Leg press can be an awesome exercise for building huge legs. But it can also be a wasted exercise if you don’t do it right.
In this post, I’m going to share the 5 ‘huge’ mistakes when it comes to leg press. And making these mistakes can actually do more harm than good.
The awesome news is I’m also going to show you how to correct these mistakes. And you’ll learn how just a few simple changes can help you build bigger, more muscular legs.
Mistake #1: Lack of Range of Motion
The first mistake I noticed people doing on leg press is not getting a full range of motion. They go down a few inches and think that they did a rep. Nope, not even close!
There are two problems with restricted range of motion:
- You’re not fully working your muscles and you’re basically cheating yourself from making gains.
- You may be putting more pressure on your knees and joint by stopping your range of motion too soon.
One of the reasons people don’t get a full range of motion is because of the angle of the leg press machine. Laying back like that makes you feel you’re bringing your legs down further than what you really are.
Another reason for this is because many go way too heavy on leg press. I’ll talk more about that later, below.
You may also be more prone to injury when you don’t go at least parallel on the leg press. The stress of the weight is going to be constantly on your knees and joints if you’re just doing that short range of motion.
How to Fix Your Range of Motion:
– Film yourself doing leg press and analyze your form (you will be surprised and maybe even embarrassed, but it will certainly help you fix your range of motion!)
– Have a gym buddy, someone who will be honest with you, watch your form and range of motion
– Bring the weight down where you feel your quads working and contracting
Mistake #2: Improper (Wide) Foot Placement
Another common mistake, and I’m sure you’ve seen this, is going too wide with your foot placement on the leg press platform.
Many have a natural tendency to go wide. Why? Because it allows you to leg press more weight (we’re going to get to that next!).
The problem with going too wide is that you’re not working as much of your quads as you may think. In a sense, it makes the exercise easier.
‘Easier’ should not be the goal, though.
In fact, you need to make the exercise more difficult by forcing your muscles to work harder. That’s how you build muscle.
How to Fix Your Foot Placement:
– Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart
– Point your toes outward a little
– Press the weight with your heels (this is a side-note but is extremely important and may save you from knee pain)
– Whereas going wide isn’t as effective at building muscle, you can try a narrow foot placement from time to time as this will work your outer quads and hamstrings; it’s also more difficult and you typically won’t be able to press as much weight.
Mistake #3: Ego Lifting
This is the most abused problem with leg press. And I know you’ve seen this just as many times as I have.
Heck, if you’re like me, you’ve even been guilty of doing this! And if you’re currently doing it, you’ll stop after reading this.
Many, especially guys, will load up the leg press with as many 45 pound plates that will fit. I get it…it looks cool.
But trust me when I say your ego is preventing you from building big legs.
Think about it. How many dudes in the gym have you seen doing over 1,000 pounds on leg press only to have skinny legs? That alone should tell you something.
The other issue we’ve all seen is these same guys leg pressing massive amounts of weights can’t even squat 225. That’s a ‘huge’ problem.
Here are the problems with trying to leg press too much weight:
- Go back and re-read Mistake #1 because this is the prime reason why people don’t do a full range of motion on the leg press
- Re-read Mistake #2 because you’re going to have a tendency to use a foot placement that allows you to press the most weight, not build the most muscle
- It’s downright dangerous and ineffective
- Your knees and joints are taking a beating for no good reason
- You’re only training your ego
How to Check Your Ego with Leg Press:
– Simply lighten the load and do full reps; you’ll be amazed at how much more muscle you gaining your legs
– Focus less on leg press and work on your squat
– Don’t worry or be bothered by what other people in the gym can leg press
Mistake #4: Pressing with the Balls of Your Feet
One way to really screw up your knees is pressing with the balls of your feet and letting your heels come up off of the platform.
This typically happens when the wrong foot placement is used. Many will place their feet too high or too low on the platform in an attempt to press more weight.
Rather, you want to keep your feet flat the entire time. You can even focus on pressing more with your heels as this will help prevent them from coming off the platform during the lift.
*Improper form and foot placement often tie back to Mistake #3, trying to leg press too much weight. Remember, your focus is on building muscle, not your ego.
Here’s a short video where former Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler talks about proper foot placement on the leg press:
How to Press and Have Proper Foot Placement:
– Focus on keeping your feet flat throughout the movement
– Put more pressure on the heels of your feet to prevent your heels from coming off of the platform
– Make sure you have a shoulder-width foot placement as this will help keep your feet flat throughout each rep
Mistake #5: Reps Are Too Low
This ties in with using too much weight on the leg press. But that’s not necessarily the problem all of the time.
The real issue is we tend to train our legs like our upper body, going heavy and sometimes doing lower reps for compound movements (think of bench press or barbell rows).
For legs, you need a different approach. Your quads likely have more slow-twitch muscle fibers, which means they may respond better to higher reps and more overall training volume.
For leg press, my personal recommendation:
- Never go below 12 reps. I’ve seen far more leg growth from higher reps than years ago when I was ‘ego lifting’ and trying to leg press as much as possible.
- Realize that your legs can handle a lot more than you may think. But because of how we typically train our upper body, you may be prone to stop your set short of what you can really do.
So push yourself further. You’ll be surprised how many more reps you can crank out, especially on leg press.
How too Correct Your Reps:
– As mentioned earlier, use lighter weights on leg press
– Push yourself to go to the next level and get those extra reps
– Use less rest between sets, and do more sets; this will condition your legs to handle the volume they’re built to handle
Leg Press the Right Way to Make More Gains
Leg press sometimes gets a bad rap because of these mistakes. But rather than neglect leg press, you should embrace it. Just make sure you’re doing it right.
To recap, the way to make more lower body gains with leg press is:
- Check your ego at the door (this will prevent you from making the majority of other leg press mistakes)
- Use proper foot placement and range of motion
- Push your legs to the next level and crank out some reps
Also, make sure you have extreme focus when doing leg press, and when doing legs in general. Leg training takes more mental effort so you need that clarity.
One of the ways to have that focus is to take a pre-workout like PreFierce. Chug a serving of this stuff about 15 minutes before the gym and you’ll be set.
One final note…
Don’t use leg press as a replacement for doing squats. In fact, you should focus more on squats than anything else. That’s going to build more muscle size than anything.
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Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,