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How to do Leg Press? Proper Form, Variations and Techniques

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The leg press exercise is a popular choice among individuals of various fitness levels, as it provides an effective way to target and strengthen the muscles of the bottom body. The leg press primarily targets the quadriceps muscles, which are responsible for knee extension. It also engages other lower body muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, and calves, to varying degrees depending on foot placement and technique.

To perform the leg press with proper form, adjust the seat and footplate position on the leg press machine. Sit with your back against the backrest and place your feet shoulder-width apart on the footplate. Slowly lessen the weight by bending your knees, then push the weight back up by extending your legs. For variations, try different foot placements or single-leg presses. Incorporate techniques like pause reps or slow eccentrics for added challenges.

Let’s learn about it in more depth and detail below.

Leg Press proper workout form

To perform the leg press exercise using a leg press machine, follow these instructions to ensure proper form and technique:

Leg Press Proper Form
  1. Begin by adjusting the seat position on the leg press machine so that your feet can comfortably reach the footplate. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle when your feet are placed on the footplate.
  2. Sit on the machine with your back firmly against the backrest and your feet positioned shoulder-width apart on the footplate. Your toes should be pointed slightly outward.
  3. Grasp the handles on the sides of the seat for stability.
  4. Take a deep breath, engage your core, and activate your leg muscles.
  5. Slowly lower the footplate by bending your knees until they reach a 90-degree angle or more down. Throughout the movement, ensure that your heels remain on the footplate.
  6. Pause briefly in the bottom position, maintaining tension in your leg muscles.
  7. Push the footplate away by extending your legs until your knees are almost straight, but avoid locking them out.
  8. Exhale as you extend your legs and focus on squeezing your leg muscles at the top of the movement.
  9. Slowly decline the footplate back to the starting position under control.

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Benefits of the Leg Press

The seated leg press is a popular machine exercise in the fitness arena, and it offers numerous benefits for individuals looking to strengthen their lower body. 

One of the key advantages of the leg press is its ability to specifically focus on the quadriceps, which are the muscles located in the front of the thigh. Individuals can effectively work their quads by utilising the leg press without placing excessive strain on other muscle groups. This makes it an excellent exercise choice for leg day or as a complement to other lower-body exercises. 

The leg press allows you to perform a squat-like movement pattern while providing additional support and stability. This is particularly beneficial for those struggling with balance or with limitations that make traditional squats challenging. The seated position on the leg press machine also helps maintain proper form throughout the movement, reducing the risk of injury. 

Furthermore, the leg press focuses on multiple muscles in the lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings, and calves. This comprehensive engagement of the lower body muscles improves overall strength and muscle development. Additionally, the leg press can enhance lower body power, explosiveness, and endurance, making it a valuable addition to a well-rounded routine. It also provides the opportunity to increase the weight, progressively promoting strength gains over time. 

Whether you are a beginner looking to build foundational strength or an experienced lifter aiming to lift heavier weights, the leg press can accommodate a wide range of wellness goals.
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Leg Press Variations and Techniques on the Exercise Machine

Here are some variations and techniques you can incorporate into your leg press workout:

  • Feet Placement: Vary your foot positioning on the footplate to focus on different muscles. Placing your feet higher on the footplate and closer together emphasises the quadriceps, while a wider stance with feet lower on the footplate engages the glutes and hamstrings to a greater extent.
  • Single-Leg Press: Instead of using both legs simultaneously, perform the leg press exercise using one leg at a time. This variation helps correct strength imbalances and increases the demand on each leg individually.
  • Pause Reps: Integrate pause reps into your leg press routine. Pause at the bottom of the movement for a few seconds while maintaining muscle tension. This technique increases the time under tension, promoting muscle growth and strength.
  • Drop Sets: After completing a set with a challenging weight, immediately reduce the weight and continue performing reps until failure. This technique fatigues the muscles and stimulates further muscle development.
  • Slow Eccentrics: Concentrate on controlling the motion’s lowering phase (eccentric phase). Take about 3-4 seconds to lower the footplate, increasing the time under tension and enhancing muscle activation.

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Common leg Press mistakes solved

Here are some joint leg press mistakes and how to solve them:

Common Leg Press Mistakes
  1. Improper Foot Placement: Placing your feet too high or too low on the footplate can lead to ineffective targeting of the muscles and potential strain. Aim to position your feet hip-width apart, centred on the footplate, with your heels flat and toes slightly pointed outward.
  2. Insufficient Range of Motion: Partial reps or not going through a full range of motion can limit the effectiveness of the exercise. Lower the weight until your knees are at approximately a 90-degree angle, allowing your thighs to come parallel to the footplate. Ensure you extend your legs fully without locking your knees at the top of the motion.
  3. Excessive Weight: Using excessive weight can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury. Start with a manageable weight that allows you to perform the exercise with proper form and gradually increase the load as your strength improves.
  4. Pushing with Toes: Pushing primarily with your toes can put excessive strain on your knees and diminish the involvement of the targeted leg strengths. Instead, focus on driving through your heels, using your entire foot for a more balanced and effective action.
  5. Lack of Control: Rapid or jerky movements can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury. Maintain a controlled pace, emphasising the contraction of your muscles throughout the entire range of motion.
  6. Neglecting Breathing: Proper breathing technique is often overlooked but crucial for stability and exertion during the leg press. Inhale as you lower the weight and exhale as you push the weight away from your body, coordinating your breath with the activity.

Also Read:10 Best Leg Workout Exercises

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