How to Do Seated Leg Presses

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on July 11, 2022
4 min read

A leg press machine has a standing machine base, a platform, and free weights with a platform and locking mechanisms. A seated leg press is a good targeted exercise and good for physical rehabilitation.  

It promotes isolated lower body development. 

The starting position is sitting at the machine with your tailbone and back against the backrest of the machine. You then put your feet on the resistance plate. Your toes should point forward, and your seat should be adjusted along with the foot position in a way that bends the knees at about 90 degrees. Your heels should be flat. Grab the handles and stabilize your upper body. Brace your abdominal muscles to stabilize the spine. During the exercise, avoid movement in your lower back.

Next, exhale and push the resistance plate away from the body. Do this while contracting the hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps. Make sure the heels are flat against the resistance plate. Again, do not allow any movement in the upper body.

Continue exercising by extending the hips and knees until the knees are in a relaxed position with the heels against the plate pressed tightly. Do not hyperextend the knees, and at the same time, avoid lifting your butt off of the seat. Also, do not round out your lower back.

Take a pause, and slowly return your body to the starting position. This is done by flexing the knees and hips while the resistance plate moves toward you slowly in a controlled manner. Make sure you don’t allow the upper thighs to press against your ribcage. Do the movement again for reps.

When you are performing a leg press, you should stop just short of a full knee extension while pushing on the platform. When returning to the start position, do not let your thigh lower to below the 90-degree level at the knee. If the thighs dip too low, you could hurt the knees. It is vital to allow your kneecaps to go through the path of the feet during your exercise. If you bring the knees too close together it can also injure the knee. 

Usually, one set of 12 to 15 reps is good for most people. It is important for best results to stop just before locking the knees while platform pressing. Don’t let the thigh drop, and keep the movements controlled and smooth. Improper technique can cause an injury. To control the extension phase, keep your heels on the plate to help avoid knee locking.

The leg press is a workout that can be done with a weight machine to work numerous muscles in your lower body. The leg press specifically targets the front of the thigh and the quadriceps, the gluteal muscles in the buttocks, the calves, and (in the back of the thighs) the hamstring muscles. Since the leg press can work several muscles simultaneously, it is very efficient for lower body strengthening. 

The seated leg press is a good exercise for beginners or physical rehab patients.  The leg press machine helps beginners to gain more strength and lower body endurance to perform advanced leg exercises. This includes squats, deadlifts, and powerlifting exercises. It is also a good machine for those with weak knees or back problems because the pressure of the weights is mostly on the hamstrings and glutes during the exercise. 

The leg press is good for lower body development. It promotes leg development because it isolates muscles within the leg. The machine mainly activates the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. The calves are utilized as stabilizing and supporting muscles through the movements. It can also utilize the adductor magnus and gastrocnemius muscles. 

This exercise promotes strong bones and mental sharpness. The leg press machine promotes bone development and muscle development. It engages in weight-bearing exercises. These exercises increase stress and pressure on the bones, which is vital in the production of osteoblasts. Osteoblasts produce bone mass for increased bone density. Ideal bone density is needed to prevent musculoskeletal degenerative diseases that are common with age, like osteoporosis.  

There are fewer injuries with the leg press machine. The injury risk is much less when one is doing leg presses, as compared to using free weights like deadlifts and squats. The leg press machine gets rid of the need for barbells and other free weights with leg training. Simultaneously, it can be incorporated into a warm-up exercise for barbell exercises to pre-stretch muscles and joints to avoid injury.

Leg presses can improve performance in other sports and exercises. The machine can enhance endurance and strength for lower body stability. Using the leg press machine persistently can increase balance and retention of stability through changes in positions. 

There are other ways the seated leg press can be utilized. One variation is the single leg press. You would repeat the same exercise, but use each leg one at a time. Lower the platform closer toward the body to ensure the knees are aligned with the middle toes and the weight across the foot is distributed evenly. Move maximally through a range of motion without modifying your technique or pressing your thighs into your rib cage.

Incorporate leg press variations by changing your foot position on the platform. Adjust the distance between your feet or use specific parts of the foot to push against the platform during the leg press exercises. Using the balls of the feet and the toes to push the weighted platform can increase the utilization of the calf and quad muscles. While you are pressing using your heels, you can increase the utilization of your glute muscles. 

There are many benefits of a leg press. Just make sure your technique is correct. When beginning any new vigorous exercise regimen, always consult your medical provider.