Leg Press Variations for Better Lower Body Training

Last Updated on the June 24, 2020

different leg press exercise variations

There is no doubt that the good old squat is the ultimate exercise to develop the size and the power of the legs. But if you have been into muscle building, you know that training muscles in different ways are a must to get the best results.

The seated leg press exercise is maybe the second most important weight training exercise for the lower body after the squat. It also develops strength and size efficiently. You can even lift more weights that may motivate you. Besides, it is a good alternative for squat if you have back or spine problems since it put less stress on those areas. Hence, it is recommended to have it in your lower body workout program.

Most of the people just sit into the leg press machine and use the traditional foot position that works mainly the quad muscles. However, by changing the status of your feet, you can target one particular leg muscle more. Since this is a compound move, it is impossible to isolate one muscle group totally, but by placing your feet differently, you can put more resistance to one particular area.

Guide to leg press foot placement variations to target glutes, hamstrings, and quats

The editors of stupidsimplefitness.com have put together an excellent infographic from which you can learn how different positions work different parts of your legs. Therefore, if you do these variations, you can train your entire lower body. But, keep in mind that squat and its variations are still the best leg exercises.

leg press foot placements

Leg press exercise variations and what muscles they work

Let’s recap what you’ve learned about seated leg press variations

  • The standard placement works your entire leg, but this is the leg press foot placement for quads.
  • The wide stance works your inner quadriceps and abductors.
  • The narrow stance trains your outer quadriceps and also your abductors.
  • The high placement is suitable for your glutes and hams.
  • The low foot placement trains your quads more.
  • And finally, by placing your feet at the edge of the platform, you can develop your calves. The advantage of these moves allow you to work with heavy weights safely, that may lead to efficient calf size development.

Note: No matter which technique you choose to focus on getting a full range of motion, which the best way to build strength and muscle mass. That is true not just for leg training, but for any parts of your body.

Tip for pros: Have you ever tried banded leg presses? Fix two rubber bands on the sides of the machine. This way, the resistance will be much more different. For example, it is harder to control the motion in the negative phase. A simple yet effective method for bodybuilding and powerlifting.

So, the next time you want to do your leg press machine workout, don’t forget to try these variations. They can be very useful if you want to target a muscle group that does not develop as you wish. If you liked these tips, you might also like our squat variations article, as well.


Can you build big legs with leg press?

While it is a compound exercise, and with these variations, you can target various parts of your legs; it is not the top exercise for size. The king is a barbell squat that builds functional strength and muscle mass. However, with the machine, you can lift heavy weights that contributes to size. The best is if you combine the two.

What are the leg press benefits for bodybuilding?

  • Total lower body training.
  • Target your glutes, hamstring, quads, and calves.
  • Lift heavy in a safe environment.
  • Beginner friendly.

Read more about the benefits here.

Can you show me other alternatives?

The 90-degree vertical machine is excellent equipment since you can focus on the pushing movement better. Plus, your back is more supported, and you can target your quads more effectively. Alternatively, you can use the Smith machine, but it is not as comfortable to push because of the thin bar.

You can also try single leg presses that require practice but a perfect exercise to build lower body functional strength. Since you only use one of your legs, you are in an unbalanced position. It gives a more extended range of motion, build core strength, and helps to get rid of muscle imbalance.


Escamilla, Rafael F., et al. “Effects of technique variations on knee biomechanics….” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 33.9 (2001): 1552-1566.

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.

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