 Reasons You Should Never Skip Leg Day

The leg press is also versatile enough that it can double as a lower back exercise. As you press your feet into the leg press pad, the weight compresses your spinal column. This can be a good way to strengthen your core, especially if you have lower back issues.

Keep in mind, however, that you don’t want to do this exercise if you are already experiencing lower back pain. Pressing as much as 600 pounds can put a lot of stress on your vertebrae.

The key is keeping your back against the seat and not pushing up through the pressure of the pad against your lower back. When you do this, you put your lower back in its strongest position.

The leg press also works well because it adds a bit of power to a traditional push.

Don’t Lock Your Knees Out

While doing the leg press, don’t lock your knees out at the top. This takes all the tension off the glutes, and you’re just performing iso-lateral hip thrusts. Instead, hold the weight with a slight bend in your knees and lift the weight by driving and pushing through your heels. You’ll really feel the glutes firing.

Controlled Movement is Best

With any exercise, it’s effective to think of “controlled mobility”.

To do this, use a controlled lowering pattern to target the slow-twitch fibers or fibers that generate force over a longer period of time. The faster twitch fibers are used to generate quick bursts of force.

When doing the leg press, make sure you start to use your legs first, and don’t allow your back to lift up, dip, or do any movement that will create chance of injury. Also, you should not move your hips first.

Instead, think about pushing or driving the floor apart. Don’t think about pushing the weight but instead think about driving your feet down.

Although it’s hard because it’s a lot heavier, it’s ever so important to remain as disciplined as before.

Changing your foot position while doing the leg press will allow you to hit different parts of the gluteous maximus and vastus lateralis, as well as the vastus medialis.

For example, you can try starting with your feet closer together and as you drive the weight up, bring the feet out further to hit different gluteal areas.