Leg Press Exercise Safety Tips: Warm-up & Precautions

What is Leg Press Exercise? 

Leg press exercise is also known as seated leg press, machine squat press and machine leg press. The primary target of the leg press are the quadriceps but it also strengthens your glutes, hamstrings and thighs. Contrary to the popular understanding, this is not a replacement exercise for squats, rather it aims to increase leg strength while minimizing the strain on your lower body. Two types of equipment are available for performing this exercise: the horizontal press and the vertical or 45-degree press. The latter is built in a way that your lower body is positioned at an angle of 45 degree from the ground. 

Leg Press Exercise Variations 

The leg press has many variations. A few of them are discussed below.  

Drop Sets 

After you have performed three to four of your regular sets, perform one final set in the reverse order, that is, perform eight reps and reduce the weight by the same amount you increased it. Perform eight more reps and drop the weight again. Continue doing this till you have completed four sets of 8 reps. 

3-Second Descents 

This variation is for maximizing size. Three-second descents maximize this particular mechanical tension. 

Perform low rep sets and reach your usual working weight. Then perform more sets of 8 repetitions each using 3-second descents. 

Wide & Narrow Stance Press 

Similar to the sumo squat, the leg press targets your inner quadriceps. The range of motion remains the same, just make sure that you keep your feet flat and do not move your buttocks from the seat. The narrow stance press targets your outer thighs. Your feet will be much closer in this variation and the main pressure will be on your quads. This is very beneficial for those who want to build explosive quadriceps. 

High and low Stance Press 

For higher activation of your hamstrings and glutes, keep your feet a little higher than usual. For greater activation of your quadriceps assume a much lower stance than usual. 

Alternating Leg Press 

Instead of using both your legs at the same time, lie down on the seat sideways. Keep one foot on the plate and your hand on the side or your head. Your toe should be facing towards the direction your face is looking at. Push the plate forward and straighten your leg completely. Pause and return to the starting position. Perform 10-12 repetitions then change your side. Perform the same number of repetitions with the other leg in a similar manner. 

Calve Pushes 

You can also use the machine for exercising your calves. Sit on the seat exactly like we mentioned before. Only put your toes at the lower end of the plate so that your heels are hanging below. Push the plate forward and when your legs are absolutely straight push the plate back and forth using just your toes. You will feel your calves flex.  

Exercise Ball 

If you do not have access to the gym for whatever reasons and you do not have a leg press machine at home, you can still do the leg press. Just take an exercise ball and press it between your back and the wall. Keep your feet shoulder width apart, while keeping the ball pressed. Lower your hips towards the floor, as low as you can go. Pause and hold, return to the original position. Repeat as many times as you easily can. 

How to Do Leg Press Exercise? 

The horizontal/vertical press should be set according to the lifter’s body. Adjust the seat/reclining seat and the distance between your feet in such a way that your buttocks do not slip and nor feel any pain. 

  •  Keeping your feet as wide as your hips and your back resting firmly against the padding, grasp the support handles on each side. 
  • Keeping your head and neck aligned, push the plate away from yourself with your feet.
  • Straighten your legs entirely in a slow rhythmic motion instead of jerking your body and exhale while pushing your legs forward. Pause and hold. 
  • Let your knees roll inwards back to the starting position. Keeping your feet and back flat, inhale. 
  • Do three to four sets of 10-16 repetitions with progressive overload. 

Tools Used for Leg Press Exercise 

  • Proper gym wear is absolutely essential for performance as well as safety. 
  • Use knee and ankle braces if you feel pain in any of them. 
  • Always keep a towel with yourself for cleaning your sweat. 
  • Always keep a bottle of water for hydrating yourself. 
  • Wear weight training gloves for protecting your hands from getting rough. 
  • Wear the right training shoes that match your workout routine. 

Most Effective Leg Press Warm-up 

Warming up before your workout increases the flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body. It also increases your mobility and therefore there are less chances of injury. 

 Pre-Workout Warm-up 

  • A 10-15-minute light cardio like running at normal speed on a treadmill or using the ellipticals will engage all your leg muscles and warm up your entire body. 
  • Doing one to two sets of bodyweight lunges will heat up your quadriceps and hamstrings. 
  • A set of burpees combined with a set of box jumps will warm-up your legs for good.
  • Perform one to two sets of bodyweight squats to warm up for leg press. 
  • Perform a 10-15 rope skipping session for the whole body to warm up especially your legs. 
  • A 10-15-minute session of stretching exercises will increase your agility and loosen up stiff muscles. 
  • Perform two sets of leg press using the machine without weights. 

 Post Workout 

  • Cool down by performing a 10-minute slow speed walk on the treadmill. 
  • Perform a stretching session of 10 minutes including static and dynamic stretches.
  • Perform meditation or deep breathing for relaxing your nerves. 
  • Perform yoga exercises. 

 Leg Press Safety Precautions 

  • If you are using the leg press for the first time, request the trainer to perform it for you first. 
  • Clean the seat with a towel before using it; it might be covered in sweat if someone else used it before you. 
  • Hold the safety bars throughout the workout and lock them in if you feel the weight is too much for you or if you feel any pain. 
  • Keep the moving parts greased and oiled so that they don’t get stuck during workout.
  • When you are done using the machine, unrack the weight and clean the seat. 
  • Wear proper attire for your workout; extra loose clothes can get stuck in gym machines. 

 Leg Press Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Always perform a full body warm-up before starting any exercise. 
  • If you are absolutely new to leg press, try doing a few sets without weights to develop the right form. 
  • Always use as much weight as you can without over straining your legs and lower back.
  • Keep your feet flat on the plate. Do not use just your toes or just your heels to push the plate. 
  • Do not use dynamic movements, instead a slow and gradual movement. 
  • Keep your buttocks flat on the padding. 
  • Do not keep your hands on your knees while performing this exercise. 
  • Breathing right will multiply your results. Exhale when pushing forward, inhale when rolling inwards. 
  • Keep your head laid back on the seat; do not move it back and forth. 
  • Do not forget to adjust the machine according to your body length. 

 Leg Press Exercise Pre & Post Workout Recovery 

  • For Pre-workout recovery, if you have tense muscles, or you feel you have muscle knots, use a muscle foam roller to relax the knots and loosen the stiff muscles. 
  • Pre-Workout recovery can also be enhanced if you use a percussion gun to improve your blood flow and oxygen supply thus reducing the risk of injury. 
  • Drink or eat a protein-carb combination drink or meal at least 1-2 hours before your workout. 
  • If you do not have hypertension, drink a cup of black coffee without added sugar before you start working out. 
  • For post workout recovery, always perform cool down after a tough workout. 
  • Take a warm bath followed by a cold bath. Alternate temperature therapy is good for healing your muscles. 
  • Hydrate yourself properly with mineral water or a protein drink. 
  • Take a nap as sleeping enhances post workout recovery. 
  • Give yourself a massage or get one from your partner. 

 Leg Press Exercise is Good for

  • Beginners who are new to workout can benefit from leg press by building strength and balance. 
  • People who have suffered from an injury and need to recover can benefit with proper guidance. 
  • Improves lower body muscle growth especially glutes, thighs, calves and hamstrings.
  • Great for improving training volume of squats and other leg exercises.
  • Greatly improves testosterone levels which improves the quality of your workout. 
  •  Improves quadricep hypertrophy.   
  • Particularly beneficial for strong man competitors, power trainers and Olympic weightlifters. 
  • Contributes greatly towards building core strength.