Most health clubs and gyms are packed full of the newest weight lifting equipment. A particularly diverse piece of equipment that I’m often asked about is the leg press machine. As implied by its name, the leg press is primarily designed to train lower body muscle groups. These include those that make up the hips, thighs, and legs.
Since it essentially works multiple muscle groups and joints simultaneously, the leg press is generally considered to be a “compound” exercise.
This machine can be used to target the butt muscles (gluteals), encompassed by several muscles that attach to the hip joint, in addition to the thighs, comprised of multiple muscles with attachments to both the hip and knee joints. The leg press machine can also be used to target the legs, specifically a set of muscles that attach to the knee and ankle joints.
Although some leg press machines vary, generally speaking, to perform this exercise, you should first position yourself seated on the machine, lying back against the back pad, and placing your feet about shoulder-width apart on the footplate. Take a nice deep breath in (inhale) and then rotate the safety bars at the sides of your hips to release the footplate for your set.
Next, breath out (exhale) and press the footplate all the way up until your legs are fully extended but don’t lock your knees. This is the starting position for the exercise. In this position, your torso and legs should make a perfect 90-degree angle.
From the starting position, bend your legs as much as possible while making sure your knees travel to the sides of your chest and then return to the starting position, exhaling as you complete the movement.
Now, by placing your feet in different positions on the footplate of the machine, you can stress the different muscles groups of your lower body.
Placing your feet lower on the footplate and or close together stresses the front of your thighs while placing your feet on the top of the footplate shifts the emphasis to your gluteals and the back of your thighs. Spreading your legs places more emphasis on your inner thighs. This is also a great way to perform the leg press if you have underlying back problems.
And, finally, you can work you work the back of your legs by slightly changing up the movement.
In the same starting position as before, position your feet lower on the footplate so that your heels hang low. To complete the movement, exhale and raise your heels by extending your ankles as high as possible while keeping your knees fixed throughout the movement. You should be on your tippy toes. Hold this position for a couple of seconds and then return to the starting position.
When performing any of these exercises, it’s important to keep your butt on the pad. For maximum results, perform at least 2-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions of each exercise on 1-2 nonconsecutive days each week. If you’re generally unfamiliar with weight training, be sure to check out “Weight Training 101: What You Need To Know Before You Lift” and learn everything you need to know.