How to Properly Perform the Leg Press

How to Position Your Body for the Leg Press

Fit woman using leg press
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Two types of leg press machine are in common use: the standard horizontal leg press and the 45-degree leg press. This second leg-press machine has a seat in which the body reclines at an angle and the leg press is in an upward diagonal direction using a sled mechanism.

This description uses the standard seated leg press machine. You may need a trainer to show you how to adjust the machine for your first exercise.

As for all exercises, don’t lift too much, to begin with, and stop if the pain is felt. Remember to breathe during the effort phase; don’t hold the breath.

Muscles worked: quadriceps and hamstrings of the thigh, gluteus (butt).

Body Position

  • Sit on the machine with your back and head against the padded support.
  • Place feet on the foot plate about hip-width apart, ensuring the heels are flat. The legs should form an angle of about 90 degrees at the knee with a little variation either way as long as the heels sit flat on the plate.
  • The knees should be in line with the feet and neither bowed inward nor outward.
  • Your bottom should not be raised from the seat platform. If it is, and the legs are at too sharp an angle, then you need to adjust the seat back until the correct position is enabled. You can recognize this poor position when the knees seem to be in front of your eyes and you feel cramped.
  • Grasp the assist handles.

Body Movement for a Proper Leg Press

It's important to follow proper form to get the most out of your leg press. Be careful to avoid overextending your knees.

  • Brace the abdominal muscles and push the platform away with heels and forefoot by extending the knees and hips and pushing the back into the seat pad.
  • The heels should remain flat on the foot plate and the front of the foot or toes should not be used exclusively to move the pad forward.
  • Do keep the head steady and back against the seat.
  • Don’t lock out the knees in an explosive fashion but do express a full range of motion.
  • Return the foot plate to the starting position by allowing the knees to bend under control while maintaining the feet flat on the surface. Repeat the exercise.

Check Points for a Safe, Effective Leg Press

Are you doing the leg press properly? Be sure you're following these checkpoints:

  • Ensure a full range of motion is possible without raising the hips from the seat. Take time to adjust the seat for best position.
  • Don’t allow the knees to bow outward or inward. Keep them in line with the feet.
  • Maintain heel contact with the plate and ensure you push with heels and forefoot.
  • Keep the head steady and against the seat pad; don’t jerk the head forward with the effort.
  • As usual, start with a modest weight and progress as it suits your training and requirements. Try three sets of ten leg presses.

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