The leg press has long been considered one of the main exercises on leg day. It is majorly quad focused but can with proper leg placement (higher up on the footplate) put more emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes.
The exercise involves the person pushing a weight plate with their legs against it. The name leg press refers to the machine used for this workout.
The leg press machine can also be use to perform a toe press which is a great isolation exercise for the calf muscles. If you've ever performed calf raises on the standing machine it can place a lot of pressure on your lower back. This totally removes all that pressure.
Foot Placement In The Leg Press
The main focus of the exercise is on lowering and raising the legs against the resistance. There are various foot positions that can be performed while performing the leg press. The legs closer together emphasizes the outer sweep of the quads. A wider stance works the inner quad and hamstrings more. Neutral stances work the entire leg.
Keep your feet on the lower side of the platform and this will work the upper and mid part of the quad. This area is hard to grow, so i tend to focus keeping my feet lower, and use front squats and leg extensions to develop the lower portion of the quad, the teardrop.
If you want totally nuke your legs and glutes try single leg presses. Start with zero weight. The machine may be enough if you've never tried this exercise before.
When performing the leg press, the knees should be kept in line with the feet at all times. It is important to keep in mind that you should try to keep the same rhythm throughout the workout. This is achieved by concentrating on the inhaling on the way down, pausing then exhauling sharply as you push the weight back up to the starting position.
Do not let your ankles raise off the platform on the way down. Do not leg the glutes come off the bench as this takes the emphasis off the quads. You don't have to go too deep either as this can put a lot of stress on the lower back and takes it away from where you want it, the quads.
Some people may experience difficulties when performing the leg press for the first time. If you have flexibility issues or stiffness in the lower back go easy the first time you try it. Keep the reps low and the weight low until you get used to it.
Apart from having back inflexibility which can be improved via stretching and foam rolling unless you have structural problems, your leg muscles will quickly become strengthened through this lift, making them more strong and flexible as the weeks go by. It helps to develop the core muscles, which is important in other forms of weightlifting.
There are many types of leg press machines including a vertical machine. Try one out and see if you prefer it to a more traditional 45 degree incline machine. Some machine have rack and pin stack weights, but i prefer a traditional plate loaded machine, because you can stack a lot of plates on it.
If you can find a gym with a machine with an adjustable seat it will do wonders for your back, rather than using a machine with a fixed seat. It may not be set up ideally for your height and structure.
Leg Press Before or After Squats?
To answer the question it doesn't really matter. I would mix it up from week to week to stop the body becoming stagnant. Most people think if you do leg press, hamstring curls, or leg extensions before the squat, it will make them lift less on the squat. This isn't the case always.
Sometimes you can lift more as the legs are fully warmed up. It doesn't matter what you lift on the squat if you are looking for leg development. You can squat with light to medium weight and build huge legs if you use the squat correctly, that is for leg growth and not for overall body strength.
Some people complain the squat is too dangerous and only builds them huge glutes. That is due to incorrect technique, leaning too far forward with bad posture, flexibility and too heavy a weight. Slow the squat down, squeeze the quads throughout the lift, increase flexibility and lower the weight to improve your speed.
Do this with prop leg press technique and your legs have no option except to grow if you add in the nutrition and food.