Matt Gemkow, the author of this content section at Select Fitness USA, boasts more than 15 years of fitness experience. He started out in sports and athletic training for many years and has since 2014 transitioned into heavy-weight training and bodybuilding. As a result, he has become one of the most experienced fitness equipment experts out there, and a valuable source of information.
Does Leg Press Help Your Squat? Unlock Explosive Squat Gains
Are you looking to take your squat to new heights?
If you're not already using the leg press machine in your training, you are missing out. The Leg Press 100% helps in improving the barbell squat.
In this article, we'll explore the benefits and limitations of the leg press machine as a squatting accessory exercise, how it can help improve squat performance, and how to program it effectively into your training program.
Get ready to take your squat game to new heights with the leg press!
P.S: Stick around to the end where we share the best ways to use the leg press to improve the barbell squat.
Related: Leg Press Vs. Squat
Benefits Of The Leg Press Machine
The leg press is a popular gym machine used to build lower body strength and muscle mass.
It offers several benefits for individuals looking to improve their squat numbers:
Building Lower Body Strength: Stronger leg muscles can improve squat performance by increasing the amount of weight that can be lifted and the number of repetitions that can be performed. The leg press will help you gain strength in your legs which carries over to the squat.
Targeting Specific Leg Muscles: Training on the leg press machine and the squat gives your stabilizer muscles a rest while your legs continue to be pounded into new levels of strength. Training the squat can be done by squatting more of course, and it's beneficial to also work the main muscles involved in an isolated way as well.
Reducing Lower Back Strain: Leg presses can be a great exercise for individuals who experience lower back pain or strain when performing squats. By taking the load off the lower back and placing it on the legs, leg presses can help individuals build leg strength without putting excess strain on the lower back which can actually harm their squat performance.
Customizable Resistance: Leg presses offer viable options for resistance at all types of rep ranges. Training the squat to become stronger gets difficult in higher rep ranges to do form fatigue. The leg press can help push through form fatigue and further train the legs once at a certain level of exhaustion.
Overall, leg presses can be a valuable addition to a well-rounded training program focused on building lower body strength and improving squat performance.
By targeting specific leg muscles, reducing lower back strain, and offering customizable resistance, leg presses can help individuals build leg strength and muscle mass, leading to improved squat performance and overall fitness.
Related: 11 Benefits of the Leg Press Machine
Limitations of Leg Press Machines
While leg presses offer the above benefits for building lower body strength and muscle mass, there are also limitations to their effectiveness as a squatting accessory exercise. Some of these limitations include:
Lack of Core and Upper Body Stability: Leg presses do not require the same level of core and upper body stability as squats. This can limit their effectiveness as a squatting accessory exercise, as squats require a strong core and upper back to maintain proper form and technique.
Limited Development of Balance and Proprioception: Leg presses can limit the development of balance and proprioception, which are important for squatting. Squats require individuals to balance the weight on their shoulders and maintain proper alignment, which improves balance and proprioception over time. Leg presses, on the other hand, do not require the same level of balance and alignment, which can limit their effectiveness as a squatting accessory exercise.
Limited Range of Motion: Leg presses offer a limited range of motion compared to squats, which can limit their effectiveness in building overall lower body strength and improving squat performance. Squats require individuals to move through a full range of motion, some might call (ass to grass).
Leg presses lack the core and upper body stability and balance development required for squats, as well as the full range of motion needed to build overall lower body strength.
Therefore, leg presses should be used as a supplementary exercise to squats rather than a replacement.
How Leg Presses Can Help the Squat
Leg press machines are a valuable asset when looking for new ways to increase you squat. Here are some specific ways the help the squat:
Training Specific Weaknesses: If you personally have a specific weakness that limits your squat in one aspect, using the leg press to isolate that weakness is highly useful. For instance, if you fail your squats at the top of a rep rather than the bottom, you have a quad weakness that can easily be targeted and improved on the leg press.
Offering Customizable Resistance: Leg presses allow individuals to adjust their weight according to their strength level and training goals. By gradually increasing the weight over time, individuals can improve their leg strength and muscle mass, leading to improved squat performance overall.
Low Neurological Fatigue: Leg presses require far less neurological energy which many people fail to take into consideration. You may be finished with multiple heavy sets of squats and feel drained of energy, yet your legs are still kicking. In this instance, you must continue to train the legs to complete failure in a lower neurological stress environment like the leg press.
- Effectiveness at many rep ranges: The leg press is effective at all rep ranges. After training the squat with heavy weights and a lower amount of reps, you may still have some energy in the tank which you must expel in another way, at a lower weight and high volume of reps. We suggest using the leg press in this very common situation.
Overall, leg presses are a valuable addition to a squat-focused training program.
By building leg and glute strength, training specific weaknesses, offering customizable resistance, and reducing lower back strain, leg presses can help individuals improve their squat performance and reduce the risk of injury.
How to Program the Leg Press To Help The Squat
Here are some helpful guidelines for programming the squat with a supplemental leg press workout:
Targeting a weakness:
Use the leg press to target specific weaknesses you have in the squat.
For example, if you struggle with leg drive, perform leg presses with a narrower stance and higher reps to target the quadriceps and build strength in this area.
If you fail at the bottom of a squat rep, then try training with heavy leg presses at a deep range of motion.
Supplementing with high-volume leg press sets:
Very commonly, we at Select Fitness USA will train heavy sets of squats for strength focus, and be at a point where the form starts to become the limiting factor of the reps. In this case, moving to the leg press will be helpful to continue training the legs without so much attention and energy going to the form.
Incorporate high-volume leg press sets into your training program to build leg strength and muscle mass, post-squat session.
For example, after 3 sets of 5 reps on squats with a heavy weight load, perform multiple sets, possibly 3-5, of 12-15 reps with a moderate to light weight load, to switch up the rep range and continue stressing the legs.
Training the legs iso-laterally:
Use the leg press to train the legs iso-laterally, or one leg at a time.
This can help improve balance and stability, which are important for squat performance.
For example, perform sets of single-leg leg presses with moderate weight and high reps after a session of squats to supplement for the areas commonly left out of isolation during a squat, and a typical leg press.
Overloading leg press and de-loading on squat:
Use the leg press as a way to overload the legs with heavyweight, while de-loading on the squat.
This can help prevent injury and overtraining, while still building leg strength.
For example, perform heavy leg presses with a low rep range, while performing squats with lighter weights higher reps, one after the other.
This instance would like the following:
3-5 sets of 5-8 reps of heavy leg presses, followed by 3-5 working sets at the same exact rep range.
This will result in the development of strength and stability at the same rep ranges on the two exercises.
Super setting heavy squats and light leg presses:
Superset heavy squats with light leg presses to improve leg strength and endurance.
For example, perform heavy squats with a low rep range, immediately followed by light leg presses with a higher rep range.
This can help improve overall leg strength and muscle mass.
This type of workout gets exhausting, so bring your water and Intra workout drinks.
In conclusion, while the leg press and squat are both lower-body exercises, they have distinct differences in terms of their effectiveness for building strength and muscle mass.
While the leg press can be a valuable supplementary exercise to the squat, it should not be used as a replacement.
Leg presses can be used to target specific weaknesses in the squat, build leg and glute strength, and train balance and stability, but they do not require the same level of core and upper body stability as the squat.
When programming the leg press to help the squat, it is important to prioritize the squat, target specific weaknesses, gradually increase resistance, vary repetition ranges and sets, and incorporate leg presses into a well-rounded training program.
If you need a new or replacement leg press of your own, check out our collection of leg press machines!