The 8 Best Leg Press Machines
Why Leg Day Is The Most Important Day
A leg press machine does just that, giving you the ability to essentially perform a controlled squat in a way that is safer than what free weights can offer.
If you’re serious about your physique, there’s a good chance that you’ve come to terms with how important leg day is. Too many people often want to put all their extra effort into their upper body, focusing on the arms, the chest, and the abs. While these are undoubtedly also important muscle groups that deserve plenty of attention, if you don’t build those muscles on top of a sturdy foundation, you’ll encounter a disproportionate top heaviness in the short term and a propensity for aches and pains in the long term, especially in the knees.
Working on your upper body without building up your legs would be like building a brick house on a foundation of toothpicks.
So, if you’re serious about working on your legs, you’re going to want a machine that can maximize your return on the work you put in. A leg press machine does just that, giving you the ability to essentially perform a controlled squat in a way that is safer than what free weights can offer.
When you squat with a barbell or dumbbells, you have to account for your balance. If you don’t have clamps in place on a barbell and you tilt even a little bit, you’ll have plates sliding off and clanging to the floor, potentially damaging your workout room and endangering your body. And if you lose your balance holding dumbbells, both could easily fall and crush your foot or cause other forms of damage.
For some fitness enthusiasts, balance is just one potential problem. People with knee problems can greatly benefit from the use of a leg press, as you can control the amount of weight, as well as the degree of intensity in a given move. At a squat rack, if you squat too deeply, you may not be able to come out of it safely, but a leg press machine often has some kind of fail safe that will prevent you from losing control and suffering an injury.
When combined with a thorough fitness regimen, a leg press machine can provide an excellent workout to the quadriceps, while also activating the calves and the core as supporting muscle groups. That will create the kind of functional strength in the real world that can prevent injuries when performing certain tasks like lifting heavy boxes.
How To Choose A Leg Press For Your Gym
Outfitting your gym with a leg press machine can go far towards rounding out the workouts you're capable of at home. Knowing which model will be the best fit for your gym is largely a matter of personal preference, though there are certain features you can look for that might make one machine that much more attractive than another.
They’re also a bit harder to load up with plates because you have to be able to reach above the foot board.
There’s a good chance that you have worked out on a number of types of leg press machines at this point in your exercise experience, and that should be the first thing you try to remember when comparing the machines on our list. The most important thing you can do when choosing a leg press machine is to start with a style with which you’re most comfortable.
The machines on our list are divided into two groups: vertical and angled. Vertical machines place your back parallel to the floor and situate all the weight directly above your feet, placing your body at a 90-degree angle. Angled machines have your legs extend at an angle closer to 45 degrees.
Less experienced lifters might find vertical machines a little intimidating, and a little uncomfortable. They’re also a bit harder to load up with plates because you have to be able to reach above the foot board. The safety features on angled models are also a little more intuitive, which should give new lifters a bit more peace of mind. The downside to angled models is their footprint. Most home gyms have vertical space to spare, so a vertical model will allow more room for additional machines or workout space, where an angled model will require a bit more room.
Other Great Leg Workouts
While a leg press machine can give you a great workout for your quads and your core, there are other lower body muscle groups that will require your attention if you want to fully develop your strength. For any new moves, make sure to work with minimal amounts of weight, and only increase the load in increments that don’t negatively affect your form. Too many gym rats push their numbers up before their bodies are ready, lifting with poor form to satisfy their egos more than anything else.
The quads are mostly responsible for your legs’ ability to stretch outward, in much the same way that the tricep extends the arm.
The quads are mostly responsible for your legs’ ability to stretch outward, in much the same way that the tricep extends the arm. The rough equivalent to your biceps on the legs, then, are the hamstrings, and one of the best things you can do to work these muscles is called a deadlift. Essentially, you push your butt backward and bend over at the hips, keeping your back straight and your core tight, until you can reach a barbell or single dumbbell on the floor, no further out than the knots in your shoe laces. Your knees should be slightly bent. Pick up the weight and lift it by straightening to an upright position and thrusting your hips forward. Straighten your knees at the top and then reverse the move to the bottom.
One of the best things you can do your your sense of balance is to work your calves and the musculature around your tibia. Calf raises are easy to perform in the moment, but if done right, they’ll leave you sore for a couple of days. Holding a pair of dumbbells in your hands with your feet shoulder width apart, simply raise up on your toes and come back down in a slow, controlled fashion. To target those shin muscles, sit barefoot and upright at the edge of a chair with a hand towel stretched out on the floor in front of you. Using the toes of one foot, crumple up the towel as much as you can, then do the other foot. As you get better at this, you can place small amounts of weight at the far end of the towel.