Common Mistakes on Leg Press: How to Avoid Injury and Work the Properly Work the Muscle

I’m going to call a lot of folks out here. And I include myself as I was once guilty of some of these. Most people I see doing leg press in the gym are doing it wrong.

I’m going to point out some common mistakes people make on leg press. One particular mistake is one I have made in the past! On that note, I’ll also share some helpful tips on how to get the most out leg press (you may be surprised!).

Leg Press: Common Mistakes

Using Too Much Weight

This is the first and most obvious mistake I see when people are doing leg press. How many times have you seen someone load the leg press up with as many 45 lb. plates that will fit, only to go down just a few inches?

That’s asking for injury, for starters. Secondly, you’re not doing much for muscle growth. This is ego-lifting and it won’t get you very far (I could talk about injury and ego-lifting for days). Another point is most people I see doing super heavy leg presses have skinny legs. That should tell you something.

I was guilty of this first sin for many years! Once I started doing leg press properly, which I’ll discuss further below, my legs started magically growing! 

Doing Partial Reps

This ties in with what we just discussed. Normally using too much weight equates to partial reps, at best. But I’ve also seen some use light weight and only go down a few inches.

Full range of motion will give you the best results for muscle growth. Half-reps will build half-legs. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to drop the weight all the way down to where your body is scrunched up. A reasonable full rep would be dropping down to where your legs are just beyond parallel.

Common Mistakes on Leg Press - Too Much Weight Too Heavy Bad Form

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Locking Your Knees

Absolutely under no circumstance should you ever lock your knees. This is asking for trouble and I’ve seen people get injured from this. A knee injury can put you out of commission for a long time, and even worse, this can cause permanent damage.

You want to push the weight up to the point where your legs are almost straight, but not locked out completely. This means there will be a slight bend in your knees. Locking out shifts the pressure from your muscles to your knees, and that’s not something you want.

Doing Fast Reps

I see this mainly when people do calves but I also see it quite often on leg pres. I think this bad technique stems from the fact that many do not enjoy working out legs. So they rush through the reps.

I’m not saying you should do super slow reps, but you need to feel the muscle working. Bringing the weight down in a slower, more focused manner rather that just letting it fall, will stimulate your leg muscles more.

Foot Placement Too Wide

It’s a fact that you can push more weight with a wider foot stance. Like the first common mistake on leg press I mentioned, the goal should not be to lift as much weight as humanly possible. You’re there to build the leg muscles, not your ego.

I also want to mention overall foot placement. Be careful not to let your knees go over your feet. If you see this being the case, rack the weight and scoot your feet up more away from you.

Leg Press Tips for Results

Alright, so we covered the common mistakes on leg press. Some of them are done to please the ego, as I mentioned a few times. But some are merely done out of a sub conscience effort.

Sometimes we have to step back and rethink why we’re doing what we’re doing, and come up with the right approach. This is with both weightlifting and life in general!

Here’s  a few tips that I’ve learned and implemented over the years. I’ve gotten substantial results from these.

  • Don’t use too much weight!
  • Start light and gradually increase the weight each set
  • Focus on the negative part of the rep, taking 2-3 seconds on the descent
  • Try using both shoulder-width and narrow foot placements (narrow will work that outer quad, giving you that quad sweep)
  • Go for at least 12 reps or more (quads typically respond better to higher rep ranges)
  • Stretch both quads and hamstrings after your final set

Common Mistakes on Leg Press - Proper Form Foot Stance Foot Placement

Leg Press Workout

Finally, I want to leave you with one of my typical leg workouts, which includes leg press. You’ll see that I generally do more sets for leg press.

  • Leg Press
    • 8 sets x 12-15 reps, 1 set x 30-50 reps*
  • Leg Extensions
    • 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Leg Curls
    • 4 sets x 12 reps

* Sometimes I’ll end with an extremely high rep set; these reps will be fast, pump-reps (which is an exception to what I mentioned in my ‘Doing Fast Reps’ under Common Mistakes on Leg Press

I treasure the leg press. In fact, it’s my key exercise for my leg workouts. I don’t squat much these days because of prior lower back issues that I’ve had over the years (which the recent martial arts training and deep stretching has eliminated that pain; I did squats a couple weeks ago with no back issues).

If you void the common mistakes on leg press I mentioned, and take heed the tips, you’ve be on the road to true leg development. Leg press can be the best leg exercise if you do it right.

Train with Passion,


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About the Author Jason Stallworth