The Leg Press Machine is an incredible addition to the home gym. Once you have a decent rack, bar and weights the next piece of equipment to consider should be the leg press.
Why You Need A Leg Press Machine
The Leg Press is an incredibly safe exercise that allows you to use a lot of weight. Squats of all variations will build your legs, but your lower back will always fatigue before your legs. You’ll never truly overload your legs with the barbell alone. No barbell exercise can isolate the legs.
Bigger Legs & Bigger Squat
The Leg Press is an exercise you can keep grinding out safely rep after rep (if you have the mental fortitude). Rapid strength gains are the norm with leg pressing. You also don’t need to do too much of it 2-3 sets of 10-15 after squatting, or one all-out set of 20-50 will allow you to add plates week after week: bigger legs and a bigger squat.
Quads & Hamstrings
The Leg Press works all leg muscles your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. The standard position (toes touching the top of plate) will work your quads you can also do sumo presses to emphasise more on the hamstrings. Have your heels on the top of the plate with your toes and balls of feet off the top of the plate. Be careful doing this version of the leg press; ensure your feet don’t slip off the top of the plate.
Single leg presses (otherwise known as one leg presses) are also possible so you can work one leg at the time. Personally I don’t like them I didn’t like the feeling in my abs that one leg pressing and one on the floor gave me. Felt like I was risking an injury, so I don’t do them, but they may work for you.
Decent calf work in the home gym is impossible with a barbell. Standing on a block of wood with a dumbell, or attempting donkey calf raises with a barbell on your knees sucks. The exercises are unstable, and you can never use enough weight to overload the calves. Calf raises on the leg press work very well. You can work up to very heavyweights, and the exercise is safe, make sure the sled is in the racked position, and safety catchers are on.
A 45-degree leg press doubles up as a 45-degree hyperextension, another awesome exercise that’ll work your hams and lower back and help your squatting and deadlifting increase.
Safe From Failure
Most leg press machines can be used alone if you fail you can lock your legs out with your hands to rack the weight. Most machines you can get out of if you fail at the bottom.
Combined with your rack the leg press machine will give you a full lower body workout, for example.
- Squat 5/3/1
- Hyper Extension 3×15
- Calf Raise 3×15
- Leg Press 3×15
Disadvantages Of The Leg Press Machine
Leg Presses take up space you need a fair-sized garage, shed or room to accommodate one. Many home gyms are not big enough for a leg press.
Heavy And Hard To Transport
Leg Presses are heavy and awkwardly shaped; they are a pain to move and get into position. Once done, the leg press will likely stay there for a long time. There are, however, light commercial versions available that come flat packed with manageable put together pieces. If you buy a second-hand commercial machine, you’ll need help moving it, even if you take it apart. Buying a second-hand machine will likely involve hiring or borrowing a van.
Leg Presses are expensive, probably the single most expensive item you’ll buy for your home gym. A decent leg press should last a lifetime in a home gym environment, though. A worthwhile investment if you plan on lifting for life.
Only a handful of online merchants sell Leg Press Machines limiting choice and price ranges. Secondhand ones are scarce also.
Compared to barbell exercises the leg press is very safe, but like everything in the wrong hands, it can be dangerous, especially as very heavy weights can be used. Training on your own requires common sense and caution.
Leg Press Safety Tips
Here are some safety tips when using the leg press (remember you use the leg press and this advice at your own risk)
Place Your Feet Higher On The Plate
All the horror leg press accidents on youtube involve people pressing with their feet lower down/bottom of the plate. Higher pressing eliminates the risk of hyperextending the knees.
Don’t Let Your Back Round At The Bottom
If your backs rounding at the bottom, you’re using too much weight, or the backrest is positioned to high up. Make adjustments, lower the weight or backrest, don’t risk a back injury.
Use A Full Range Of Motion
Partial reps have no place on the leg press, yes the stacks of plates look impressive, but partial reps don’t! And they won’t do much for you apart from increase the chances of accident and injury. Always use a full range of motion, don’t go to low so your back rounds (knees to armpit) but low enough for a good full rep.
Don’t Let Legs Cave Inwards
If your legs are caving inwards, you have weak abductors and are risking injury. Lower the leg press weight and add some abductor exercises to your routine.
Keep Your Feet Flat And Push With The Heels
Keep your feet flat on the plate and push with your heels. Your feet should be slightly shoulder-width apart and turned outwards slightly, not excessively outwards or inwards.
Don’t Lock Out
Don’t fully lock your knees at the top of the lift. Stop just before the lockout, you can rest for a few seconds in this position to if necessary.
Use Solid Shoes
Squishy running shoes are inadequate for barbell training, and the leg press uses your solid weight lifting shoes. If your feet feel they’re slipping at all (which they shouldn’t with most leg presses) put some chalk on the plate or the soles of your shoes.
Keep Weight Racked For Calf Raises
If you use your leg press for calf raises ensure the sled is always in the locked position. This ensures the sled won’t come crashing down if your feet slip if the plate (they shouldn’t). Keep hold of the catches during the lift to make sure they stay in the racked position and don’t move out during the set.
Plan Your Escape
Set the backrest so you can escape by crawling out if you have to lower the sled to the bottom. You can push your hands down on your knees to lockout a rep and rack the weight if you get in trouble also. Only do this for one rep then rack the weight do not do multiple reps this way.
Buying A Leg Press Machine
Buying secondhand from eBay will allow you to pick up a light-commercial machine designed for the home or a heavy-duty commercial machine built for gyms. Lifters get tired of training, or gyms close however not many secondhand Leg Presses come up on eBay or local listings often, especially ones within a reasonable distance of your home.
If you’re after a Leg Press Machine keep an eye out, check eBay and your local listings regularly. As soon as one comes up to make a generous offer, the seller won’t refuse. Money comes and goes a leg press is for life, don’t be stingy, you will regret it if the Leg Press goes to a higher bidder. Buying secondhand will allow you to pick up a machine at the best possible price as machines can be purchased considerably cheaper than when buying new.
New leg presses by Body-Solid and Powertec will work very well in the home gym. The Body-Solid Leg Press machine has a capacity of around 450kg more than enough for most people and doubles up as a hack squat machine also. The Power Tec Leg Press Machine has the same capacity but doesn’t have a hack machine option. Both machines are smaller than commercial leg press machines. The Powertec machine is slightly shorter but wider. Expect to pay north of £1000 for both machines when buying new.
If you have lots of space and money to spend, you could buy a brand new machine off a commercial gym supplier or a machine fabricator. This won’t be a viable option for most home gym owners, though.
Personal Leg Press Machine Experience
Once I had a decent power rack, bench, weights and bars, I knew a leg press machine was needed to improve my training. At the time, I didn’t want to spend over £1000 on a light-commercial machine when I knew a secondhand commercial machine would cost less and perform better.
I kept my eye on eBay, and after a few months, someone locally was selling an old, commercial 45-degree leg press. The machine had lots of watchers on I messaged the seller and made him a good buy it now cash and collection offer, he accepted. I arranged a van, drew the cash and collected the machine.
The machine itself was constructed of heavy-duty steel but rusting in places. I cleaned it off with a wire brush and touched it up with metal paint before putting it together. For the past eight years, the machine has served me well with no issues whatsoever. I know I’ll wear out before the machine does.
I use the leg press machine every week staple exercises are standard leg presses, and calf raises. I cycle in hyperextensions and sumo presses from time to time.