The leg press is often identified in the gym as an “exercise for the legs”, but we can, as we have seen in the previous paragraph, go to emphasize some muscles based on some precautions.
Emphasis on Quadriceps:
In this case, we will modify our executive technique by using a horizontal press to obtain:
- Emphasis on the movement of the knee: we will keep the feet lower on the platform, this will emphasize the flexion-extension of the knee compared to that of the hip.
- Distance between the feet on the platform is not too high: to provide a general guideline you could keep your feet at a distance between them equal to or less than the width of the shoulders.
Emphasis on hamstrings and partially on buttocks:
Choosing the press for this purpose is limiting, as we do not have a complete movement at the hip level (it remains flexed at 90 °), this provides incomplete stimulation to these muscles.
In any case, the measures we will implement will be:
- Choice of a 45 ° rather than a horizontal press.
- Emphasis on hip movement: keeping feet slightly higher on the footplate.
- Distance between the two feet greater, width equal to or greater than that of the shoulders.
Is the press really safer than the squat?
It is not correct to think that the leg press is a safe and risk-free tool, while the squat is “dangerous”.
Since the press is an exercise that involves large muscle chains and multiple joints (knees, hips, ankles, spine), when approaching this we must use the same precautions that we would use with other free multi-joint exercises.
The fact that the tool is guided and our back restrained is just an illusion of greater safety at the lumbar level: indeed if taken “lightly” this pure sensation will turn into a relaxation of the spinal erectors during squatting (remember that they are active tie rods that protect the joint) and consequently in a greater load on the column itself furthermore, the backrest does not discharge any compression force.
A rather common mistake is to want to exaggerate the ROM of the descent beyond one’s possibilities: once you have reached maximum flexion of the knee and hip, the depth will be entirely borne by the column as we are unable to move it and we have no joint release.
The more you exceed with the flexion of the lower limbs, the more you will face a retroversion of the pelvis, up to a straightening of the lumbar spine with greater joint risk. Despite this, many advanced athletes perform this exercise in this way without getting hurt, the advice is to remain active and compact with the back, for beginners and novices it makes sense to perform the exercise while maintaining the physiological curves.
At the level of the knees, however, since the extension of the hip is not complete, the activation of the hamstrings will never be complete (these act as active tie rods and protect the knee joint) the shear and compression forces on the knee will be greater.
Benefits of the leg press
The leg press has, like all exercises, pros and cons; let’s analyze them to understand how to choose or not to include it in our training program.
Let’s start with the points in favor :
- It removes the present technical difficulty of the squat: this didactically makes it “simpler” and easily executable even by novices and beginners.
- It allows you to load much more safely: in general, even if you fail a repetition, the platform or the seat (depending on the type of press) are not at a height such as to cause the subject to remain “crushed”. In some machines, you can even select the range of motion.
- Eliminates the limiting component of the back: often in the squat the legs could continue the series, but being weak in the back (paravertebral, great dorsal, etc …) the subject stops, under penalty of deteriorating the executive technique.
- It allows you to easily perform sets of many repetitions or intensity techniques, which hardly lend themselves well to a free squat.
Let’s see the negative points :
- It does not have a great coordination component: this in novice/beginner subjects is a limitation as they also need to improve this motor capacity, as it is baggage that will prove useful in many exercises.
- Less activation of the hip extensor muscles: Glutes and hamstrings are less active as the movement of the hip is limited.
- Greater perceived safety: the subject being seated feels safer, however, this is a double-edged sword as it could lead him to pay less attention to some errors (position of the feet, back, etc …) that perpetuated over time can lead to more serious problems.
Leg press inclined at 45 degrees
This type of press also lends itself well to jobs where the emphasis is on the posterior chain, although a partial emphasis remains for the reasons analyzed.
The advice that we can add to the already considerations is that, if possible, to tilt more it back to the bottom than to the top, where the objective is to maximally stimulate the quadriceps. This will allow for a greater range of motion and greater stimulus.