The Benefits of Single Leg Presses. The Ultimate Guide to Muscles Worked & The Best Machines for Your Home Gym

So, while the single leg press does not draw in as much attention or love as say, the barbell squat in the world of bodybuilding, the single leg press is actually a great exercise for you to include in your daily exercise routine.

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The Ultimate Guide to Single Leg Press

When it comes to building mass and making sure that you work all of the major muscles that reside in the lower parts of your body, the single leg press is the perfect way to do this.

What a lot of people do not realize is that even though you can use a leg press machine with two legs at the same time, by choosing to perform a single leg press you are attempting a variation of the exercise that is even harder and that actually has some pretty unique benefits.

Here, we are going to talk through everything you need to know about the single leg press, this will include the benefits of the single leg press along with what exactly the single leg press does and some of the best machines that you can use to help you to do this exercise to the best that you can.

Single Leg Press- Benefits, Muscles Worked, & Best Machines

Single Leg Press Benefits

Are you thinking about testing out the single leg press, or are you skeptical about adding this exercise into your workout routine? Well, don’t be! Here we will go into detail about the benefits that come with including the single leg press into your workout routine.

If you are wondering what exactly the single leg press does, well you will be pleased to know that this is a pretty solid exercise to add to your workout routine.

We say this due to the fact that the majority of functional movements that happen in sports and that also happen in everyday life are completed one leg at a time.

You might be thinking that the single leg press is the only exercise that you will ever need to do to keep your pins in check and, unfortunately, that is not quite true. This is a great exercise to add into your workout routine.

To get a bit more technical, the single leg press is especially great for isolating those major leg muscles, and these muscles include the quads and the hamstrings. The single leg press actually works in the same way as dumbbells work to isolate each bicep or tricep.

As we said before, this workout will not build gigantic leg muscles for you if this is the only leg exercise that you do. 

This is the sort of exercise that you need to work hard to incorporate into your workout routine, and you should really consider including this exercise after you have worked out both of your legs. You can do this through exercises such as the best hack squat alternatives, or even through doing regular leg presses.

The single leg press does have a pretty long list of benefits that a lot of trainers really swear by. The single leg press is for sure an underrated exercise that can help you give your workout routine that extra boost.

One surprising benefit on the single leg press is that it can really help you with muscle symmetry. It is a scientific fact that most people have an imbalance between their left and their right sides. In fact, one side will usually be stronger or in some cases one side will be bigger than the other.

When you are doing squats or when you are doing traditional leg presses then the stronger or the bigger side will actually end up doing most of the work. However, when you do the single leg press you actually end up forcing each side to perform an equal workload.

By doing this, you will be helping build the strength in both of your legs. You will be doing this by forcing each leg to work just as hard and to perform an equal workload.

This will in turn result in the improvement of the strength and the improvement of the balance and also the improvement of the proportion between both of your legs.

Another benefit of performing this exercise all to do with gaining a greater range of motion. What does this mean?

Well, we can break this down for you now. We spoke about the exact muscles that the single leg press works, these are the quadriceps, the hamstrings and also the glutes.

You will find that when you do the exercise using just one leg at a time then you will work those muscle groups with a much greater range of motion.

What does this mean for you?

This means that you will activate your muscles even more by doing this exercise. In fact, research and studies have shown that when you perform more focused eccentric training on your hamstrings, or like the training that you do with the single leg press, it gives your hamstrings the ability to conjure up peak force. 

You should notice particular improvements if you are a keen runner or sprinter. Additionally, this will benefit your hamstrings when they are in a more stretched position, this could be at the bottom of a deadlift, or a squat, or even a kettlebell swing.

Another benefit of performing the single leg press is also great core stimulation. What this really means is that when you are doing a leg press, your back is being supported on the back rest.

However, this does not mean that you are not working your core or that you are not working your obliques during this movement. In fact, when you do a single leg press you really have to work hard to control and also to stabilize your body even more.

What this means in terms of stimulating your core is that by doing the single leg press, you are working your core a lot more.

Another benefit of performing the single leg press is that one leg means half the weight! Are you a bit confused by this? Well, let us explain! When you are doing the classic leg press, that is the leg press with both of your legs, then that means that you will have to load up your machine with a lot of plates.

In fact, if you have really strong legs then you could end up needing to load up your machine with at the very least ten fourteen-pound plates! That is a lot of plates, and rounding them up and loading them onto your machine will be quite the workout in itself.

There is nothing worse than being at your local gym, and having to stand around and wait for the person using the machine to HURRY UP and stop hogging the machine. But, doing a single leg press will help you avoid being that infuriating gym machine hogger!

You will only need to load the machine up with half the weight that you would normally use for a double leg press. If you are wondering if there is some sort of catch, well, we can confirm that there is no catch at all!

In fact, you can get just as much – if not more – muscle stimulation. You can get a killer lower body workout in, and you will not need a huge stack of weights to do this, we would call this a pretty great result.

Another benefit of performing the single leg press is that you will notice an improvement in your functional strength. This could be quite surprising, because another myth around the single leg press is that it does not improve your functional strength – we are here to tell you that this is a complete myth.

The single leg press does improve your functional strength. Don’t believe us? Well, science confirms this – so there!

Don’t get us wrong, we are by no means saying that the single leg press is the best exercise for improving your functional strength, it is true that you could obtain a better result by doing barbell squats.

However, this does not take away from the fact that the single leg press does improve functional strength, anyone who disputes this or says otherwise does not know what they are talking about.

In fact, elite athletes will tend to incorporate this exercise into their aesthetic workout routine because it is a much more functional variation of exercise. If you think about it, pretty much every kind of athletic movement is actually done from some kind of single-leg position. 

Performing the single leg press will benefit you because it will give you more power. No, the single leg press will not turn you into The Hulk – we don’t mean that level of power.

The thing is, you would ultimately think that bilateral movements such as barbell squats would be just what you need to get in that explosive power training within your workout routine.

However, it is true that unilateral exercises, such as the single leg press, are actually proven to have given the Rate of Force Production (RFD) pretty great improvements.

Just to give you a slight debrief on what exactly the Rate of Force Production is, but, to keep this brief, this is the measurement of the length of time that it takes muscle contraction to reach that peak level of force production.

It is important to mention that bilateral movements are very important to the Rate of Force Production, but this does not mean that you should dismiss unilateral exercises.

So, when you have just one foot on the leg press machine, then that smaller base of support will stimulate the motor neurons that are at the spinal level. This in turn works as a contributor to force development.

To put this all into perspective, you should think of the single leg press as a way of improving your force from the inside out.

Here’s the thing, performing the single leg press is a great way of getting in some cardio – that’s right, the single leg press is cardio in disguise.

Time to get back to the technicalities behind the exercise… So, there are some pretty significant cardiovascular advantages, and there are also some pretty important metabolic advantages when you are performing that single leg press.

This means that when you do a high number of reps in a high volume program, by the time that you reach the end of the set, you will be able to notice that your heart rate has increased significantly.

It is key to note that when you are exercising one leg at a time, it will actually end up taking you double the time to work both of your legs – especially in comparison to that traditional leg press. This in turn means that this doubles everything within your workout.

So, your body will have twice the amount of time being under tension, it will also mean that your body will be at twice of that metabolic cost, and this will also mean that your body will be exerting twice the number of heartbeats. This is definitely a double or nothing kind of exercise.

One Leg Press

Single Leg Press Muscles Worked

When it comes to getting a better understanding on what muscles the single leg press works, well, you have come to the right place. Now, we are going to get pretty technical and talk you through just what exactly the leg press is great for working out.

The single leg press works a fair few muscles, the single leg press works the muscles in your quadriceps, and it works the muscles in your hamstrings, and it also works the muscles in your glutes.

These are key muscles to work because these are the main muscles that we use for other exercises such as running, or jumping or even for squatting.

Let’s get into just where these muscles are. So, at the front of your thigh is where your quadriceps femoris is. This is the primary muscle group that you work when you perform the single leg press exercise.

This is actually a group of four muscles that includes the vastus lateralis, the vastus medialis, the vastus intermedius and also the rectus femoris. This muscle group is critical for knee extension which is necessary for the majority of basic and also the majority of high intensity physical activities.

As we said earlier, your hamstrings are also stimulated by the single leg press. You can find this muscle right at the back of your leg, and this is just below your glutes and aids you in flexing your knee.

So, you can work this muscle a little more by pushing deeper into each repetition of this exercise.

Last but not least, another muscle that is worked by this exercise is the gluteal muscles. Here we have a group of three muscles which helps to form your buttocks, including the gluteus minimus, the gluteus medius and also the gluteus maximus.

This muscle group actually controls the hip joint, and it does this through a series of movements which includes abduction, along with extension and also rotation.

Single Leg Press Variations

There are a range of single leg press variations that you can attempt, but we would recommend working your way through these variations as well as through the weights at a sensible rate.

You want to treat the single leg press in a way that suits you, this is not something that you should rush into because you want to make sure that you avoid overexertion and that you also avoid obtaining any muscle injuries.

The single leg press will push your body, but you do not want to overdo it before you even start.

To make the most out of the exercise, make sure that you start at a weight that you are comfortable with so that you will be able to work your way up the weights, and that way you will be able to track your progress and gradual improvement.

This will also reduce the risk of you moving through the weights too fast, after all, the only athlete who is putting pressure on you to move up through the weight rankings will be yourself.

When you are introducing the single leg press into your workout routine, you need to make sure that you ease this move into your routine. After all, you need to work through this move one leg at a time.

Our best advice is to do this at your own pace, and only increase the weights when you are absolutely sure that you are ready to do so.

We will start off by introducing you to that standard single leg press variation, and this particular variation will emphasize the quads as well as working the hamstrings and the glutes. So to do this, you should do the following:

  1. Sit in the leg press seat and face directly forward – when you do this you should make sure to place your right foot in the vertical center of the footplate. You should find that this will be inline with your right hip.
  2. Unlock the safety restraints on your leg press – this will then enable youtube bend your right knee, and this will let the footplate move closer towards your body. You should bend until your knee reaches pretty close to a ninety-degree angle.
  3. Press against the footplate – this will enable you to then push your body right back to the starting position.
  4. Here you have one rep – you should repeat this move for somewhere between ten to twelve reps, and then you can switch legs so that you give both of your legs a solid workout.

When you get confident with your single leg press variation, you could then try and move on to the side leg press variation. To be totally transparent with you, the side leg press is just what it sounds like.

However, as far as the side leg press is concerned there is even more of a twist! So, not only will you be – you guessed it – sitting sideways, but you will also be up on your knee, and this is just to change that muscle emphasis. To get the side leg press variation down to perfection, here is how to try it:

  1. Position yourself on the leg press seat by facing the left – when you do this, you need to make sure that you prop yourself up on your left knee, and then you need to place your right foot on to that footplate.
  2. Make sure you now unlock those safety restraints on your leg press – this will enable you to move onto bending your right knee, and the footplate will move closer to your body. Like last time, you should bend your knee until it gets to the point where it hits a ninety degree angle.
  3. Press against the footplate – like we said earlier, this will let you push your body right back to your starting position.
  4. This is what you can class as your first rep – again, some things do not change,  you should repeat this for ten to twelve reps, and make sure to then switch legs. This will give you a great leg workout.

Last but not least, once you have mastered the side leg press variation you could consider moving on to the side leg squat variation. You will be pleased to know that actually, the side squat variation draws a lot of similarities from the side leg variation.

The difference here is that you will not find yourself propped up on your knee in the seat. This particular variation will allow you to push even deeper into each rep, and you will really feel this in your glutes and in your hamstrings. This is the ultimate single leg press variation for sure! Here is how to do it:

  1. Position yourself in the leg press seat by facing towards your left – as you are doing this you need to place your right foot up onto that footplate. You might find that in order to get into this position, that you will have to lean forward slightly. This is totally fine!
  2. Again, you should now be at the stage where you can unlock the safety restraints on your leg press – this in turn will enable you to bend your right knee, and that footplate will be able to move closer to your body. Again, like the previous two positions, your knee will get to that ninety degree angle and then you can push against that footplate, and then get your body back to its original position.
  3. Here you have your first rep – again, you can repeat this for ten to twelve reps and then you can switch legs. This will just get you that great workout on both legs.

Single Leg Press Best Machines

If you have made it this far, then we can only assume that you are pretty sold on incorporating the single leg press into your daily workout routine. If you attend a local gym, then this section might not be all that interesting to you.

However, if you are looking to make improvements to your home gym then you should definitely read on. Below, we have our recommendations for some of the best single leg press machines on the market.

These would all make great additions to your home gym, and whichever one you opt for will definitely make a difference not just to your home gym, but to your workout routine.

OUR TOP PICK

Total Gym APEX Versatile Training Fitness Equipment

EDITORS CHOICE

TKO Leg Press machine

TKO Leg Press

BEST VALUE

POWERTEC Leg Press

OUR TOP PICK

Total Gym APEX Versatile Training Fitness Equipment

This is the perfect machine to add to your at-home gym. This machine will allow you to do more than just leg presses, you can perform a whole host of different exercises using this machine for as little or as long as you want to.

Pros

  • A variety of workouts – this machine is more than just a leg press machine. If you are looking for a versatile machine to add to your home gym then this will be perfect for you. The machine has 8 levels of resistance and you will be able to perform over 70 different exercises using just this machine!
  • Less can be more with this machine – that’s right, according to the manufacturer just 15 to 20 minutes each day a few times of week will be key to using this machine. This will make a massive difference to you and your workout routine.
  • This machine uses the total body method – this machine will allow you to tone, strengthen and also condition your muscles in not just your lower body – but in your upper body too. This machine will give you a total body exercise experience and can help you with sculpting along with weight loss, health maintenance and also energy.

Cons

  • More than just a leg press machine – if you are wanting a machine to add to your home gym that specifically targets the leg press alone, then this might not be the machine for you. This is an extremely versatile piece of gym equipment that will really add to your at-home gym.

EDITORS CHOICE

TKO LEG PRESS

TKO Leg Press

TKO

So, this machine allows you to practice the leg press which specifically isolates the lower body and targets your quadriceps, your hamstrings, your glutes and your calves. By altering your foot position on the platform you will be able to engage all the different muscle groups.

Pros

  • Multi purpose – this machine will allow you to perform a number of lower body exercises to make sure that you hit your personal workout goals, and that you build and maintain muscle. This machine will allow you to do single leg presses along with a range of other variations to build your legs. 
  • Fully loaded – this machine has been designed to be loaded up to 400 lbs and therefore is lighter than machines that are heavier because they need to hold more weight. This machine is also made of a solid 2×4 heavy gauge steel and is commercial quality that will last years. Stainless steel horns for your weight plates make this machine look, feel, and work like you need it to.
  • This machine will help you to build the muscle you desire – this machine has comfortable padding and also an extremely durable construction. The foot plate is very comfortable and sturdy and you don’t have to worry about slippage.

Cons

  • A machine for only the serious lifter – doesn’t have the capacity to hold as much weight as the Powerline but that makes it more suited for single leg presses in my opinion and would make a great addition to your home gym. It would be pointless to buy a machine with only the ability to do one leg at a time which is why this machine is great.

BEST VALUE

POWERTEC Leg Press

POWERTEC Leg Press

This is actually an at home leg press and it is the most compact vertical leg press on the market, which makes this a pretty essential piece of home gym equipment.

This adjustable weight bench is perfect not just for your single leg press, but for a full body workout too.

his bench is perfect for strength training, and it is also foldable, so if your home gym could use more space then this is a pretty compact piece of gym equipment.

Pros

  • Heavy-duty machine – this machine has a whopping 1000lbs weight capacity. This is because this machine is designed with a heavy-duty quality steel and also it has a stable structure. This machine will give you great and stable support for your single leg press workouts.
  • Compact – this machine is extremely compact and will be beneficial in helping you to practice and improve the leg press exercise.
  • Design – this machine has deluxe padding which is mounted on 8-750lb rated rollers for prolonged durability. The machine has thick stitched shoulder pads and a solid steel deck plate. On the whole, this machine will serve your home gym extremely well and is a great investment.

Cons

  • Just leg pressing – this machine is only really suitable for leg presses so if you are looking for more of a multipurpose machine then this might not be the right choice for you. Having said this, you will definitely get your money’s worth out of a machine where you can try out single leg presses.

Overall, the single leg press is a great move to add into your exercise routine. But as we said earlier on, this is a great move to add into your routine – this move cannot make up the entirety of your workout routine.

There are a wide range of benefits to the single leg position, and there are also a few different variations that you can try – this is all about working out what suits you best within your exercise routine.

Kevin Harris
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