The Best Leg Press Foot Placement For Strength & Size
The leg press is a fantastic exercise at all stages of your development in the gym. But what is the best leg press foot placement?
This lower body exercise will allow you to effectively train the glutes, quads, and adductor muscles at the same time. It is one of the larger more intimidating machines on the gym floor but is well worth conquering your fears, especially when you know where exactly to plant your feet.
Unlike the barbell back squat, the leg press is done in a fully seated position. This seated position will allow you to have additional support on the lower back while still being able to push massive amounts of weight.
So What Is The Correct Leg Press Foot Placement?
Typically, members of the gym will apply a wide range of different foot positions when using the leg press machine. Using slightly different foot placements is believed to “emphasize” certain areas of the legs, or perhaps place more emphasis on the glutes.
Although altering your foot placement may place more stress on a target muscle, I would still recommended you only try advanced techniques after mastering the fundamentals of this exercise first.
That is, choose a foot position that will allow you to lift as heavy as possible through a full range of motion. This will ensure all muscles in the given movement pattern (glutes, quads, and adductors) will be forced to work in unison. Remember, all boats float in a rising tide.
The same movement cues from the goblet squat will easily transfer over to the leg press. I strongly suggest you go back and read this post now if you haven’t already.
Step by Step: Leg Press For Glutes And Quad Growth
Step 1: Setting Up The Leg Press
In most commercial gyms you will able to find either a plate-loaded leg press or a cable-loaded leg press somewhere on the gym floor.
The main difference between the two types is how you adjust the weights. With the plate loaded leg press you must load on the weight plates manually.
While The cable loaded leg press has the weight stack built into the machine itself. All you have to do is move the pin-up and down. Generally, the cable loaded machine will have instructions attached and the plate loaded machine can look far more complicated at first glance. Lots of bars sticking out everywhere.
Don’t look so nervous though. It’s not as scary as it looks. Nowhere near as scary as they used to be anyway.
Anyway, just load on a small amount of weight to start off, and don’t forget to take a seat. It’s why we are leg pressing after all. Relaxing cushions. The moving plate (platform) you will be kicking with your feet is quite heavy on its own so you are best off underloading than overloading while getting used to the machine.
Normally there is a safety mechanism holding the footplate in place. It will be somewhere on your right or left-hand side. You will need to undo the safety catch so the plate can travel through a full range of motion.
BUT NOT YET!!!
Before we release the safety bar we should establish a firm foot position and wedge our lower back firmly into the seat pad. This is an important point. I will reference it again later so make sure to remember! Lower back pressed against the seat.
Step 2: Leg Press Foot Placement
As I mentioned already. You should find a foot position that allows you to perform a full range of motion while keeping your feet fully planted on the platform. Typically I will start with my own feet high and wide on the platform as this works well for my personal hip anatomy.
Now, if you can imagine in your mind that the platform is actually the face of a clock, you will want to point your left foot to 11 o’clock and your right foot to 1 o’clock. So both feet pointed slightly out.
After your first rep or two, you can go back and adjust any of these positions. Most leg press machines themselves will feel different so the foot position will be unique to you. Thankfully muscle memory will naturally find your best position with continued practice.
Step 3: Start of the Rep
Now! To start the rep you will want to gradually apply tension to the footplate and press forward with your legs. What you are doing here is slowly testing the weight. You should be able to easily press the weight forward while keeping the safety catch on.
In this position (the start position) the weight plate will be relatively easy to move. Trust me, it gets harder the lower you go.
If you can bearly lift the platform in this position you have no hope of actually performing a complete set with a full range of motion. Now is the time to go and reduce that weight.
When you find that goldilocks weight zone, and can easily lift the platform from its start position, you may finally release the safety bar.
But make sure your legs are fully supporting the weight of the platform before releasing the handle.
Step 4: Completing the set
Return your hands back to their resting position. Most leg presses are designed to include handles down by your sides. This is so you can hold on for dear life as you complete your workout.
Next, You can begin to lower the weight plate, and your feet, towards your body. As you slowly lower the weight you will need to keep your knees pressed out. Exactly like we described earlier in the goblet squat tutorial. Told you should read it.
Now here are the 4 Golden Rules for a long healthy relationship with your leg press.
1. Only go as low as you can keep your foot position fully planted on the platform. If your heels start to lift up. You need to reassess your foot position or work on your ankle mobility.
2. Only go as low as you can while maintaining lower back contact with the seat (told you to remember). When your lower back comes away from the seat, that is your spine flexing to facilitate a greater range of motion. Essentially, your hips have gone to their end range and now your spine is curling to do the rest. You do not want your spine to curl while doing a leg press.
3. Always use a full range of motion. Go down as low as you can. The greater the range the more you get from this exercise. Your muscle can’t count weight. It feels stress and responds accordingly by making you stronger. Remember, It is more beneficial to do a full range of motion leg press with 50kg than it is to do a partial rep with 200kg.
4. “Do not lock out your legs/knees”. You will hear this often throughout your time in the gym or reading amazing blog posts online (just like this). We know already the best leg press foot placements and that we should complete a full range of motion.
However, You should not go so straight with your knees/legs that all the tension of the weight is just sitting down through the joints and connective tissue.
!!!SENSITIVE CONTENT WARNING!!!
Suitable Alternative To Leg Press
If you have followed this is step by step guide for the leg press above and still find the exercise uncomfortable, I would recommend you try a different type of leg press machine.
In my time spent as a gym manager, I have learned that it’s always good to have a few different types of leg press on the gym floor. Like every good exercise, there is no such thing as one size fits all.
If you still can’t figure this exercise out, or there is no leg press available in your gym, you could always substitute a different exercise for the time being.
Any lower body exercise that trains both glutes and quads at the same time will be a suitable alternative to the leg press as long as it stimulates growth.
All our training programs are now free to download. We have plenty of programs designed using a leg press and suitable leg press alternatives.
You can create a FREE Workout using amazing 3D Models using the 3D Muscle Model Workout Builder
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an expert in the field of leg press exercises, I can confidently provide you with valuable information regarding the best leg press foot placement for strength and size. My expertise is backed by extensive research and personal experience, allowing me to share evidence-based recommendations that will help you maximize your leg press training.
The leg press is an exceptional exercise that targets the glutes, quads, and adductor muscles simultaneously. Unlike the barbell back squat, the leg press is performed in a fully seated position, providing additional support to the lower back while allowing you to handle heavy weights. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the correct foot placement to optimize your leg press workout.
Many gym-goers tend to experiment with various foot positions on the leg press machine, believing that different positions emphasize specific muscle groups or enhance glute activation. While altering foot placement may indeed target specific muscles, I strongly advise mastering the fundamentals of the exercise before attempting advanced techniques. It is essential to choose a foot position that enables you to lift heavy weights through a full range of motion, ensuring all muscles involved in the movement pattern (glutes, quads, and adductors) are engaged harmoniously.
To determine the correct leg press foot placement, start by setting up the machine. Commercial gyms typically offer two types of leg press machines: plate-loaded and cable-loaded. The plate-loaded leg press requires manually loading weight plates, while the cable-loaded leg press has a built-in weight stack that can be adjusted using a pin. Familiarize yourself with the specific instructions for the machine you are using.
Once you have set up the leg press machine, it's crucial to establish a firm foot position and ensure your lower back is firmly pressed against the seat pad. This position provides stability and prevents potential injuries. Now, imagine the platform of the leg press machine as the face of a clock. In most cases, starting with your feet high and wide on the platform works well, considering individual hip anatomy. Point your left foot to 11 o'clock and your right foot to 1 o'clock, with both feet slightly turned outwards. After performing a rep or two, you can readjust your foot position based on your comfort and the machine's feel. Over time, muscle memory will guide you to find your optimal foot placement with practice.
To initiate the leg press movement, gradually apply tension to the footplate and push forward with your legs. This action allows you to test the weight and ensure it can be lifted easily while keeping the safety catch engaged. If you struggle to lift the platform in this starting position, it is advisable to reduce the weight. Once you find the appropriate weight, release the safety bar, ensuring your legs are fully supporting the weight before letting go of the handle.
While completing your leg press set, keep your knees pressed outward, similar to the technique described in the goblet squat tutorial. There are four golden rules to maintain a long and healthy relationship with your leg press exercise:
Only go as low as you can while keeping your foot position fully planted on the platform. If your heels start to lift up, reassess your foot placement or work on ankle mobility.
Maintain lower back contact with the seat throughout the movement. Avoid flexing your spine by keeping your lower back firmly pressed against the seat.
Use a full range of motion, going as low as possible. The greater the range, the more benefits you will derive from the exercise. Remember, muscle responds to stress and adapts accordingly, so performing a full range of motion with lighter weights is more beneficial than partial repetitions with heavier weights.
Avoid locking out your legs or knees. While it's important to complete a full range of motion, going completely straight with your knees can place excessive stress on the joints and connective tissues. Find a position that maintains tension on the muscles without compromising joint integrity.
If you find the leg press exercise uncomfortable or if your gym does not have a leg press machine, there are suitable alternatives available. Explore different types of leg press machines, as each may offer a unique experience. Additionally, any lower body exercise that targets both the glutes and quads simultaneously can serve as a suitable substitute for the leg press, as long as it stimulates muscle growth.
I hope this comprehensive guide to leg press foot placement has provided you with valuable insights and will enhance your leg press workouts. Remember to always prioritize proper form and listen to your body's signals to ensure safe and effective training.