The leg press machine catches a lot of flak.
It’s considered an inferior exercise when compared to the squat and deadlift.
But there’s a reason these machines are popular and you’ll find one in just about every gym.
You might as well understand what it’s good for – and use it to your benefit.
We’re going to discuss the top 5 reasons to use the leg press machine.
We’ll highlight some of the things you can do with this model of leg press machine.
Reason #1: Rehabilitation
The legs constitute the largest muscles in the body. The quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes are a significant portion of your total muscular mass.
How do you provide a strength building workout if you’ve tweaked your back?
The Leg Press is the obvious way to put all this muscle mass to work – without putting undue load on the upper body.
We recommend you use the Leg Press in rehabilitation scenarios – to keep that muscle mass working while you heal.
Or, maybe you need to slowly and carefully increase the load or range of motion while rehabing a muscle or joint injury.
The leg press will be your best bet for that.
The only caveat to this – don’t “round” your lower back while using the leg press machine.
If you need to do that, you are using too much range of motion – and you will hurt your back.
Reason #2: Bad back or shoulder issues
Here’s another thought – some people – due to age and injuries- can’t keep a heavily loaded barbell in place on their back. This can be due to shoulder issues, back issues, elbow issues, or all of the above.
And – for some of us in the “aged” category – this is a chronic condition – meaning it ain’t gonna get better – ever.
I know that’s a harsh slap of reality for some of you youngsters, but it’s true.
So, in the same spirit as our first reason – the leg press can be an essential strength building (and maintenance) workout for people who can’t accommodate the Olympic barbell on their shoulders.
Sure, there are other solutions like the belt squat, etc. – but how many gyms have you seen with that equipment?
You can find a leg press in just about any gym (save CrossFit boxes.)
Reason #3: Strength & ROM improvements for aged trainees
Here’s another point – some of us believe that strength building workouts are the “fountain of youth.”
Or at least the closest thing there realistically is to such a thing.
Starting Strength, for example, espouses getting the elderly to strength train – not to break Olympic records but rather to improve and maintain their quality of life.
The fact of the matter is that some of these trainees simply don’t have the mobility or strength to even air squat their body weight.
The 45 degree leg press gives them a piece of equipment that will allow them to safely and slowly build up to a minimum level of strength and balance such that they can use a barbell.
This is because the leg press takes all the stabilization out of the movement – and that’s something you can improve with greater strength.
The leg press uses a lot of muscle – quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. And you can target different areas by varying your foot width and position on the foot plate.
Reason #4: Hypertrophy (Bodybuilding) Training
Bodybuilders love the leg press.
It was a training staple for many of the top champions of the past and now.
The fact of the matter is that muscular hypertrophy is best enabled through “time under tension” – and there’s no better continuous tension method for the legs than the leg press.
You can safely work to exhaustion without locking out at the top or bottom.
It’s a great muscular size building movement.
You say you don’t care about hypertrophy?
I don’t buy it. Most people do and just won’t admit it.
Don’t shy away from using the leg press to build some muscle mass.
You can also use the Leg Press machine for calf raises – that’s a painful amount of fun.
Having said that, there is one bodybuilding leg movement that I do not endorse – the Leg Extension.
I never recommend leg extensions for anyone – that particular movement causes too many knee issues due to the shearing load it places on the knees.
Reason #5: Unilateral Leg Training
You’ve got a “weak” arm and a “strong” arm, right?
Most people do.
But did you know that you most likely have a weak leg and a strong leg too?
It’s true – for most people their strong side leg is opposite that of their strong arm.
For example, I’m right handed – and my left leg is the strong one.
How can we remedy this?
With unilateral training – meaning train one side of the body at a time.
You can do this with complicated movements like the pistol squat – which is a tough move to master.
It’s also NOT beginner friendly.
I’d recommend the Leg Press machine instead.
You can always progress to the pistol squat after you build up additional strength in the leg press.
The Dark Side of the Leg Press
Ok, so we’ve given you some legit reasons to use the leg press machine.
Be sure to avoid these downsides.
- Loading up ridiculous amounts of weight – Don’t let your ego get out of control. Everyone can move a lot of plates on the leg press – nobody is impressed.
- Micro range of motion – As an adjunct to the above – using a 2″ range of motion isn’t really helpful in nearly any case. So use a reasonable range of motion.
- Don’t leave all your plates loaded – Nobody wants to unload your 1,000 lbs of plates from the leg press – so leave the machine unloaded when you are done.
- Don’t push through knee pain – Does the leg press give you knee pain? Try moving your feet – usually towards the top of the foot plate. This will place more load on your hamstrings and less on your quadriceps. You can also experiment with wide and narrow foot spacing. You can probably find a position that will work.
Best Leg Press Machine for a Home Gym or Garage Gym
Let’s take a closer look at the leg press machine I recommend: the Monster Ultimate 45 Degree Leg Press Hack Squat Combo from Force USA.
First of all – there’s two key criteria for any equipment for a home gym or garage gym.
Is it affordable (meaning not commercial equipment levels of pricing) and is it multi-functional?
Having one piece of equipment that does multiple things is the best route you can take with a garage gym or home gym – because space is ALWAYS a constraint.
Why do we like this leg press unit so much?
Because it’s a top notch leg press machine.
But it can also be used for hack squats, calf raises, and it is compatible with bands.
Bands are a great way to do continuous tension rehab on your leg muscles.
Being a multi-purpose unit – that means it’s an efficient use of space in your home or garage – and it gives you great training variation options over the years.
This leg press unit has a 1,000 lb capacity – which is a reasonable limit for anyone and will work with users up to 7′ tall.
Here’s a video that shows all the great features:
This unit takes up a lot of floor space – but there’s also a compact option.
Force USA Compact Leg Press Machine
Here’s a super-compact option for your home gym or garage gym.
This is a smaller unit – so it has a weight capacity limit of 660 lbs.
This is probably ok for most home and garage gyms – we’re guessing you don’t have a thousand pounds of plates anyways.
That’s the trade-off for the smaller size.
This unit can be used with bands as well – that’s a great way to increase the resistance without having to use more weight plates.
Top 5 Reasons to use the Leg Press Machine – In Summary
The Leg Press Machine is like any other movement or equipment in the gym – it has it’s upsides and downsides.
Know when to apply it correctly, in the right way and you can reap the benefits.
Some photos are provided by Force USA, and are property of Force USA.
We’re an affiliate of Force USA, so if you order equipment after clicking the links in this article, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us to bring great information to you.
Tim is the founder of FitAtMidlife.com – an avid gym rat for 30+ years, he’s a reviewer of many, many shoes – and founder of the Speed Bag Gathering – the world’s only gathering of speed bag punching enthusiasts. See more gym reviews at Tim’s YouTube channel.