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.
How Heavy Is The Leg Press Without Weights?
If you've used the leg press machine at your local gym, have a leg press of your own, or are researching before getting one, you like many others might wonder what the weight of the leg press is with no added weights on it.
This is a common question because people really don't know what the starting weight of any leg press machine is, they just load up weight and start pushing.
We're here to let you in on some details and a sneaky little secret about the leg press machine you may not know.
Lets get in to the details!
How Much is The Leg Press Starting Weight With No Plates?
The starting weight of a leg press machine is generally around 50-150 lbs. including the weight sled or footplate.
This widely depends on the type of leg press machine, as well as the make and model, as each one has different specifications and sizes.
Today, we are going into detail about 3 of the most popular types of leg presses, their starting weights, and the actual force of the weight, which is commonly left out.
Why Is This Important?
The starting weight on a leg press machine is good to know for beginners who are starting out very light, as well as anyone who is trying to map out their strength as accurately as possible.
Most people don't take into consideration the starting weight of the leg press because it is not an Olympic lift, so technically it doesn't matter. Although others would like to know how much weight exactly they are pressing.
The Actual Weight On The Leg Press
A common mis-conception is that if you put 100 lbs. on a leg press, you are pushing 100 lbs.
This is simply not true unless you're using a vertical leg press which has a 1:1 weight ratio.
All other leg press machines operate at some type of an angle which offputs the weight and the direct force of gravity.
On a squat, gravity is pulling the weight of the barbell directly downwards against you. On a leg press the sled or footplate is pushed at an angle, actually making the weight you feel like you're pushing, less.
Incline Linear Leg Press Starting Weight
The starting weight of an incline linear leg press machine varies depending on the make and model, but is comprised of the empty leg press sled that slides up and down the linear rail system.
Typically, the sled of the machine weighs around 70lbs. to roughly 150lbs, but this can vary significantly brand to brand.
In addition to the weight of the sled, the angle of the incline which sometimes varies also, can change the actual feeling of the starting weight. More detail on that in the next section.
Weight Of The Sled:
As mentioned earlier, the weight of the sled in an incline linear leg press machine can vary from 70 to 150 pounds roughly.
This is the exact weight of the sled itself. If you take off the sled and put it on a scale, it would read out a certain number. This however, does not mean that's the amount of weight you're actually required to push.
The actual weight of an incline leg press that must force away from your body is the exact weight of the sled, adjusted for the force of gravity which is acting on the weight at an angle!
Its not the same as a squat or vertical leg press where the angle is zero, and the force is directly on you.
To calculate the exact force required to push the sled up the leg press, you need the angle of the leg press, the weight of the sled, and a little help from trigonometry or google.
For example, if the sled weights exactly 100 lbs. and the leg press is a 45 degree leg press, the actual force required to push it up, is 70.7 Lbs!
Leverage Pivot Leg Press Starting Weight
The starting weight of a leverage pivot leg press machine is typically between 20 to 50 pounds, depending on the make and model.
This weight represents the empty leg press lever arm and weight pegs that move up and down the pivot point of the machine.
The weight mechanics of a leverage pivot leg press machine are based on a simple lever formula.
The actual weight of the lever arm, footplate, and weight plate pegs, combine to make up the starting weight of the machine. That total number is put into an equation which accounts for the angle of the machine that offputs the force of gravity.
For example, if the total weight of the footplate, lever arm, and empty weight plate pegs, is 50 lbs. the actual force required to push the weight is less than 50 lbs.
The starting weight on the leverage pivot leg press in reality is pretty close to 0 because of the balancing that happens between the footplate and the empty weight plate pegs on either side of the pivot point.
If you need to start out with very light weight, the leverage pivot leg press machine is a great to do it on.
Horizontal Seated Leg Press Starting Weight
The Horizontal Seated Leg Press machine is a popular leg press machine found in many gyms.
It is a different design compared to the incline and leverage pivot leg press machines.
These types are usually resisted with a selectorized weight stack that uses a pin to place the weight resistance you want on the machine.
This differs from the others mentioned which were loaded by weight plates.
Base / Beginning Weight:
The beginning weight of a horizontal leg press that features a selectorized weight stack is actually just the weight of the first weigh plate.
If you can perform the movement without selecting any weight, then maybe its closer to 0 - 10 lbs.
If the machine is on a true horizontal base and range of motion, there should be no added difficulty in pushing the empty machine away from you.
When you add weights, the movement gets hard because the same horizontal range of motion is resisted by more weights.
Some of these horizontal seated leg presses are actually on a slight incline, and work inversely to others. Instead of the user pushing the footplate away from them, they push them selves away from the footplate.
In either situation the starting weight is relatively close to 0 or very light. As light as the first weight plate on the stack or the weight of the machine with 0 plates selected.
On a true horizontal leg press, the weight you place on the weight stack will be the actual force required to push the footplate, unless there is a pulley ratio that changes it.
In some machines the weight and cable function on a ratio that ranges from 1:2 to 2:1. In most cases its 1:1 meaning the weight you see is the weight you push.
Leg Press Weight Considerations and FAQ
Do You Count The Weight Of The Sled?
Well yes, the weight of the sled or beginning weight on a leg press machine is included in the total weight you are lifting.
This is the case for all types of leg presses, including linear, leverage, and horizontal seated leg presses.
Although this doesn't mean that you need to add up the weight of the leg press with no weight on it + the weight you load up on it, and then calculate the exact force you need to use to push the leg press.
It may be nice to know that you are pushing slightly less than you think, but the utility of this information is pretty much 0.
Why is the Leverage Leg Press Easier Than Linear Leg Press?
The leverage leg press is easier than the linear leg press because it uses a lever system to distribute the weight more evenly.
In a linear leg press, the weight comes at you at an angle but functions linearly, making it more difficult to lift.
However, in a leverage leg press, the weight is distributed at an angle, making it easier to push.
This is not to say you can't achieve the same amount of difficulty, but the leverage pivot leg press, may be easier with the same amount of weight plates as the linear leg press.
Is Leg Press Lighter Than Squats?
The leg press and squats are both effective exercises for building leg muscles, but they are not directly comparable in terms of weight.
While you can add more weight to a leg press machine than you can to a barbell for squats, the mechanics of the two exercises are different.
Additionally, the leg press takes some of the load off your core, allowing you to focus more on your legs.
What's The Starting Weight On a Smith Machine Leg Press?
The starting weight on a Smith machine leg press can vary depending on the make and model of the machine.
Typically the empty smith machine bar ranges from 20 to 50 pounds.
This exercise however is a directly 1:1 force ratio, so that 20 - 50 pounds is the actual weight you are feeling.
Wrapping Up The Leg Press Without Weights
To sum it up, if you didn't already know, the weight on the leg press machine to start can range from 0 - 150 lbs.
While that number may not be the force required to push the leg press, people often wonder what resistance is on the leg press with no weights
Depending on the type of leg press you are curious about, the angle of the motion, size of the levers, and starting weight plates can all affect the initial starting weight of a leg press machine.
If you want to check out some leg presses, and see what the starting weight of individual machines might be, check out our leg press machine collection, filled with options from top brands and manufacturers.
Contact us any time for help from an expert fitness equipment representative.