When it comes to health and fitness, for some reason, a lot of the focus tends to go on the upper body and the stomach. It is always the biceps and the abs that take away the glamour. However, lower body fitness is equally important. This is something that most people tend to forget while they are working in a home gym setup, but it is worth noting that keeping your legs fit is also an important aspect of working out. In this article, we shall focus on leg press machines, and particularly at the best leg press machines for your home gym.
Whenever you go to a gym or a fitness center, your trainer always divides the time between upper body, lower body, and core workouts. In a home gym setup, we have observed that while a majority of the people tend to get sufficient upper body and core workouts, the lower body workouts are ignored. Getting a good leg press machine can solve that problem.
Leg press machines have a large number of benefits. They not only help you get better calf muscles and quads, but they also work out a number of other leg muscles that you cannot work out using traditional means. A few minutes on a leg press machine goes a long way, and the improvements are visible in just a few weeks.
How often have you seen people who have a very fit upper body and a muscular core, but have skinny legs! The secret to reaching peak fitness is to never skip leg day. We know how boring they can be, but we hope that by the time you reach the end of this article, not only will you find the perfect leg press machine for your home gym, but you will also fall in love with leg days.
Also, before we head any further into this article, let us address the elephant in the room up front. Leg press machines can be quite expensive. This is one of the biggest reasons why you would find them absent from home gyms. This is why we have come up with this complete guide about how to choose the best leg press machines for your needs. By the time you reach the end of this article, you will know everything that there is to know about a leg press machine and you can make your purchase with confidence.
6 Best Leg Press Machines in 2021
What is a Leg Press Machine?
A leg press machine is a machine that helps you get your legs in a better shape. It achieves that by getting you to do leg presses. A leg press is basically an exercise where you are pushing some weight away from you using your legs.
The machine usually comes with a backrest on one side, where you support your back and on the other side there are a bunch of weights that you have to push. As you push your legs the weights move further, and they start coming closer once you take your legs towards you. This helps you get a good lower-body workout and exercises a number of muscles in your legs.
Using a leg press machine is also beneficial for building and enhancing your squat strength. There are multiple variants in this leg press machine, which allow you to perform different kinds of exercises. Let us take a closer look at each of them:
Different Types of Leg Press Machines
Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of leg press machines:
- Vertical leg press machines
- Seated upright leg press machines
- 45-degree leg press machines
The difference between each of these machines can be understood when you look at the seating position and the way you push the weights. The primary differentiating factors here are how easy they are on your joints, how much space they occupy, and how the seat is located.
Each of these machines is used in a different way and serves different purposes. Sometimes these machines can get quite confusing for someone who intends to buy a leg press machine for his or her home gym. This is why we should take a closer look at what separates them from one another, as well as at the pros and cons that each of them has to offer.
1. Vertical Leg Press Machines
The first of the three leg-press machines is a Vertical Leg Press machine. In this kind of leg presses, you need to lie down on your back and the weights are placed above you. You need to move your legs up to push them away, and as you bring them down, the weights come closer to you. One of the best examples of these machines is the TDS Premier Vertical Leg Press that you should totally check out. It is also quite a cost-effective machine.
- These machines are among the cheapest leg press machines compared to the other two
- Vertical leg press machines occupy the least space, too because most of the movement happens vertically, making them an ideal choice for home gyms
- The weight-bearing capacity of these machines is lesser than that of a 45-degree leg press machine
- Not suited for people who have injured their back or neck, or are prone to injuries in these areas
2. Seated Upright Leg Press Machines
These are the second major type of leg press machines, where you are, as the name suggests, seated upright. In the case of these machines, you either press a metal block or a set of pedals away from your body. The weights are generally attached to cables here and you have to push them while seated in an upright position.
- These machines are often attached to the backside of other machines and hence occupy less space.
- These leg press machines are comfortable to use and are safer than vertical leg press machines because you are seated in a normal way rather than being on your back or at an angle.
- If the angles do not provide a sufficient amount of spacing, users might face some knee pain
3. 45 Degree Leg Press Machines
The third and last name on our list is that of a 45-degree leg press machine. The only difference here is that your seating position is a little different and you are seated at a 45-degree angle. Sometimes, these machines can also help you perform hack squats though that’s not true for every 45-degree leg press machine.
- These machines are quite comfortable and do not stress out your joints
- 45-degree leg presses allow you to push the most amount of weight as well
- Occupy a lot of space
- The most expensive type of machine for leg presses
Muscles Exercised by a Leg Press Machine
While leg presses are a great means to work the muscles all over your leg, the biggest beneficiaries of this form of workout are the quad muscles. Quadriceps are the four muscles that form the front of the thighs and using a leg press helps you get a good workout on them.
Followed by your quads, the second biggest beneficiaries of these workouts are the hamstring and glutes muscles, which get quite a bit of benefit, thanks to the weight that is being pushed by your legs. The biggest benefactor of this movement still remains your quads, but you can see visible changes in the hamstring/glute areas too over a few weeks.
Lastly, the calf muscles also tend to benefit from leg presses. Again, while quads get the most benefit since the actual push happens via the calf muscles, they too tend to benefit from the movement.
Benefits of a Leg Press Machine
A leg press machine offers some really amazing benefits, especially for your lower body and legs. If you are someone who hesitates from leg presses, or if you know someone who skips leg day frequently, these are some things you might want to tell them. There are a large number of benefits of regularly using the leg press machine, and here’s a closer look:
1. Strengthens the Quad Muscles
Located between your knees and your hips, the group of muscles collectively known as quadriceps (or popularly known as ‘quads’) is the ones that get the most benefit out of these leg press exercises. When you are pushing the weights in a leg press machine, you are basically employing the power of your quads. For those looking forward to getting good quad muscles, this 4-Way Hip Sled to use as Leg Press is a great option from TDS.
Your quads are one of the most important muscles of the body because they, unbeknownst to you, are one of the hardest workers. These muscles help you attain a better balance, as well as hold most of your body weight. While pushing the weights of the leg press machine using the quad muscles is one of the primary things that works your quads here, when you are putting them back in your place, your quads will again get some workout.
While it is common knowledge about how biceps and triceps can be worked out, this dual movement involved in the leg press exercise is one of the best ways to improve your quadriceps.
2. Strengthens the Calf Muscles
When you are performing leg press exercises, the calf muscles also get some benefits. Though the benefits in these muscles aren’t as pronounced as you’d see in the quads and hamstrings, there is a noticeable improvement in your calf strength too.
This is particularly noticeable for someone who participates in a lot of sporting events, especially some sports like football or wrestling where your feet have to play an active role. Getting some leg press exercises done is critical for people who are into cycling and sprinting as well because the calf muscle is the most important muscle in these exercises.
Improving the strength of your calf muscles will also reduce the risk of pulling a muscle during physical activities. Calf muscles also protect other muscles and knees from getting injured.
3. Strengthens the Hamstring Muscles
The hamstring muscle is also another major beneficiary of the leg press machine. When you work out on a leg press exercise, the hamstring muscle, which starts below your glutes and goes till your knees get worked up. These muscles not only get worked up but they are also toned and shaped with the help of these leg press exercises.
While your hamstring muscles don’t really play a part in the initial pushing phase, but they are actually utilized quite well when it comes to the part where you have to balance the weights and slowly bring them closer. There is no time during a leg press that these muscles are not worked up.
Getting better hamstrings means you can move better and faster. Furthermore, hamstring injuries are quite common among people who are into sports. Hence, it is important to train these muscles. The better trained they are, the lesser is the chance of getting an injury.
4. Better Balance
Another important thing about training using a leg press machine is that it allows you to get a better balance. This is one of the best things about this machine. The more ‘leg control’ that you get after working out on leg press exercises, the better your balance becomes. Since these machines focus a lot on controlling the movement of your legs with the help of weight training, it actually improves the muscle coordination and has a direct impact on your balance.
Furthermore, the quad and calf muscles together work in helping you get a good balance. Since both these muscle groups are getting sufficient exercise here, your overall balance also tends to improve.
A Vertical leg press machine is among the best options when it comes to improving your balance. To sum it up, the stronger and the more well-exercised your legs and the muscles in your leg are, the better your balance will be.
5. Improves the Glutes
This heading is basically a nicer name for ‘getting a better butt’. Gluteal muscles are the muscles that are located in your buttocks. These are also one of the most-worked muscles during a leg press exercise, as you require extending them during the initial phase where you are pushing the weights away from you, and you also require them to be in action at the time when you are balancing it, or bringing it closer to you.
For those who want to add some mass to these muscles, you might want to train with larger weights and your buttocks will bulk up. For anyone who just wants to tone them up or to make the muscles tighter, you might want to train with a lighter weight limit but perform more reps.
Getting better glute muscles is considered attractive by many, but it is also quite beneficial when it comes to performing a wide range of exercises because your glutes need to be fit for them. This is particularly true in the case of CrossFit exercises. Do check out the Alek…Shop Vertical Leg Press Machine, which helps you work quite a bit on your glutes.
6. Improves Jumps/Sprints
A lesser-known benefit of leg press exercises is that getting them right will help you improve your jumps and sprints too. A leg press trains your legs and quads in a way that you can exert more force on them and jump higher. There’s the concept of ‘explosive strength’ which enables you to jump. The more this strength is, the higher you jump.
Leg press exercises help you get better explosive jumps, as a result of which you jump higher.
Besides that, a leg press exercise can also help you sprint better. This is because the more the endurance of your leg muscles, the longer they can go on for without getting fatigued during intense activity. Spriting and running are some activities where a leg press machine can be really beneficial for you as it can help you run better.
7. Increased Bone Strength
So far almost all our advantages on this list have been about muscular strength. However, a leg press machine can also improve your bone strength. Most weight-bearing exercises help you grow your bones, and this is no exception.
If you exercise using leg press machines for long enough, you are bound to increase the bone mass in your legs, which makes those bones stronger and denser. It also ensures that your bones remain strong for a longer time and don’t deteriorate easily with age. This is why getting a regular workout on a leg press machine is quite important.
8. Better Looking Legs
Last but not least, and actually a very important reason as to why a lot of people actually get on the leg press machine is because it helps them get better-looking legs. You don’t want to be all jacked in your upper body but have chicken legs! That’s an embarrassing look and this is one reason why people have dedicated leg days where they ensure that they are working on their leg strength.
Besides, some people actually find well-toned leg muscles quite attractive, so there’s another motivation for you.
Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to the Best Leg Press Machines
Now that you know why leg presses are important, let us take a very quick look at a buyer’s guide, which will provide some information about everything that you need to consider before you buy your leg press machines.
1. Choosing the Right Kind of Machine
One of the first things that you need to know is certainly the type of leg press machine that you are going to buy. Is it going to be a vertical leg press machine or is it going to be a 45-degree leg press machine, or is it going to be an upright-seated leg press machine?
You also need to consider whether you are going to buy a separate leg press machine (recommended) or you are going for a leg press machine that is attached on the backside of another bigger home gym equipment.
Getting the right kind of machine is important. For that, we suggest that you go to a nearby fitness center and try out the different kinds of machines to figure out which one suits your needs the best. Generally, people tend to go for the 45-degree machine as that also supports leg press hack squat exercises, is broader, and supports more weight too.
However, the choice of the machine depends on your budget, the amount of weight you want to press, as well as the kind of results that you are expecting. Are you expecting your legs to be toned, or are you expecting to gain some muscle mass? Choosing the correct machine determines all of this.
2. Availability of Space
Space is the next big factor when it comes to getting a leg press machine for your home gym. Space-saving is one of the biggest reasons why we see a lot of home gym leg press machines falling in the vertical leg press category. It is because when you get a vertical leg press machine, a significant portion of the machine is vertically placed and the weights are to be pushed upwards. Hence, they occupy less space.
Compared to that, the other two machines are somewhat larger. A leg press machine can occupy quite a bit of space so it is best advised to measure up the space that is available with you before you go out to get the machine. Sometimes, if these measurements aren’t taken right, or are not taken at the correct time, you might end up with a machine that occupies a lot of space that isn’t well-suited to the needs of a smaller room.
A pro-tip here is that getting a vertical leg press machine will help you cut down on the space requirement. Unlike the other machines, the weights here do not move horizontally but move up and down and hence it occupies lesser space. This makes a vertical leg press machine a good fit for home gym needs.
If you plan on cutting down on the space consumed by a leg press machine, we suggest you to check out the Body-Solid Powerline PVLP156X Vertical Leg Press.
3. Weight Capacity
How much weight your leg press machine can support is another major factor that comes into play. Sometimes people want to use a leg press machine to keep their legs active and fit so that the overall muscle endurance improves. However, others might want to use these machines to bulk up their glutes and quads. The way these different results can be achieved is via different weights.
Getting a leg press machine that supports lighter weights will allow you to perform a quicker leg press and you can do multiple reps which will keep you agile and active as well as help strengthen your muscles. However, when you increase the weight on your machine, each leg press will help in bulking up the gluteal muscles as well as the quadriceps.
Compared to the other two types of machines, vertical leg presses generally carry lesser weights.
4. Seat Quality
Now, this is something that is really important. Given that you are going to be spending quite some time on the leg press machine, and that a lot of stress is likely to go on your back and your neck, you need to get a machine that offers a great seat and headrest. This is absolutely non-negotiable. Getting a leg press machine that has a bad seat is going to be counterproductive and will hurt you more than it benefits you in the long run.
Make sure that your seat has as much padding as possible, is wide enough for you to be comfortably seated in, and is made of a material that does not cause you to sweat too much. Getting a machine with a good quality seat will improve your performance almost overnight!
Besides the seat, the headrest also needs to be taken into consideration. Don’t go for something that does not cover your entire head, particularly if you are going for vertical leg presses. The headrest needs to provide complete coverage to your head and neck while you are working out.
Given that a leg press machine is going to be a hefty investment, you might as well go for a product that offers you long-lasting durability. Make sure you are going for steel construction. The body of the machine needs to be made of a steel frame (or any other similar durable metal)
Anything that has a plastic portion or any other form of a weaker alternative should be completely avoided, given the fact that any injury here could cause quite a bit of damage. Try and get a leg press machine with only the most durable of materials.
As suggested above, the best leg press machine usually features a steel construction which, apart from keeping it durable, also keeps it steady. If your leg press machine starts to wobble mid-exercise, it can get quite alarming. Hence you need to get something that is steady as well as sturdy.
6. Physical Ailments
One more thing that you need to be aware of is your own physical ailments (if any). There are some physical conditions where you should absolutely avoid leg press exercises, not just in these machines, but in any form. This is true for people recovering from major bone or muscle-related injuries, as well as for women undergoing pregnancy.
In case of other ailments such as arthritis or similar problems, it is best advised to avoid performing leg press exercises. People dealing with hamstring, quad, or calf injuries, too, must avoid doing these exercises. Anyone dealing with neck or back issues should avoid a vertical leg press machine as vertical leg presses exert a great deal of pressure on your back.
However, these are some general precautions, but it is only your doctor, physician, or coach who can provide you the correct medical guidance, so please make sure to consult someone if you are dealing with such an ailment.
7. Cost and Warranty
Lastly, the cost and warranty of the machine need to be considered. Getting a leg press machine is going to be an expensive affair and there’s absolutely no other option. These machines tend to cost you a hefty amount, but that’s the price you pay for improving your lower body strength and muscles.
Leg press exercise is great for you, but it comes at a cost. However, thankfully the cost also comes with a warranty, with many of these machines offering multiple years (or in some cases, a lifetime) of warranty. Make sure you are getting the best possible price vs warranty combination when you buy these machines.
Understanding the Best Leg Press Techniques
Let us take a quick look at some things that you need to keep in mind while you are performing leg press exercises.
Step 1: Adjust the Weights
Make sure that you are adjusting the weights before you start. Begin with a goal in mind about how many kilograms (or pounds) of weight you want to push. This has to be done upfront because adjusting weights mid-exercise can be quite tiring. For those who plan on using weights up to 210lbs, we recommend you to keep an eye out for the Body-Solid ProClubLine Leg Press Machine, which is one of the best leg press machines for home gyms.
Step 2: Set the Seat
Get your seating right. Adjust the seat in a way that your entire head is protected by the headrest and your back is comfortably positioned on the backrest. Make sure that your knees are bent at correct angles and they aren’t too stressed out.
Getting your knees to stress out mid-exercise can be painful and it can sometimes also lead to your knees getting ‘locked’. In case of that, you risk serious injury to yourself so this is something you should know beforehand. Don’t angle your knees too sharply.
Step 3: Adjusting Your Feet
Keep your feet at about shoulder-length away from each other. During leg press exercises, the way your feet are angled matters quite a bit and you get the best push with the least effort when you have your feet placed shoulder-width.
Step 4: Getting the First Rep Done
Once you are set in the position, start extending your knees away from your body and pushing the weights. In the case of vertical leg press, the knees move inwards and then outwards. In the case of a regular leg press exercise, just move them away first, and then slowly move your legs inwards. This is how you exercise on a leg press machine.
Step 5: Know Your Sets
Before you start off, begin with an end in mind. Know the exact number of reps per set, and the exact number of sets in all that you are going to perform. Stick to that. Getting a lot of leg press exercise done in one day isn’t going to help you, but getting some of it done over a long period of time is definitely going to be beneficial.
Squats vs Leg Presses
Since we are on the topic of leg press exercises, we must also talk about squats. These are the primary alternative to a regular leg press exercise – and they are getting quite popular too. So let us now discuss the difference between squats and leg press exercises.
A leg press is a name given to a very specific kind of exercise that is carried out in a leg press machine. These are the ones that we have been talking about all over this article. You place your back against a backrest and push the weights to work your leg muscles.
Leg presses are great for your quads and hamstring muscles, but they need to be done with care as there is a greater risk of injury in a leg press exercise than compared to a squat.
A squat, on the other hand, requires no machines. In case you are doing a weighted variant of a squat, the weight is behind you and you generally pull it. Here, you bend your knees towards the ground and then pull yourself up. You can add weights to your squats to increase the level of resistance.
While performing a regular squat is an easy enough job, adding weights to it can be quite tricky and needs to be done in a technically sound way or you might end up hurting yourself. The Body-Solid GLPH1100 Leg Press and Hack Squat Machine is one of the best options you have when it comes to getting a leg press machine that allows hack squats.
Staying Safe While Using Leg Press Machines
Here are some of the things that you need to keep in mind when starting off with leg press exercises
First off, make sure that you perform a proper warm-up routine before starting with leg presses. This is true for every exercise in the gym, but people tend to take leg day lightly and don’t perform enough pre-workouts. You need to make sure you are performing some basic squats before entering the leg press machine.
Make sure you are keeping your feet flat against the footplate that you are going to push, and you are not using your toes or heels to make the thrust. This is a wrong technique and even with a little slip, things can go very wrong, very fast. Make sure your feet make full contact with the plates.
Another common mistake that people tend to make is that they start pushing weights at full speed right from the get-go. Start off slowly and make slight and gradual movements. Compress and decompress your knees gently. We’d recommend going at a slow speed all through the exercise to be extra careful.
There’s another thing that we have observed people doing in gyms is that while performing a leg press, they keep their hands on the knees. This is not advised. Keep your hands in a regular position and don’t move them up. Don’t exert your back and shoulders while you are working on leg press exercises.
Adjust your seat and your headrest based on your height. Make sure that your seat is placed at a good length so that your entire back is covered. Also make sure you adjust your headrest the right way, which gives you a comfortable place to keep your head as well as to align your neck. As suggested above, get a good leg press machine with decent padding as comfort matters quite a lot in this exercise.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Leg Press Machines
Here are the answers to some of the most common and frequently asked questions about leg press exercises:
1. Should I Get a Leg Press Machine for a Home Gym?
In the past, home gyms were able to do just fine without a leg press machine. However, in the pandemic age, the home gym has suddenly gained way more prominence and it is important to include a leg press machine in your setup. While most home gym equipment focuses on upper and core body strength, getting a leg press machine will help you develop better lower-body muscles too.
2. What are the Alternatives to a Leg Press?
You can get a vertical leg press machine, a 45-degree leg press machine, or a seated-upright leg press machine. They all do the same thing – they help you work out your legs. However, if you are someone who wants to completely do away with leg press exercises, the closest alternative that you have is to perform squats. Squats, along with weights added for resistance can be a good leg press alternative.
3. Which Muscles are Exercised in Leg Presses?
Your quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles, as well as the glutes, are exercised while you perform leg press exercises.
We hope that by the time you have reached this section of our article, you have gained a deeper understanding of leg presses and why they are beneficial. We have also listed, at random, some of the best leg press machines that you can buy off Amazon right away. Leg press exercises, though seen as somewhat tedious and tiring, are actually among the most beneficial workout options for lower body and leg muscles. The long-term benefits of leg press workouts are totally worth it. This is an investment in yourself and in conclusion, we’d recommend that you should totally get a leg press machine for your home gym. Do let us know in the comments below if you still have any questions, or drop us a mail and we shall get back to you as soon as we can. Till then…
..Happy exercising! 🙂