Last updated: 05/14/2020

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The leg press is one of the top options you have in the gym to define the muscles in your lower body. Strengthening your hamstrings, buttocks, and abductors will help you excel in sports such as tennis, cycling, swimming, or running, in all of which the press is used as complementary training.

Together with squats, this machine is one of the most complete exercises available for developing your lower body. If you simply don’t have time to go to your local gym, having a press is almost essential to reach your fitness goals. Balanced nutrition and rest are ideal to complete your routine.

Key Facts

  • A leg press allows you to train the muscles and joints of your legs while reducing the risk of injury.
  • Three types of presses are available on the market: vertical, horizontal, and incline (at 45 degrees).
  • You will have to evaluate various aspects of this machine before purchasing one: the maximum load capacity, the type of resistance and exercise you want to do, as well as the price and quality of the machine.

Our Selection: The Best Leg Presses on the U.S. Market

In the following section, we will introduce you to our selection of the very best presses currently on the market – whether vertical, horizontal, or incline. All of them are tailored to tone the muscles in your legs. However, each model comes with its own characteristics and features. Read all the descriptions below to help you make the right purchase.

Best Leg Press Overall

This Powertec Fitness leg press is a resistant-yet-compact machine that will help you achieve all your training goals. Its 4 weight horns can carry a total of 1,000 pounds, so weight limit won’t be an issue for most athletes. Equipped with safety levers and lateral grips, this leg press integrates a large foot plate and an adjustable backrest. This will allow you to switch from one muscle group to another in total comfort.

Best Vertical Leg Press

This vertical press contributes to a safe and reliable workout by stabilizing the back and hips. The steel frame has a maximum capacity of 400 pounds and is designed to distribute the weight uniformly. This device comes with adjustable steel locking pins so you can choose from three starting and stopping positions. The backrest includes a head-and-neck pad to protect you from potential injuries. 10-year warranty on the frame.

Best Leg Press for Beginners

If you are not used to using free weights and want a machine that fully guides your movements, then this horizontal press is exactly what you need. This compact home gym includes a weight stack reaching 160 pounds, which is plenty enough to get started and develop muscle endurance. The good news is that you won’t have to invest in any other gym equipment since you can do full-body workouts with the BSG10X!

Best Leg Press for Intense Workouts

Do you have concrete fitness goals? Are you a professional or aspiring athlete who needs to maximize the efficiency of his or her training? Look no further than Force USA’s leg press/hack squat combo. This machine has a maximum load capacity of 1,000 pounds, 4 plate horns, and a wide range of positions to tailor your training to your needs. Combine leg press exercises with hack squats and become a real monster in the gym!

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Leg Presses

As you now know, there are several types of presses that allow you to train your leg muscles. In many cases, the weight you lift will be very high, and you may be afraid of suffering an injury while pushing so many pounds at once. Luckily for you, all three types of presses will help you reach your fitness goals while reducing the risk of injury.

The vast majority of gyms use vertical presses.
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What is a leg press exactly?

It is one of the most efficient weight training machines since it will help you work on both your muscles and joints. Because of the complete workout it offers for the lower body, cyclists, runners, tennis players, and swimmers use it as a complementary training method to develop their overall fitness.

The leg press will allow you to stabilize your body and carry out a specific exercise while protecting your lumbar area from possible injury. The advantage is that you can easily change your routine. Depending on the placement of your feet on the platform, you can train your buttocks, quadriceps, hamstrings, or abductors.

SocratesGreek Philosopher

“For in everything that we do the body is useful; and in all uses of the body it is of great importance to be in as high a state of physical fitness as possible.”

What types of leg presses are there?

Strengthening your torso and preventing pain in the lower back are some of the benefits of leg training. This is why you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that working on your lower body isn’t so important. Leg presses are fantastic machines. Learn more about their different types below:

  • Vertical press: This is perhaps the most frequently found in gyms. You have to lift the weight from the bottom up. In order to do so, you support your back on the floor with your legs facing upward. The vertical press focuses more on your buttocks and hamstrings, and less on your quadriceps. It is considered to be less challenging than other presses.
  • Horizontal press: Less common, this machine has you sit down to train. This posture is precisely what will help you push more weight during your workout, although the movement of the legs is limited by your trunk. The muscle-building is most effective on the hamstrings and quadriceps, while the buttocks and calf muscles are left aside.
  • 45-degree incline press: Some people consider it to be the most complete type, as it activates all the muscles and joints of the legs. The broader movement increases the tension, making training with this press more challenging – and closer to squats. You simply have to make sure that your pelvis doesn’t tilt backward.
Type of press Position required Muscles trained
Vertical press Back on the ground with legs looking upward Quadriceps
Horizontal press Sitting (limited movement) Hamstrings and quadriceps
45-degree incline press Inclined, hip at 90 degrees Hamstrings, quadriceps, buttocks, and abductors

What is the purpose of the hydraulic leg press?

This type of press is designed for muscular rehabilitation. Often used for circuit training in groups, its intensity is much lower and, therefore, easier to adapt to a wide range of users. These machines allow you to develop all your leg muscles, although you will prefer the other types of presses if you want more challenging workouts.

Hydraulic leg presses are ideal for muscular rehabilitation.
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Which muscles can a leg press develop?

Every type of press will help you train your buttocks, quadriceps, abductors, and hamstrings. In addition, this machine strengthens your femur, tibia, and fibula while activating your core (abdominal muscles) and joints of the knees and hips. Simply changing the position of your feet on the platform is enough to switch from one muscle trained to another.

In that regard, you should place your feet in the upper part of the platform to exercise your buttocks and hamstrings. If, on the other hand, you have them in the lower part and at shoulder height, you will train your quadriceps. To work on your abductors, you must set the tip of your feet outwards and wider than your shoulders.

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Did you know that muscles represent 40% of your body weight?

What is the core?

The core is a set of muscles formed by the transverse abdominis, the obliques, the rectus abdominis, the pelvic floor, the diaphragm, the paravertebral musculature, the lower back, and the hip muscles. Located in the abdomen, it is responsible for protecting your organs. Proper training will prevent you from suffering from common health issues such as lower back pain.

Leg presses are fantastic machines to tone and build muscle in your lower body.
(Source: Biryukov: 118785122/ 123rf.com)

How should I use my leg press at home?

Regardless of the type of press you purchase, you should always follow specific rules that will reduce the risk of injury while helping you reach your goals. For example, your back must be fully supported by the backrest, and you must hold the lateral grips of the machine at all times.

Whether you have a vertical, horizontal, or incline press, it is not recommended to extend your legs fully. They should come close to your chest but never exceed 90 degrees of flexion. This means that your legs must be half bent to protect the joints of the knees. Perform your exercises with slow and continuous movements.

What are the differences between squats and leg presses?

Both squats and the leg press work intensively on your lower body. But despite the similarities between these two exercises, they also have several differences that you should keep in mind during your workouts. We have compared them in the list below:

  • While the press is guided and allows for greater stabilization of the body, the squat is a free weight exercise.
  • The stability of the press makes the work of the abdominal and lumbar area better than with squats.
  • The training of the leg muscles is much greater with the press as it allows a controlled weight increase.
  • The press secures the user in a set position, therefore reducing the risk of injury.
  • You can do squats anywhere, anytime without equipment, although they require much more technique to avoid injuries.
  • Both exercises will train specific muscles depending on the position of your feet.

What are the advantages of using a leg press at home?

These machines offer various benefits, among which toning and building muscle in your lower body. That being said, the press should be properly used to avoid back and knee problems. We have listed their main advantages and drawbacks below:

Advantages
  • Guided movement
  • Weight balance
  • Leg coordination
  • The limited movement prevents (excessive) weight from falling on you
  • Limited risk of back injury
Disadvantages
  • Excessive pressure on the back and knees with heavy loads

Buyer’s Guide

If you want to have your own leg press at home, you should evaluate certain characteristics to make sure your purchase is successful. Among other things, you should check the maximum load that the machine supports, as well as the weight with which you want to work. In the following section, we have detailed the most important criteria to keep in mind:

Goals

The leg press allows you to train your lower body. Working on these muscles is a key focus for bodybuilders as well as athletes from other disciplines. If your fitness goals include strength, muscle development, toning, and weight loss, this machine is for you!

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Trained Muscles

While every type of press focuses on working your legs, don’t forget that each one will train some muscles more than others. The 45-degree incline press is the most complete of them all, although it is also the most challenging and the one that most generates tension due to the increased length of the movement.

Type of Press

As you know, the kind of press you opt for – vertical, horizontal, or incline – will depend on your goals and the muscles you want to focus on. The vertical press develops the quadriceps, while the horizontal press also works on the hamstrings. In addition to these two muscles, the incline press also exercises your buttocks and abductors.

Type of Resistance

Hydraulic resistance provides a lower intensity workout, making it suitable for anyone. This type of resistance is ideal for working in circuits and for rehabilitation. The conventional press offers more intense training and focuses on toning and building muscle in your lower body.

Weight

Make sure you check the maximum weight supported by a machine before you purchase it. In that regard, we recommend that you consult the specifications of each model. Most will allow a charge of approximately 330 pounds. You may also want to consider how much you plan on lifting and whether the press comes with weight plates or not. Some presses offer the possibility of using Olympic plates, too.

Space

Space is definitely one aspect you don’t want to overlook when you are on the hunt for your own leg press. Don’t let yourself be surprised by the size of the machine once it is assembled, so take your time. Write down the dimensions of the device, take a meter, and measure the space where you want to set your press. That way, you won’t have any unpleasant surprises and won’t have to deal with often complicated product returns.

Price & Quality

These two criteria are closely linked. The durability of a leg press generally increases its price. To determine the right model for you, think about how often you plan on using it. Training 2 to 4 hours a week would be considered sporadic use, and you won’t have to invest as much. If you spend more time on your leg press, we strongly encourage you to opt for a high-end machine whose quality will ensure durability.

Summary

The leg press is the most recommended machine if you want a holistic training of your lower body. This device allows you to build muscle and tone your legs, while the guided movement minimizes the risk of injury. You can change the muscles trained depending on the position of your feet.

Once you have decided to purchase your own leg press, you will have to choose between its three different types: vertical, horizontal or 45-degree incline. You can then work on your hamstrings, quadriceps, buttocks, and abductors. If you need a machine for physical therapy, hydraulic leg presses are the most suitable.

If you liked our guide on leg presses, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share this article with your friends and family on your social media!

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Why you can trust me?

Thibault Perinet Freelance Writer & World Traveler
As a literature and translation licensee and avid traveler, language has always been at the heart of my daily life. A freelance writer since 2014, I love to delve into a variety of topics that contribute to my professional and personal development. My favorite things in life? Maté in the morning, soccer with friends, and old school hip hop.