The 5 Best Ways to Utilise a Leg Press Machine For Muscle Growth
The leg press is an excellent machine because it offers impressive versatility, good overload, and the ability to build a rock-solid lower body.
Plus, contrary to what some people believe, we can make countless adjustments to use the leg press in different ways and spark impressive muscle growth.
Without further ado, let’s dive into five fun (and painful) ways to force growth with the leg press.
1. Lift Heavy WeightsThe most straightforward way to utilise the leg press machine for muscle growth is to lift heavy weights. Doing so is beneficial for causing more mechanical tension, which stimulates muscle growth.
What makes the leg press different from other gym equipment is the fantastic overload potential you can take advantage of without sacrificing training form. You can load up an impressive amount of weight and still train with proper form and a full range of motion. Plus, thanks to the leg press’ design, you can’t use momentum or have other muscles help you lift the weight. Your legs have to do all the work.
As a rule of thumb, you should start with the load you use for a barbell back squat. For example, if you can back squat 300 pounds for 5x5, begin with that load and go from there. Since the leg press doesn’t require exceptional stability or balance, you’ll probably be able to do at least 7 or 8 repetitions with that load.
2. Go For Metabolic StressAside from mechanical tension, we can spark muscle growth by causing large amounts of metabolic stress. The best and most painful way to achieve this is to lift weights in the 15-25 repetition range.
To pull this method off effectively, start with a more conservative weight, even if you can do 30+ repetitions on the first set. Fatigue will set in quickly because of metabolite build-up, and your performance will drop significantly from set to set. Plus, your quadriceps are large muscles, and you will feel an intense burning sensation if you attack them with lots of repetitions.
You can also utilise partial reps to exhaust your quadriceps thoroughly. The tactic works great near the end of your workout. To do this, add a conservative amount of weight to the leg press and sit down. But instead of doing complete repetitions, train in a partial range of motion, aiming to burn your quadriceps out. Do two to three sets where you move through the middle range of motion and keep constant tension on your quadriceps.
3. Experiment With Foot StanceMost people who use the leg press hinder themselves because they choose a specific foot stance and stick with it forever. But just as variety is the spice of life, it’s also the spice of optimal muscle growth.
Your foot stance on the leg press can significantly impact which areas you emphasise and develop. For example:
Placing your feet high and apart from one another puts your hamstrings, glutes, and adductors at a mechanical advantage. Using this stance will therefore allow you to emphasise these muscles better.
Placing your feet close together and at the middle of the footplate allows you to emphasise your quadriceps better.
It’s also important to note that these are just recommendations you can try. Each leg press machine comes with a unique design, so it’s essential to experiment and see what allows you to train your lower body best. Your anatomy, flexibility, and preferences will also play a role.
You can place the balls of your feet at the edge of the footplate with your heels in the air. Straighten your legs and begin to push through your ankles for a great calf workout.
4. Do Drop Sets
Drop sets are an effective way to push past your limits, exhaust your muscles thoroughly, do more work, and reap better results from your training.
A drop set works like this:
You do an exercise with a specific load and train until or close to muscle failure. You then drop the weight and immediately proceed to do as many extra repetitions as you can. For example, you might do ten reps on the leg press with 245 pounds and get close to failure. You would then drop, say, ten per cent of the load and proceed to do a few extra repetitions.
Doing drop sets can be useful because pushing your muscles can recruit more motor units and cause more significant disruption. As a result, you could build more muscle and strength. The tactic might also help you overcome a plateau.
5. Pyramind Up And DownPyramid training refers to the progressive increase or decrease in training load from set to set. For example, pyramid training might look like this:
Set 1 - 135 pounds x 12 reps
Set 2 - 155 pounds x 10 reps
Set 3 - 185 pounds x 8 reps
Set 4 - 205 pounds x 5 reps
In contrast, a reverse pyramid would start with the heaviest load and go down from there:
Set 1 - 205 pounds x 5 reps
Set 2 - 185 pounds x 8 reps
Set 3 - 155 pounds x 10 reps
Set 4 - 135 pounds x 12 reps
Pyramid training also involves the increase or decrease of repetitions to maintain proper form and challenge yourself adequately. For example, if you pyramid up 20 pounds, it’s only normal to do fewer reps. In contrast, if you go down in weight, you have to increase the number of repetitions to compensate.
So what makes pyramid training beneficial? Shouldn’t you simply do straight sets and move on to the next exercise?
Pyramid training is beneficial because it allows you to stress your muscles in different ways within the same exercise. For example, heavy sets where you do fewer repetitions cause greater mechanical tension and stimulate strength gains. In contrast, lighter sets of more reps cause more metabolic stress and contribute to muscular endurance.