Leg Press Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NameLeg Press
Primary MusclesQuadriceps
Secondary MusclesGlutesHamstrings
Required Equipment45° Leg Press Sled
Optional EquipmentKnee Wraps
Rep Range5-20
VariationsUnilateral Leg Press
AlternativesBarbell Squat, Hack Squat

Leg Press Instructions

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Plant butt firmly in seat with back and head againt backrest.
  • Place feet hip to shoulder width apart on the middle of sled platform with toes pointed out.
  • Unrack weight and move safety pins out of the way.
  • Grasp handles at sides and tense core.
  • Keep a neutral spine throughout the leg press movement.

2. Eccentric Repetition

  • Flex knees and hips to lower the sled until knees are at 90°.

3. Midpoint

  • Don’t pause at the bottom of the rep. Go straight into the concentric.

4. Concentric Repetition

  • Extend knees and hips to press the sled until legs are straight, but not locked out.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the motion for the remaining reps in the set.
  • I recommend doing anything between 5-20 reps.

Common Leg Press Errors to Avoid

Poor range of motionA rep doesn’t count if you only go half way. Your thighs should touch your stomach and your knees should approach your chest. Specifically, this means your knees should go to 90°. Go slightly deeper if you can do so without raising your butt off the seat and rounding your lower back.
Head off backrestKeep your head against the back rest. Don’t lift it up to look at the weight or turn it to the sides; doing so can strain the neck.
Pushing knees with handsDo not cheat by putting your hands on your knees or thighs to help push the weight. Keep your hands gripping the handles at your sides.
Butt off seatYour butt should remain seated at all times. Go until your knees touch your chest/stomach, but no further. If you try to go too deep your butt will come off the seat and your lower back will round. It helps to keep your abs contracted throughout the entire set, too.
Knees bowing inward
(for wide stance)
Using a wide stance is fine if done correctly. Make you turn your toes outward and push your knees out. If you use a wide stance and keep your feet straight with knees in, you put undue stress on your inner knees and place your hips in an awkward position.

Leg Press Tips

  1. Keep your knees outside your ankles to maintain an efficient movement pattern and to prevent the legs from bowing inward (which I mention is a common error, above).
  2. Drive through your heels into the sled platform for the most efficient transfer of force. Don’t push through the balls of your feet.
  3. Use handles to squeeze and pull yourself down to keep your butt on the seat. As mentioned previously, allowing your butt to lift off the seat puts you lower back at risk for injury.
  4. Change your foot position to emphasize different muscles. Placing feet higher on the platform as well as using a wider stance will hit the hamstrings and glutes more. Whereas, putting your feet lower on the platform and using a narrower stance will emphasize the quadriceps.
  5. Tense your entire body, especially your core. This helps protect your spine and enables you to generate greater power output.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

This exercise is potentially suitable for all levels of experience.

While the leg press can be appropriate for everyone, I believe beginners are better off doing squats assuming they can do so correctly and safely (i.e. no injuries, sufficient flexibility/mobility). Beginners only need to do one major leg exercise, so it makes sense to do the squat it is overall superior to the leg press.

However, if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter, you need to perform more total work than beginners. Therefore, you can benefit from doing the leg press in addition to squats.

Finally, the leg press exercise may be the optimal choice for you – whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced trainee – if you are physically incapable of performing squats due to injury or seriously poor flexibility/mobility.

If can do squats just fine, but passionately loathe them, then go ahead and do the leg press instead. (But don’t take that as an excuse to be lazy! 😉 )

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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