What Are the Leg Press Benefits for Leg Muscle Development

The leg press machine is one of your best friends at the gym if you want to develop the muscles of your legs. It is a compound exercise for the lower body, which strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves.

It is a useful option for men to boost the size of their thighs. But also for women who want to get sexy and shaped butt and legs.

And, these are just a few of the leg press benefits.

Read on to learn more about why you should do it.

Beginner’s Guide

leg press machine muscles worked

Leg press muscles involved

It is among the most easy-to-learn strength training leg exercises since the machine drives the motion. It is also rather safe to perform thanks to the safety catchers of the gym equipment. Because of these features, compared to squats, athletes can lift heavier weights, which leads to improved muscle mass and strength development. Also, it is the right choice for beginners because of its ease of use.

The leg press exercise itself is very straightforward. Set the weight you want to use, sit into the machine, and place your feet on the platform. Now, slowly lower the sled, so your knees go towards your chest. The next phase is when you need to push the weight away and upwards from yourself. At the top, when your legs are straight, hold the platform for a few seconds.

Basically, that’s it. Of course, there are variations and tricks that I’m going to talk about later.

Here is the video tutorial for the correct form to enjoy all the leg press machine benefits.


Common mistakes:

  • Locking your knees at the top. Keep them slightly bent.
  • Don’t turn your feet too much outward or inward.
  • Don’t let your knees going close together at the bottom.
  • Don’t lower the sled too far when your knees almost touch your chest. Stop it when your thighs are somewhat vertical.

As you see, the movement engages all the muscle groups of the lower body and even your core. Personally, it is my favorite leg exercise after squats.

1. Leg press exercise benefits for glutes

Your glutes (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus) are muscles that build up your buttocks. If you see girls and boys with beautiful butts, that is because of their developed glute muscles.

Of course, strengthening those areas is not just essential to have an attractive body, but also helps perform better in various sports. For example, jump higher, run faster, etc. Or, if you do weight training, you will be better at other lower body exercises.

If you do the seated leg press exercise correctly, it engages the gluteal muscles well both in the pressing and lowering phase.

However, here is a trick. Instead of placing your feet in the middle of the platform, set them a bit upwards. This way, there will be more pressure on your glutes than the other major muscle groups of your legs.

Finally, if your primary goal is making your butt bigger, do leg press for glutes with a heavier amount of weight and with that lower reps. If you want to tone your buttocks, increase the reps and lower the load.

To sum up, if you want to build well-defined and strong glutes, use this exercise equipment.

Related: Check out the best leg press machines for home here

2. Build Strong Hamstrings

Man training legs on leg press machine

The hamstrings are groups of muscle that can be found at the rear part of the upper leg. If you want big and well-defined thighs, it is not enough to focus on just the quadriceps, which is located at the front. Hams and quads together build up the shape of the upper legs.

Of course, strengthening your hams is not only necessary to look muscular but also for functional strength and conditioning. Hams are required for all sorts of the lower body pushing exercises or moves where explosive power is needed. For example, for running, jumping, skating, sprinting, or other strength training activities such as squats or lunges.

During the leg press exercise, the hamstrings are almost always engaged since they control the lowering and pushing movements. Or, when you hold the sled at the top.

Do you want to target your hams even better? Just like for glutes, place your feet higher, so more charge is added to those areas.

3. Develop Your Quad Strength

The quadriceps muscle (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius) are at the front and the sides of your upper legs. The quads take place in lower body pushing and explosive moves such as vertical jump, stand up, etc. Well-defined front thighs also look cool.

When you do leg presses, quadriceps are mostly engaged when you push the weight away from you. But, also control the motion while letting it back. This is the primarily used muscle group during the exercise. However, by setting your feet lower, you can target your quads even better.

Do you want to focus on your inner thighs?

Instead of the standard shoulder-width foot placement, get a wide stance.

Do you want to target your outer thighs?

Get a narrow stance.

To sum up, if you want to gain and define your front thighs, it is an excellent exercise to focus on those areas.

4. Improve Your Calves

Well, it is not the best exercise for the calves since the upper leg muscles are the ones that work. However, calf muscles are the ones that help to control the motion acting as stabilizers. And, that is better than nothing.

However, you can use the leg press machine to do calf raises!

Put about half of your feet on the lower edge of the platform, as if you were using a calf raise machine. Let the weight pushing your feet backward. You feel stretch at the back of your lower legs. Then, push the weight back with the power of the calves.

Since you are sitting, you can focus on the calf muscles well. Also, by putting your feet in an outer position, you can target your inner calves by placing them in an inner position, your outer calves. But, here is a detailed guide for calf raises.


5. Beginner Friendly & Safe Bodybuilding

While squats are the king of the lower body exercises, for a beginner, it takes time to learn the correct form. Also, an inexperienced trainer can fall over if he loses his balance, leading to a bad injury.

The leg press machine provides a safe environment to get started with lower body strength training. You do not have to be afraid of weights falling on you since you can quickly stop the weighted platform with the safety break. Hence, you can train without a spotter.

Also, it is effortless to learn the proper form even for someone who has never lifted weights before. Hence, beginners can focus on lifting.

Leg press instead of squats?

However, do not forget about the barbell squat! If you are a newbie, use the machine to prepare your body for barbell squats. It is the best strength training exercise in the world which must be in a leg workout routine. Compared to the leg press, it works far more muscles since a lot of secondary stabilizers are activated, even upper body ones, leading to better overall strength.

Watch the following video on leg press vs. squat.

To conclude, it is excellent for beginners, but also for heavy lifters since the machine is rather safe to use.

6. Seated leg press exercise variations to target various parts of your legs

Shoulder-width is the standard stance which great for overall leg development. However, by placing your feet in different positions, you can target a particular leg muscle group better. This way, you can get more targeted bodybuilding workouts.

  • The lower you put your feet; the more load is in your quads.
  • High foot placement engages the glutes and hamstrings better.
  • The wide stance puts more emphasis on the inner thighs.
  • Narrow stance on your outer upper leg.
  • By pushing the platform with your toes, you can strengthen your calves.
  • Single leg presses to boost power and get rid of muscle imbalance.

Recommended: You can learn more about these leg press variations here.

7. Vertical leg press benefits – What’s the difference?

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SUPRISE YOUR QUADS????❗️⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ The Smith machine leg press is a leg press variation and an exercise used to target the muscles of the leg. In particular, the Smith machine leg press will emphasize your quadriceps, but also indirectly targets the glutes, hamstrings, and calves.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ TIPS❗️????⁣⁣ ▶️ Un/re-racking for this exercise can be tricky due to the way the smith machine is designed; you will most likely want to enlist the help of a spotter (or two) with the exercise to ensure that you don’t risk injuring yourself.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ ▶️ Toe angle is highly individual – experiment to see what feels best for you.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ ▶️ Never lower the weight so far that the hips to tuck under (i.e. posteriorly tilt) as this can predispose you to vertebrae and disc issues.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ ▶️ If you want to generate more tension within the quads, stop just short of lockout and don’t fully extend the knees.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I did 5 sets/ 15,12,10,8,20 ????????⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Try and cry????????????‍♂️✔️ ⁣ ⁣ #legworkout#legdaymotivation#verticallegpress#legpress#bodybuiding#trainhardfeelgood#workout????#getstronger#fitfam#fitnessmotivation#nevergiveup????#bodygoals#bodybuiding#bodybuilding_and_fitness_#bodybuildingaddict#personaltrainerlife#powermoves#leanstrength#naturalbodybuilder#healthylifehappylife#gymtime????#gymfitness#gaintrain #

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The vertical leg press seems to be an odd machine compared to the traditional one. It is not as popular, and in most cases, you cannot find one at a small gym. However, it is excellent equipment to make your leg workout even more versatile and to target a particular muscle group more effectively. Some bodybuilding experts say it is even better than 45-degree machines since it provides a better environment for the pushing movement because it is 90 degrees.

The main reason why professionals use it is that they can target the quadriceps more effectively. Because of the vertical pushing, quads are more engaged, and other muscles of the legs do not participate as much. Hence, you can build more defined and stronger quadriceps.

The other reason is that it supports the back, notably the lower back better. Your entire back is on padded support, and it gets far less load as if you were doing bar squats or regular leg press.

Finally, I have to mention that switching to new exercises is always good since the muscles get a new impact for which they have to adapt. Finally, you will not get bored with the same leg exercises and makes your workout more challenging.

Note: If there is not a vertical machine at the gym, you can use the Smith machine instead. Although, it is not as comfortable because of the bar (unless the Smith machine has a specialized attachment.)


What are the single leg press benefits?


Well, this is an advanced variation that requires practice. It is far more difficult to perform since your body is in an unstable position, but that is why it so good to boost the power of your lower body. Here are some of its advantages.

  • It gives a longer range of motion leading to improved strength and mass development.
  • Because of the imbalance, the core muscles are activated.
  • You can develop a balance between both legs. If for some reason, one of your legs is weaker than the other, you can cure it with this exercise.
  • Strengthen your legs with just half of the weight and get the same results.
  • It builds functional strength.

Which leg press machine is better? Vertical, 45-degree, or horizontal?

Well, that depends on how long have you been doing strength training. For beginners or someone who want to shape legs, the horizontal machine is good to start with. These are easy to use and safe weight stack machines.

But, advanced athletes should go with the vertical or incline seated leg press machine.

What are the incline leg press benefits for ladies?

It is a piece of effective gym equipment for women to shape their legs and buttocks (glutes). So, it helps to make your bum bigger and more shaped. Plus, if they want to challenge themselves, they can use it for lifting heavier weights safely.

Does it help weight loss?

Not directly. I mean, it burns calories since it is a compound exercise, but the real benefit comes from the enhanced muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism is. And, that leads to continuous calorie burning even if you do not train.

To Conclude

As you see, the leg press workout benefits are numerous. It provides complete leg training. It is a powerful leg exercise that works more muscles at once. It is a more natural movement for the body than isometric exercises targeting only one muscle group leading to enhanced functional strength and power. No matter if you want more significant or more defined leg muscles, it will help to reach your goal.


James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

2 thoughts on “What Are the Leg Press Benefits for Leg Muscle Development”

    1. Well, while it is a compound move that works all the muscles of the lower body, the squat is much better. Firstly, it is a natural movement that requires stability from the entire body. This way, not just the lower but the upper body is activated as well. Hence, for overall strength development, the squat is a necessary exercise. The leg press is not bad at all, it helps to develop your glutes and hams, but the majority of your leg workout should be various squats.

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