PROPER LEG PRESS FORM: 7 KEY MISTAKES TO AVOID
Although the leg press might seem like a dead-simple exercise on the surface, there are actually many small subtleties involved that can make a very big difference in your ability to maximally stimulate your quads and prevent knee and lower back injuries as well.
In this post I’ll be going over 7 common leg press form mistakes that a very high percentage of lifters make in the gym and how to correct them in order to get the very most out of your leg workouts.
You can either watch the video below for a live demonstration of these tips, or read the text version below…
Proper Leg Press Form: 7 Key Mistakes To Avoid
Leg Press Form Mistake #1
Pressing The Weight Through Your Toes.
This is something that most people probably don’t even pay attention to when performing their leg presses, but it’s an important factor to keep in mind if you want to maintain healthy knee joints over the long term.
Consistently pressing the weight through your toes places the knees under a lot of unnecessary stress, and this can definitely add up over time if you aren’t careful.
In order to hit your quads effectively while protecting your knees from injury at the same time, always focus on pressing the weight through your heels instead.
Leg Press Form Mistake #2
Using Too Small A Range Of Motion.
We’ve all seen those guys at the gym who load the leg press up with a ridiculous amount of weight and then proceed to pump out tiny “quarter reps” where the platform literally travels no more than a couple of inches back and forth.
Although partial reps will still stimulate the quads for increased size and strength, training each muscle through a full range of motion should always be your goal on every exercise you perform if you’re aiming to maximize the amount of stimulation and growth you can achieve.
Just how low should you go?
Everyone will be slightly different here due to variances in limb length and flexibility, but your basic goal should be to lower the weight as far down as you comfortably can without allowing the tension to leave your quads.
As soon as you reach the point where going any further would take the stress off the quads and shift it into your lower back, stop there and press the weight back up again.
For most people, this will usually mean bringing the weight down until your knees are at about a 90 degree angle. However, you’ll need to experiment a bit to find the precise range that works best for you.
Leg Press Form Mistake #3
Using Too Large A Range Of Motion.
Although performing the leg press using a full range of motion is important for producing optimal muscle building results, on the opposite end of the spectrum are those who use too large a range of motion.
Remember, the primary purpose of this exercise is to stimulate your quads, and when you bring the weight down too low, all you’re really doing is shifting the stress onto your lower back instead.
Not only does this reduce the effectiveness of the lift when it comes to building up quad size and strength, but it also increases your chances for injury as well.
So, once again, simply aim to lower the weight down just prior to the point where your lower back starts to take over, but no further.
Leg Press Form Mistake #4
Allowing Your Knees To Buckle In.
The specific reasons why one’s knees may tend to buckle inward on the leg press is beyond the scope of this article (it’s usually a case of having weak hip abductors coupled with tight/over-active hip adductors), but in any case, this is definitely something you’ll want to avoid as it can increase knee, hip and lower back stress during the exercise.
If your knees do tend to collapse in during the leg press, make sure to consciously spread them outward to prevent this from happening.
Leg Press Form Mistake #5
Positioning Your Feet Too High Or Too Low On The Platform.
When you place your feet too high on the leg press platform, you end up shifting the tension off of your quads and onto your glutes instead.
On the other hand, placing your feet too low on the platform increases the stress on your knees and diminishes your ability to press through your heels.
So, where exactly should you place your feet?
There’s no single answer here that will apply to everyone, as the proper position will vary depending on your individual body structure. Some people have longer or shorter femurs (upper legs) and tibias (lower legs) and this will influence where the feet should be placed.
In order to find the best foot placement for yourself, you’ll need to experiment first. Put some light weight on the machine and then try placing your feet a bit higher or lower until you find the position that lets you maximize the stress on your quads while still being able to comfortably press through your heels.
Leg Press Form Mistake #6
Placing Your Hands On Your Knees.
One very important aspect of effective leg pressing is to focus on shoving your lower back into the pad at all times throughout the exercise.
Doing so minimizes the stress on your lower back by preventing it from rounding over, and it also increases the amount of force you can generate with your quads by giving you something to press your body against.
Placing your hands on your knees greatly diminishes your ability to do this effectively, and you should instead be grasping the handles on the machine at all times in order to keep your lower back firmly in place.
Leg Press Form Mistake #7
Locking Out Your Knees On Each Rep.
When you fully lock out your knees during the leg press, you simultaneously reduce the tension on your quads and increase the stress on your knee joints at the same time.
Instead, stop just short of locking out on each rep.
If you have been fully locking out your knees on this exercise up until now, you’ll definitely notice a big difference in overall quad stress by employing this one basic tip.
Proper Leg Press Form: Quick Review
Although nowhere near as technically complicated as the squat, proper leg pressing is still a lot more involved than most people think.
Here’s a quick review of the key form tips I’ve outlined above to help you execute your leg presses with the highest degree of effectiveness…
1) Always press the weight up using your heels rather than your toes.
2) Lower the weight as far down as you comfortably can while maintaining maximum tension on your quads at all times, but no further.
3) If your knees tend to collapse in during the movement, consciously think about spreading them outward as you press the weight up.
4) Experiment with different foot positioning until you find the one that best suits your individual body structure and allows you to maximize the stress on your quads while still pressing through your heels.
5) Firmly grasp the handles on the machine at all times and focus on shoving your lower back against the pad.
6) Stop each rep just short of locking out your knees.
Give these tips a try and you should experience an immediate and significant improvement on this exercise.
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