Leg presses are adjustable pieces of exercise equipment which work the hamstrings; quadriceps; and gluteus maximus and medius, collectively referred to as the glutes. Leg presses make it possible to perform calf exercises, also. In general, leg presses strengthen the legs.
Many versions of leg presses exist, including a seated version, a horizontal version, and a vertical machine on which the user lies horizontally with legs extended into the air. Whether in a seated or lying position, the user pushes the "sled," or footplate, away from the body. With some leg presses, the user can vary the foot position.
Seated leg presses are easier to enter and exit, and therefore preferable for users with difficulty moving fluidly. A leg press machine is helpful for people who are unable to perform squats due to back problems or other issues. Over time, many users progress to using a leg press machine one leg at a time. There are some precautions to consider when using leg presses:
- Always keep the lower back flush with the back of the seat.
- Do not lock your knees.
- Use a seated version if you have high blood pressure.
- Do not hold your breath for long periods while using a leg press.
- Keep your knees in line with your toes.
To begin using a leg press, try a few repetitions before adding weight to the sled. Determine the proper alignment of the equipment and decide whether you are more comfortable with your feet pointed straight ahead or slightly outward. Unless your form is perfect, a few sets of five to six repetitions are more effective in the long run than performing fewer sets with many repetitions.
It is important to keep your abdominal muscles tight when using a leg press. When the legs are fully extended, your knees should still be slightly flexed. Aim for a smooth motion.
Most upright leg presses allow the user to adjust the slant of the seat. No matter what position, the exercise is effective, so using a variety of positions is acceptable. On a horizontal leg press, be sure to familiarize yourself with the location of the safety catches, which lock the weight in the event you need to stop suddenly.
Exercisers can use several types of leg presses at a training facility or gym, or buy a machine for home use. Each machine should contain a label with instructions for its use. As a weight bearing exercise, leg presses are effective for increasing bone density.