Leg Press Exercise Guide

The leg press machine is one of the most popular pieces of gym equipment when it comes to strengthening the key muscles in your legs. Whether you’re looking to develop your quads and hamstrings or build up the strength in your gluteus, the leg press machine is unrivaled in its efficiency.

Leg Press Exercise Guide

How To Do Leg Press

Setting Up

When you first sit down at a leg press machine, your body needs to be in the correct position.

 To do this, simply sit on the machine with both your back and head resting against the padded support, and your feet positioned roughly hip-width apart on the footplate.

What’s more, your bottom should be placed flat against the seat, with your legs at an angle of 90 degrees at the knees. This is because if your feet are too high on the plate, it’ll place too much stress on your glutes, whereas if your feet are too low, it’ll put an unnecessary amount of pressure on your knees.

As you press, make sure to keep this alignment for the perfect form. Take a firm grip of the handles for support and keep both your spine and head in position.


  • Keeping your abdominal muscles tight, push the leg press platform away from you using your heels and forefoot evenly. Ideally, your heels should remain completely flat on the footplate, as the last thing you want to do is use the front of your foot or toes exclusively to move the pad forward.
  • Extend your legs in a slow and controlled manner rather than an explosive movement, and pause for a second at the top of the movement. Make sure you don’t lock out your knees and that they’re not bowing in or out.
  • Gradually return the footplate to the starting position by slowly bending your knees. It’s important to keep your feet and back flat throughout this whole movement.
  • If you’ve never used the leg press machine before, it’s a good idea to start modestly with three sets of 8-10 leg presses. This way, you can slowly advance as you build strength.


  • Avoid locking your knees out at the top of the rep as this can shift most of the tension away from your quads and onto your knee joint, causing pain and injury.
  • Lifting more weight than you’re comfortably able to can make it incredibly difficult to control the movement. Keeping this control is essential for perfect form and optimum levels of strength development, so avoid falling into the trap of lifting the heaviest weight possible for a couple of reps.

Exercise Benefits

  • Allows you to fully isolate and focus on the lower body 
  • Allows you to target various muscles more effectively, making the exercise easy to tailor to your own goals.
  • Effectively targets the quads as there is a more restricted range of motion than with other exercises like the squat.
  • Allows you to exercise alone without a spotter and takes a lot of strain off the upper body making it ideal for people who are injured.

Illustrated Guide

How To Do Leg Press

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles

  • Quads
  • Glutes

Secondary Muscles

  • Hamstrings
  • Calves

Leg Press Variations

Single-Leg Press

To avoid issues with uneven progress or working one leg more than the other, consider using a single leg on the press, reducing the weight, and focusing on one leg at a time.

This will allow you to avoid issues with uneven progress and help prevent issues with rounding of the back or safety issues.

Foot Placement

Proper foot placement is key for getting the most out of the leg press. Higher foot placement will allow you to develop the glutes and hamstrings far more effectively, however, a lower foot placement will isolate the quads more, so try mixing up both depending on your own personal need and goals.

Leg Press Alternatives


This is an exercise that many people will already be familiar with, as it’s a staple of pretty much any workout routine.

With this exercise, you replace the weight from the leg press machine with your own body weight or use weights such as a dumbbell held between your legs to make the movement a little harder.

Wall Sit

This doesn’t necessarily replicate the movements you’ll perform with a leg press machine. However, it does still work with a similar group of muscles. This exercise is fantastic for working out your quads and glutes but will have a slightly lesser effect on your calves.

The main benefit of working this into your routine is how simple it is to do. You don’t need any equipment whatsoever to perform a bodyweight wall sit, though if you wanted to add extra weight you can always hold one on your thighs during the sit to make it harder.

Leg Press with Resistance Bands

Leg press with resistance bands is one of the best for accurately replicating the effects of a leg press machine.

The resistance from the band itself provides plenty of force for your legs to work against, providing a sufficient workout. The only real downside to this exercise is that you can’t control how much weight your legs are required to lift.

Kevin Harris