6 Laws of the Leg Press
If the barbell squat is considered to be the king of all leg day exercises then the heir to the throne would most definitely be the leg press. It is considered by many to be the second most significant movement for building size and strength in the lower body and perhaps the most versatile as well. The leg press will allow you to use the most weight while keeping relative safety concerns at bay and with minor manipulations to your positioning, you can focus in on different muscle groups using the same apparatus. With that said, there are rules that need to be followed and laws that have been put in place to enhance the effectiveness of this movement; and here they are.
Law #1: Don't Ego Lift
Far too often you will see people in the gym load up the leg press with weights they have no business attempting. Yeah it looks cool when you can't see the loading bars because they're filled to the end with plates but that doesn't mean you'll look cool trying to press it. Stay within your power parameters and train intelligently.
Law #2: Go Deep
Closely related to law #1 is the self-enforcement of going as deep as you can on the negative. To truly benefit from this exercise, you can't perform half reps and more often than not, quarter reps with a ton of weight loaded up. It just doesn't make any sense to half use a machine that has so much muscle gaining potential.
Law #3: Keep your Lower Back Flat
This one is more for your own safety benefit than anything else. When you adhere to law #2, sometimes what you'll find is that your hip flexibility isn't that great. When this happens, the tendency is for your hips to roll up and your lower back to leave the back pad. This is a very vulnerable position to be in and lower back injury can easily occur. Instead, progressively work on getting lower in the press and allow for your hip flexibility to catch up with your ambitions.
Law #4: Foot Placement
You have to decide which area of the lower body you are going to focus in on or decide to cover all areas at once. To do this it's very simple; play around with the positioning of your feet on the pressing carriage. Feet up high will shift the focus to your glutes and hamstrings. Feet down low will focus more on the quadriceps. Feet out wide and you'll target the inner thigh and feet in close you'll be hitting more of the outer sweep of the quad.
Law #5: Drive Through your Heels
To safely and effectively employ the most power during the leg press it is highly recommended that you push the weight back up by driving through your heels. By doing so you take a lot of the pressure off of the knee joint and put it on the muscles instead. The easiest way to do this is to wear a really good pair of flat soled shoes. I'm personally performing all of my leg day exercises in the Flat Sole Green Anaconda Hightop Bodybuilding Sneaker and I couldn't be happier with their performance capabilities.
Law #6: Stop Shy of Lockout
The last law you need to ensure you're abiding by so that you don't pose any threat to your health is to always stop just shy of lock out at the top of the press. If you do lockout there's a really good chance that momentum could get the best of you because of your power and what will end up happening is when your legs are at full extension, the weight may come back down on you causing you to hyperextend your knee. You do not want this to happen.
So there you have it my friends, six laws to live by when in the leg press. And remember, you can't build a solid house without a foundation and it's not hype, it's Heyday!
Author: Dana Bushell
AST Sports Science sponsored athlete/writer, sponsored by Schiek Sports Inc.