From Dork to Diva: Leg press

The leg press, as I am fond of telling you, is a poor substitute for squats. You cannot learn to do squats by doing the leg press, nor should you leg press till you get “strong enough to squat”. Heresy and foolishness! However, if there’s some reason you can’t squat (for example, some cyclists don’t squat because their lower backs and legs get so beaten up during cycling season), the leg press is a good option.


Here is the wrong way to leg press (you thought because it was a machine you couldn’t screw it up didn’t you?).

Notice my feet on the bottom of the footplate, which means that as the sled comes down, my knees go way over my toes, and that spells knee problems.

In addition, I am curling upwards to help push the weight up, putting stress on my neck and upper back.

My pelvis is tucking under, which puts pressure on my lower back.


This is the bottom of the leg press rep. Notice that most importantly, my feet have moved to the top of the footplate. My head and neck are relaxed and I’m beginning to breathe out as I start the push upwards. By the way, I’m grimacing in this picture like I’m pressing a zillion pounds… the leg press actually has no weight on it at all. Remember that next time you see a lot of fitness pictorials that look like the athlete is about to burst a blood vessel! Ha ha…
As I push through the middle of the rep I am careful to keep pushing through my heels and not my toes. My head neither comes up or presses down into the pad.
This is the top of the rep, and for many leg press machines the starting point. My knees are never hyperextended when my legs are straightened.