My Case Against the Leg Press

Share This:

Exercising in legs press machine

My Case Against the Leg Press

Without much hesitation, I’d argue that there isn’t any one exercise in the fitness community that’s more hotly debated than the leg press.  On one side of the fence, you have those who are interested soley in aesthetics and really only care about gaining citizenship to Quadszillaville, USA.  And that’s cool….I get it.  More power to you.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize that the leg press IS an excellent choice if your main goal is hypertrophy and building legs the size of Kansas. 

Too, and just as little aside, there’s also “some” efficacy for utilizing the leg press for those in a rehabilitation setting.  For instance, it’s not uncommon for physical therapists to program leg presses for those post-surgery in order to regain motor control and/or strength in the quadriceps in a more controlled setting. 

So before I continue on, let it be known that I, Tony Gentilcore, do solemnly swear that there IS a time and place to implement the leg press into someone’s program.  There, I said it……..happy?

Having said that, if we were to jump over to the other side of the fence – the side where yours truely hangs out – we’d find that there many people who deem the leg press as nothing more than an oversized coat rack.

Again, just to reiterate, I do recognize that there are extenuating circumstances where implementing the leg press is warranted and worthwhile.  It’s just that as a strength coach, and as someone who’s main objective is to help athletes perform better at his or her’s chosen sport, or help regular Joe’s and Jane’s not move like poop, I feel that those circumstances are few and far between.

Yes, I do realize that I’m lending myself up to public criticism for even bringing this topic up, and that’s okay.  Invariably there’s going to be an internet warrior or two who’s going to chime in and tell me how much I suck at life and otherwise go off on some tangent about how I don’t know what I’m talking about – all from the comfy confines of his their parent’s basement.   LOL – zing!!!

This is just MY opinion, and believe me, I’m not that much of a pompous ass to think I’m 100% correct in my line of thinking.  Just maybe more along the lines of 97%.

Okay, enough of the jibber-jabber.  Lets get it on!

Reason 1 (Because I Said So)

There aren’t many sports (or real life events for that matter) which ask for an individual to step into a contraption, slap 400 lbs on, sit down, and proceed to push said 400 lbs up and down an incline at 45 degrees using what mounts to a eight inch range of motion.

I have no idea why the woman in the video above is wearing an ankle weight, but regardless, this disaster only solidifies why I haven’t included the leg press in any of my client’s programming in like F.O.R.E.V.E.R.  If there ever was a case where leg presses give people a false sense of “strength” then this is it.

But before I go on, I know what some of you may be thinking:  “Well there aren’t many sports or real lift events that require us to stand in a power rack, place a (loaded) barbell on our back and squat it, either.  What’s up with that, huh, Mr. Smartypants?  Are you telling me squats are more functional than leg pressing?”

Valid point.  I’m picking up what you’re putting down.

Well, not really.  I think the phrase “functional training” has gotten so convoluted and watered-down within the past few years, that no one even knows what the heck it means anymore.  Going back to the point above, leg pressing “could” be considered functional in the context of people who are undergoing rehab.  Certainly though, at least in my eyes, leg pressing, when dealing with HEALTHY individuals, IS NOT functional.

I can’t think of any instance where anyone will need to acquire the ability to push a load up an incline.  Squatting, on the other hand, is a basic human movement pattern that everyone needs to be able to do on an almost daily basis.  Does it necessarily have to be loaded?  No.  But it DOES need to be done.

Which brings us to my point.

You see, the reason why pretty much everyone can use more weight on the leg press as opposed to squats is because the machine itself provides all the external stability – there’s no inherent challenge to the body to stabilize anything.  You just load and go.

Conversely, with squats, the body itself has to provide the INTERNAL stability to perform the movement correctly so as not to tip over, fall on your face, get stapled by the bar, etc.  Here, pretty much every muscle in the body is engaging and playing a role in the movement.  Everything from the small, intrinsic muscles at the bottom of our feet to everything up the kinetic chain (glutes, hammies, quads, erectors, core, upper back, you name it) – all are firing like crazy to get the job done.

And that’s why I feel squats have MUCH MORE carryover to sport and real life events compared to the leg press – just by the mere fact that you actually have to, you know, work harder to complete the task.

Reason 2 (Because One of the Smartest Men On the Planet Says So)

While many will state that the leg press is a safer alternative to squat variations, I will counter that argument by quoting Dr. Stuart McGill, who in his book Low Back Disorders, states:

“the leg press sometimes causes the pelvis to rotate away from the back rest when the weight is lowered. The resultant lumbar flexion produces herniating conditions for the disc!”

Translation: your back hates you.

Of course, when ANY exercise is done haphazardly it can result in injury – squats included.  But ,why anyone would want to go out of their way to reinforce a faulty motor pattern that will more than likely end up promoting disc herniations is beyond me.  It makes about as much sense as Tom Selleck shaving off his mustache.

Personally I’m not a big fan of mustaches. However, while I can’t really back this up with any recent scientific data, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that global warming can be attributed solely to the effects Tom Sellecks’s mustache has on women.  Either way, no man should ever give up that kind of power. Ever.

See what I just did there?  I just equated leg presses to Tom Selleck’s mustache.  If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.

Getting back to the topic at hand:  Am I saying that if you perform leg presses, you’re going to herniate your disc(s)?  No.  But when the world’s ninja of low back research says that leg presses aren’t necessarily a great idea due to the fact that, more often than not, they produce the mechanism for disc herniation, I’m going to listen to him.

Reason 3 (No, Really, They’re a Waste of Space)

Granted, this is the small business owner in me speaking, but from a cost-benefit standpoint, leg press vs. squats is a no-brainer.   Looking at the picture above, can someone tell me how in the heck something the size of a small car can be of any value?

For the same amount of money that it would cost to buy a ginormous leg press (which will take up a lot of space, mind you), we could probably buy two power racks.  Additionally, with the leg press, you can’t really do much more with it than well, leg press.  More to the point, with a power rack, I can have upwards of two to three athletes using it at once, and I can get A LOT more use out of it – squats, rack pulls, single leg variations, pull-up variations, push-ups off the pins, not to mention I can also hang a TRX off it as well.  Really, the possibilities are endless.

From a cost-benefit standpoint, it’s not even close.

So What Now?

Well, I’m going to go pack my meals for the day and head to the facility to lift heavy things.  But, I hope that my off the cuff post was able to shed some light on why I’m not a huge fan of leg presses.  Understandably, I realize this post is going to rub some people the wrong way, and it’s going to come across as me bashing the leg press.  Well, I kinda am bashing it – my bad.  The world will go on, I promise you.

That said, I’d be curious to hear everyone else’s opinion on this.  Sound off below…..

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

Share This Post:


Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

Comments for This Entry

  • R Smith

    @Tony: It needed to be said. I'm embarrassed to say my gym has two leg press machines. I love the guys who can put on 18 plates and do 15 reps. But I see them doing walking lunges with 30s in each hand. Seriously!!!!!! RS

    September 23, 2011 at 6:38 am | Reply to this comment

  • Damon

    I agree 100%. I think most trainers prefer the leg press for their clients because it is "easier" to teach than a proper squat, which is assinine. Most "gym goes" prefer the leg press because they can load up the 45's and "appear" strong- but get em' on a heavy front squat and you'll be helping them off the floor. Great topic!

    September 23, 2011 at 6:50 am | Reply to this comment

  • Eirik Sandvik

    Good post, Tony. It would be interesting to see actual statistics on squats vs. leg press regarding acute herniated discs. While I`m definitely not "for" the leg press in general, I`m pretty sure back squats will have a higher injury rate. Also, regarding the functionality issue I think that improving the strength in the muscles important for your sport is of importance and should not be overlooked solely because another exercise in accepted as more functional. Funny thing, the "Anatomy Trains" influence has made everyone talk about the fact that muscles cannot be isolated. Then, what if you target the muscles in one of the functional lines, wont the whole line be stronger? (made me think after discussing this with Nick Tumminello). Anyway, I vote for squats and deadlifts. Just sayin.

    September 23, 2011 at 6:54 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sable

    Oh shit. Maybe that's why my lower back ALWAYS hurts after I do heavy leg presses. I always thought it was a coincidence! Huh. I'll have my husband (training partner/slave) take a quick video of me doing LPs tonight and see if I am tilting my pelvic away from the back support.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:11 am | Reply to this comment

  • Niel

    Damon's already said it - the leg press builds a false sense of strength. I use to leg press my first 3 months of lifting.....then I squatted one day. The glaring difference between which is a better exercise made me never leg press again (5 years ago).

    September 23, 2011 at 7:17 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mike A

    My favorite part about the leg press is when some ass-clown leaves 4 plates on a side so people can see how Swole he is, and I have to unload them all to do my deadlifts.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:44 am | Reply to this comment

  • Marshall Roy

    Agree with you on this front. There's not really "bad" exercises, just poor applications. Leg press is a perfect example. Want to add extra volume after your squats and single-leg work? Fair enough. It's about priorities. Your point about injury and reinforcing faulty motor patterns is RIGHT ON. Not only that, but without forcing your body to stabilize internally, you let your weak links remain weak while your strong links get stronger. This will lead to injury, sooner or later. When I hear a client say he or she (though it's usually a he) doesn't squat but instead uses the leg press "because it's safer," it's all I can do not to leap into traffic. (Though the fact that he trains legs at all is a plus, I guess.) Ironic that these are the same dudes likely to do bicep curls on a BOSU. Because instability is so functional! Ummmmm... WTF!?!?!?!

    September 23, 2011 at 7:45 am | Reply to this comment

  • Ian

    During my first 6 months(yes,half a year) i wasn't taught any barbell exercises except the bench press which i sucked major at. For my legs i did smith machine squats and leg presses and thought i was a superhero! Then i tried free squatting at another gym and have never turned back since. I have to spend more of my money going to this other gym, meaning im broke alot of times but its the only place i know that has a squat rack and i love squatting! Plus nobody else ever squats so i always find it waiting for me. :')

    September 23, 2011 at 8:07 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lars Krogstad

    Eirik Sandvik's got a point regarding leg press vs backsquats. But is that because of the nature of the backsquats, or guys overestimating their max lift? Seems to me (no expert what so ever) as the problem with the legpress is the nature of the exercise, whereas the problem with backsquats is failing technique under heavy loading.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:08 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chris A

    isn't it weird that the fitness community as a whole has pretty much decided that most averages joes spend too much time sitting at desks and in hip flexion, but a lot of us love to throw our clients on a contraption that makes it mechanically impossible to spend any time in hip extension to offset all of that 8 hour a day hip flexion?

    September 23, 2011 at 9:05 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mike M

    I've had to cut out squatting from my programming due to persistent hip pain. Not squatting is a complete tragedy for me, and I've had trouble getting a training effect for my quads (even split squat variations hurt). I still do plenty of lunge variations but they just aren't quite enough. Thank you, Tony, for this post and giving me reason to finally swallow my pride and do some leg extensions.

    September 23, 2011 at 9:36 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Mike M: hahahahahahahahaa. I just spit Spike all over my computer screen! @ Damon: EXCELLENT point. Granted, I live in my own little bubble here at CP, but when I did work in the commercial setting, I did find that most (not all) of the trainers would revert to the leg press solely because they had no clue how to coach someone on how to squat properly. Sad.

    September 23, 2011 at 9:39 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jay

    Tony, what's your opinion on the horizontal leg press machines? The ones where you lay flat, press the foot plate away and it incorporates your own body weight + any extra weight added as the resistance. I've used them mainly as a finisher on a leg day. Mechanically they don't cram your knees into your chest and cause a rounded back like a typical leg press machine does.

    September 23, 2011 at 11:11 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chris Butler

    Awesome article! Close the kinetic chain and reap the benefits I say!

    September 23, 2011 at 11:42 am | Reply to this comment

  • Barath

    Suppose you picked up a shoulder injury, and your girlfriend threw you out the same day coz you're a dick and so you have to U-haul your ass out. You have that big cabinet that you possibly cannot lift to load on your cheap-ass pick-up truck. So you get the slider down, lie down on your back and push it up the truck with your feet while said female pours kerosene down your throat while you grunt. Now who says leg-press ain't practical?

    September 23, 2011 at 11:50 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tim Enfield

    I think it is necessary to mention the names Charlie Francis and Al Vermeil here, because when it comes to periodization and programming, especially in the context of transfer of training in sports, they get it. This would probably piss Dan John off, but I think exercise selection depends on a lot of variables other than simply whether it replicates what we do in everyday life, represents a particular important movement pattern. (such as quad dominant squat, lunge, push/pull etc) or closed vs. open kinetic chain . Among other things, It is probably important that we consider the individuality of each athlete, the strength vs. power continuum of the sport, and the angles and joint position necessary for the sport. After, reading Bondarchuk's Transfer of Training in Sport, I was perplexed as to whether most athlete's in track events actually needed the squat in their programming. Seems likely right? They run with their legs, so they must need a compound movement like the squat. Bondarchuk, though, took some data and postulated that the squat wasn't necessary and, in fact, maybe even detrimental to performance for some athletes within the same sport (sprinting, for instance). He liked med ball plyo throws and power cleans for some athletes, and squats for others, depending on the level of preparedness and how fast the athlete completed the distance. Just some food for thought.

    September 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Glenn

    I use the leg press, but I also squat. In my experience, the leg press is great for hypertrophy. In addition, I only leg press using 1 leg at a time. I have read McGills books and this is one recommendation from him that I implement. I believe everything has it's role, leg press, squats, etc. It also depends on your goals

    September 23, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tim

    Next time I am in CA and go to the gym I have told you about, I will shoot some secret video of the clown who walks in off the street, loads 8 plates a side, and then proceeds to do leg presses COLD using a 4 inch ROM. I suppose if I were an orthopedic surgeon I would encourage this kind of behavior so I could make sure to always have the latest BMW in the garage...

    September 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Matt

    Hi Tony, I really like reading your articles and have learned a lot from here. I've coached loads of people in the past and have always kept them clear of the leg press in favour of squats, so for the most part I agree with you. However, just really I've started working with rowers. I just wanted to ask what you think about the leg press for them? Rowing is pretty unique in that you are essentially doing a leg press at one point in the stroke, and your lower body is pretty much confined to move in one direction without needing too much stabilisation. I do of course have them back and front squatting as well. My main reason for using the leg press is actually they need to build their strength over a fairly large range-of-motion (i.e. down to the point where their knees touch their chests) in order to improve the drive at the start of the rowing stroke. I thought this might be more difficult to achieve on the squat. It would be really good to hear your thoughts. Matt

    September 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Jay: Again, it comes down to external vs. internal stability. Sure, I guess you could make a case for "less" incidence of compressive load on the spine, but the machine is still doing a lot of the work for you in terms of how much weight you can use. So long as you're making a concerted effort to squat and/or DL first (along with various single leg work), maybe every now and then you can throw in some leg presses. If I had to choose, though, I just think there are waaaaay better options.

    September 24, 2011 at 5:59 am | Reply to this comment

  • Katie

    Under the usefulness of a squat rack, you forgot to mention "doing bicep curls"

    September 24, 2011 at 7:43 am | Reply to this comment

  • kashka

    In all fairness to the standing leg press, I saw some guy using it as overhead/incline press machine for the chest/shoulders on youtube. lol.

    September 24, 2011 at 10:13 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kellie

    Leg pressing is about as close as men will ever come to giving birth.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Chris Butler

    @Kellie - I think you are being too generous.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Reply to this comment

  • NPF

    Hey Tony. What would you advocate? A more hip focused back squat where you sit back more or an oly style back squat like in the pic you posted? I ask this because most sedentary people have crappy ankle dorsi flexion which causes them to shift their weight forward as they oly squat, but I also heard the squat where you sit back more causes more compressive forces on your spine and causes you to have a tight psoas.

    September 26, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Halvor Laastad Gulliksen

    I am agreeing that the leg press is a non functional exercise for sports and most human performance. For aesthetic purposes, such as bodybuilding, I will argue that it is of great value. Posterior tilting the pelvis is off course a big no no, bur it can be done in a safe way. For example Mcgill's example of using one leg. So injury wise it can be quite safe. It is also easy to change foot position, and therfore change the emphasis on different muscles. This is essential from a bodybuilding standpoint Squatting is more a skill than fixed exercises such as leg presses. It requires a considerable amount of practice. It is an essential pattern for sports and therfore worth the practice. I think however time can be better spent for bodybuilders, maybe some squatting can be programmed in, but is not a must. Strength gains in more fixed exercise patterns are quite linear to hypertrophy, but more complex movement patterns rely to large degree (off course in addition to hypertrophy) to the skill (neural adaptations). I'am a physical therapist and strength coach, weekend warrior and recreational basketballplayer. I am 6'5. I rarely if ever do leg presses, do not use i t a lot with patient either. However I use it with clients with bodybuilding goals.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:35 am | Reply to this comment

  • Ugg Boots outlet

    I came to your article from another article and am really interested in this learning about this, I feel strongly about information and love learning more on this.

    October 11, 2011 at 1:41 am | Reply to this comment

  • ugg classic tall

    I like the writing your blog and it does a pretty decent job of presenting the material.

    October 11, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Nick Chertock

    Every 55 year old woman in America has a thing for Selleck. It's unreal. No more leg presses for me, great post TG.

    December 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jon Robinson

    Totally agree Tony I gave these up years ago - funnily (or not so) what actually did it for me though was the epigastric hernia Jon Robinson BSc (Hons) Exercise Physiology

    May 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ozljb

    I agree - I herniated my discs, badly again doing a leg press with my PT !

    June 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Your Questions About Different Bodybuilding Exercises | Bodybuilding and Wellbeing Fitness

    [...] Go the the FDA and read more about it on pdf file.Powered by Yahoo! AnswersSusan asks…What is the rationale of dangerous/risky exercises in Bodybuilding. Please elaborate.?A...borate.?An example of which are: Upright rows, behind the neck pulldowns/presses, dumbell flies. [...]

    August 1, 2012 at 1:27 am | Reply to this comment

  • DB

    I severely injured my back (herniated disc) using a leg press. Unfortunately, I did not realize it was the leg press until second time I ended up on my back. I was using the leg press up to 3x per week maximum 150 lbs. The first time I injured myself using the machine a steroid injection in my lower back relieved the pain but I never fully regained my range of motion / flexibility a full year later. Stupid me - I resumed using the leg press 3 months ago (trying to get back to my regular workout routine) and within 1 week the pain came back with a vengeance. I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy, searing pain in my leg which feels like it is going to explode and the pain is constant and sitting is impossible. Only this time my disc really blew out, steroid injection failed I had to undergo electromyography which entails needles and electric shocks. Thousands of dollars and I am still in pain. The doc now recommends surgery . All this because of the leg press.

    September 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      I'm really sorry to hear that DB. I don't doubt the leg press played "some" role in your lower back issue, but I'd also be curious about your daily happenings as well: posture, gait. how you sleep, how you get up out of a chair. More often than not, it's the teeny-tiny aberrant motor patters that add up over time that are the culprit. Best of luck with everything, though. Really, really sorry to hear that.

      September 21, 2012 at 6:53 am | Reply to this comment

    • The Mouse

      If you maintain your back flat against the pad, you shouldn't have any issues with the leg press and back injuries. They are the fault of the user, not the machine. If used INCORRECTLY, anyone can hurt themselves.

      March 3, 2018 at 11:01 am | Reply to this comment

  • Ryan

    Utilization of the leg press as a tool in ones leg training regiment regardless of classification ( runner, lifter, etc...) is undeniably beneficial. The issue is that far too many depend solely on it, and do not use correct form while doing it as in many exercises. Yes, Squats are great, so are walking lunges, jumping squats, running, swimming, and extensions & curls. There is such a vast variety of exercises for leg strength, size, stamina, and stabilization. But the average person one either bypasses legs altogether working only the "vanity" muscles, or are not properly educated on how the legs move, how the machines should be set up, or correct form when using free weights and usually end up injuring their ankles, knees, hips and/or lower back. Just like all muscles large and small, for proper advancement regardless of your reasons, goals, sport etc.. variety, change, focus, and most importantly education is needed.

    September 22, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply to this comment

  • Weekend Fitness Tips #2 « Cube Dweller FitnessCube Dweller Fitness

    [...] The seated leg press fits in the same boat at the seated leg-extensions machine – avoid them and squat instead. Better yet, start off by learning how to box squat. This week I enjoyed reading Tony Gentilcore’s My Case Against the Leg Press. [...]

    November 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Marvin8

    Go with half the weight and go superslow. You'll see better results, and you'll never have an injury....period.

    January 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      While I understand that time under tension is a huge component of adding muscle mass, going super slow (in any movement, let alone the leg press) isn't really going to do anything to help someone move better or dominate on the playing field.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:32 am | Reply to this comment

  • John

    I don't know the leg press movement is more like any real life use of leg pushing I have done. Wrestling and shoving someone off of you while on your back come to mind. The barbell back squat is nothing like any thing I've ever had to do in my life. Better argument for the front squat maybe but I never hold things on my back and squat down in real life. I usually bend down and lift them like a deadlift or hold them in front of me when I squat down.

    March 21, 2013 at 8:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • Me

    I have a leg press for the same reason i have a smith machine. I work out by myself and have been stuck under a bar before.

    July 5, 2013 at 1:19 am | Reply to this comment

  • vanillasteve

    Leg presses CAN help you add muscle to your legs, but the risk of injury to your back and the non-functionality of the movement combined with the poor muscle recruitment pattern programming make it a joke for virtually ALL athletes save strict bodybuilders. Also, few movements will blow up you legs faster than high rep (15-25) lunges. The beauty of lunges is they actually serve a purpose for wresting, mma, football, basketball and BODYBUILDING --you name it--without the unnecessarily elevated risk of disk herniation and the bonus is THEY CAN BE DONE WITH A SIMPLE BARBELL or DUMBBELL. No big dumb ego machine necessary with lunges.

    August 21, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply to this comment

  • doug card

    Since you seem to be still answering...What about my situation as a 60 year old body builder? The idea that I would do leg press to impress anyone is silly, since the only people I would want to impress know that the leg press allows huge weights and doesn't really translate to anything outside bodybuilding. However, squats are very difficult and peg press doesn't seem to hurt me. 15 rep weight and at least 15 inch range of motion. Should I be OK if I stop the down motion before my back bends much? I was doing squats after press, since the squats are so uncomfortable and since I am weaker and don't need as much weight after 5 x 15 on the press. Should I go to squats first (taking 5 or 6 sessions to get up to full 12 rep weight) before press? I stopped playing tennis 7 years ago because my knees cant take it. (surely the extra 20 pounds of muscle I gained in a couple years didn't put too much stress on my knees, huh? :) ) Of course wide stance for either exercise. Also, would I be well served to start wrapping my knees or wear an elastic brace before squatting? Seems like a hassle and prevents the support muscles from getting stronger. I will be amazed if you answer me, but thanks for the info even if you don't.

    February 12, 2014 at 7:27 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Bob

    Because of a bulging thoracic disc the avoidance of spinal compression makes squats out of the question, although I know squats are better otherwise. Would a hip belt and ASG squats be somewhat close?

    April 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Reply to this comment

  • VC

    There is no doubt squat is a better exercise but I doubt it's safer than leg press. Squat is safe ONLY if you have perfect form. Are you sure you have perfect squat form? Supposedly professional bodybuilders can do perfect Squat but lots of professional bodybuilders have bad knees.

    April 22, 2014 at 3:13 am | Reply to this comment

  • [R2SR] a weight loss log - Page 7 -

    […] bulge. I would stay clear away from the leg press if I were you; it is not a functional movement: My Case Against the Leg Press Once a while should be OK but don't make it your staple. Others may differ in views esp those […]

    May 12, 2014 at 10:54 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Weekly Review: Whey Protein Enhanced Coffee, Action Thinking, Garage Home Gym, FIT, Infographics & Leg Press | John PhungWeekly Review: Whey Protein Enhanced Coffee, Action Thinking, Garage Home Gym, FIT, Infographics & Leg Press

    […] The leg press is one of the biggest ego builders but least effective strength training exercises (for normal, healthy individuals) I've seen in the gym. Tony Gentilcore explains his views on the leg press […]

    July 2, 2014 at 7:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • gilbert g

    Hi, personally yes I feel the squat is superior and should be a staple to every trainer out there, but I feel that the leg press should also be a staple in every gym. I see a lot of of young guys going too damn heavy on the squats and end up messing up there backs, knees etc... the leg press can be taught first to beginners to make them feel the "burn/pump" in perfect form and let them know that is what it's suppose to feel when working that perticular muscle in the squat etc... everybody is trying to put so much weight too fast which their ligaments and joints haven't adapted to the load and an injury occurs. Leave your ego at the door, train smart, and as time goes by, your max numbers will go up too.

    July 16, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      One day I should probably go back and re-address this post. I'm not the same uppity, know it all, a-hole who wrote that original post. While there will always be a list of exercises that I tend to steer people away from - the leg press being one of them - I now operate under the impression that EVERY exercise has a time and place. And, yes, the leg press too.....;O)

      July 17, 2014 at 6:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • Carter

    I think that the leg press should be banned from middle school and high school weight rooms. Even after taught "how to use it" it provides a great danger to the health of a teenager, especially one with strong legs. My personal experience with this was as a freshman in high school 4 years ago. I had incredibly strong legs. Because of that and a lack of safety knowledge about the risks of overloading the weight, which my gym teacher did not give, I really injured my back. In gym class when I was 14 we were required to do leg press, so because my legs were able to do it I put as much weight on as the machine was able to hold and started lifting. After a few reps, I felt my lower spine physically pop and an incredible fiery pain shot all over my low back. It was so bad that I was not able to stand up for a few minutes, nor could I bend my back for weeks afterwards. I spent the rest of the day in great pain, though I was able to walk and go up stairs with difficulty. After school I went to see my schools athletic trainer, who was not very good at her job, and she told me I had a strained ligament and gave me a list of stretches and said I'd be better in a couple weeks. The stretches did not help, and the pain eventually dulled out that summer yet came back in full force every time I tried to do a workout again. Had I had health insurance, I would have seen a doctor. Well, fast forward four years to my senior year and I still have back problems, though the pain is no where near what it was. Our school got rid of the leg press, thank God, but I still cannot lift things of greater weight without a tight weight belt, or the pain comes back. It also comes back if I stand or sit to long. So I went to ask our brand new athletic trainer, and she told me that she thinks the weight I had on the leg press actually either fractured one of the vertebrae in my lower back, or herniated one of my disks, since I was still rather young at the time. So moral of the story: leg presses can and will mess up your spine if you do not know how to use them correctly, weight trainers (be them gym teachers or high level coaches) should inform you of the risks of what can happen if you do to much weight, and school athletic trainers occasionally are wrong, so just pay the bill and see the doctor. The reason I think the leg press should be banned from schools is that the teacher cannot be everywhere at once, and kids love to show off without any regard for their own safety.

    January 31, 2015 at 4:01 am | Reply to this comment

  • disqus_0PtLV9c2IT

    Don't use one of those stupid angled "sled" type leg press machines. The machine is bearing a large percentage of the weight for you. Those machines don't even deserve discussion at all in the first place! Get a true vertical leg press instead, where you are pressing the weight straight up, truly perpendicular to the ground. Then you are actually bearing all of the weight. If it was good enough for Arnold, then it's good enough for you.

    July 28, 2015 at 5:21 pm | Reply to this comment

  • John Kealy

    Hi I'm writing because I just googled "leg presses bad for lower back". The reason I googled, you guessed it, is because I just messed up my lower back leg pressing 540 lbs. I was surprised how easy it was to do (I can only back squat 200) and the moment I stepped off the machine, my back said "f*** you John". Never leg pressing again. Wish I'd read this yesterday. Happy new year

    December 31, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Dan

    If your going to quote people and show photos as your arguments you should get it straight. The last photo is a hack squat machine not a leg press. Conditions where you are likely to get herniated discs occur in every loaded exercise where you go into lumbar flexion. The reason this happens alot in the leg press is because most people go too low and too heavy, so that the lower back gets "rounded". If done properly you should be fine, just like any other exercise. But i see far more butt wink when people back squat compared to leg pressing. ALL exercises who makes your muscle stronger will help you perform, the russian athletes used to do a lot of leg pressing. Karelin is just one example of a once in a lifetime athlete who used the leg press. In the end i would like to state that i do think squats and unilateral work will have a better carryover for athletes. But i dont think the leg press is a bad exercise, its a totally fine exercise to do for people who are super tall or for people who dont want to squat for some reason. I have squatted a whole lot and i do like the exercise. I did olympic weightlifting when i was younger and used to squat 6 days a week. So its not like i love the leg press or anything, i would always prefer squats. But the legpress is also a good option for aesthetic goals, and if done correctly it shouldnt be dangerous to do.

    February 15, 2016 at 8:18 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Okay, relax Dan. Admittedly, this was an article I wrote like 6-7 years ago (when I was a little more immature), and I honestly haven't taken a look at it since. My stance has changed quite a bit since then. I now take the stance that everything has a time and place....even the leg press. As far as "butt wink" is concerned, I have to say I agree with you. Although, with squats, the culprit is usually a poor bracing strategy......but too, you can't deny everyone's unique anatomy (not everyone is meant to - or can - squat below parallel). Hopefully I get a bit of a mulligan on this one. And more importantly, I'm sure if you stick around and read more of my recent stuff you'll (hopefully) see I'm not as much of an a-hole as I was back then.....;O)

      February 15, 2016 at 10:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mike

    Out of curiosity - is the fully horizontal leg press safer than the diagonal one? Many leg presses have you sit against the pad and elevate your legs at a 45 degree angle above you, so the weight is coming down and you are pushing it back up at an angle. The one at my gym is perfectly horizontal, so your legs are parallel with the ground the entire time. Does this preclude many of the low back issues, or is it exactly the same in terms of risk?

    February 1, 2017 at 1:34 am | Reply to this comment

  • Daniel

    Thanks for posting this. I googled "lower back pain leg press" and found this. This explains so much. Had no idea leg presses could cause a herniated disc. I've been suffering from lower back issues and I had no idea why. Going to avoid leg presses from now on. Thank you so much.

    March 27, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Reply to this comment

    • The Mouse

      Only if done incorrectly... sheesh. I use the leg press ONLY because i have torn meniscuses on both knees... squats are out of the question. Squats aggravate my knees EVEN WITH PROPER FORM and using various stances/depths. Ass to Grass squats are even worse for my knees; not to mention, my ass is too big from squatting. So instead I Leg Press with both legs and one legged. And I use PROPER FORM on the leg press with various stances (both wide and narrow; high and low foot placement) and get a great leg workout without aggravating or inflaming my knees. And I KEEP MY DAMN BACK ON THE PAD AND DO NOT ROUND MY BACK EVER! Thank you. This was a public service announcement.

      March 3, 2018 at 11:11 am | Reply to this comment

  • Ross

    I've had massive issues with L5 S1 disc herniation caused by leg press. The risk v reward is not worth it!!

    April 15, 2017 at 10:31 pm | Reply to this comment

  • How to set up a very affordable home gym | BPPT

    […] eating clothes hanger – ahh the old leg press: Warning. Opinion alert!  “They are just lower back destroyers to feed an over inflated ego” I can hear the body building fraternity screaming at the […]

    April 20, 2017 at 4:42 am | Reply to this comment

  • Andrew Jones

    I don't yet know if leg presses are a good exercise or not, but this is what I have observed: squats build the adductors way too much and leg press does not. That is to say that well before your quads are at a reasonable size, your adductors will be rubbing against each other when you walk. This is the extreme opposite of functional. One of your arguments is about stabilizers. The problem with this argument is that there are real life situations where the weight is actually stabilized and you don't need to stabilize anything. These are situations such as pushing and pulling heavy objects. Now, prowler exercises are obviously the answer to this, but I don't know what kind of size gains you will achieve from prowler exercises. Finally, I think your argument about "squatting is a natural movement" isn't very strong for the reasons you outlined yourself. You don't squat with weight on your back. I don't think anything should be done at the gym with weight if the only reason is "we do this movement in real life, but without weight". Why are you doing it with weight than? So I don't really know about leg press. It does pose issues with lower back rounding if you go to low, but other than that, I haven't seen any particularly good arguments as to why it is bad.

    September 27, 2018 at 9:07 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mike

    I have a L4/L5 herniated disk. I can’t put any load on my spine anymore. I’ve been doing belt squat which is the closest replacement exercise to the traditional squat that I know, although you can’t load as heavy with belt squat, but better than nothing. The Bulgarian Split squat is even better, I would say it equals to the traditional squat, it’s a great exercise. Until one day I use heavier dumbbells, my pain came back the next day. Damn! So any kind of load to spine is out of the question for me, not barbell on back, not even holding heavy dumbbells. Last week I decided to give leg press a try. I went light the first time, felt pretty good. Yesterday I went heavy, today my sciatic pain is extreme. So my point is, I thought leg press is safe for my spine because it’s not being compressed with heavy weights, but I got the pain today, even though I focused keeping my back against the pad the whole time. If you have a herniated disk and using the leg press, be very careful.

    March 26, 2020 at 9:45 am | Reply to this comment

  • J.R.

    If you do the leg press CORRECTLY, it is a much safer exercise than the squat. If your hips/lower back start to come off the pad, you're going too deep. If your knees hurt, try moving your foot positioning. The arguments against the leg press in this article are merely opinions.

    October 23, 2020 at 7:16 am | Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment