In today’s article, we’re going to be tackling the subject of leg training.
Specifically, we’re going to be looking at leg press vs squat.
For bodybuilders, and simply people that lift weights in general for that matter, nearly 100% of the time, the toughest body part to train is most certainly going to be legs.
Leg day is brutal, and if it isn’t, you simply aren’t working your legs hard enough.
When it comes to the topic of leg training, however, everybody has their own opinions about what they consider to be the most effective form of training.
Some people are convinced that heavy weights and low reps are the best, whereas others prefer to adopt much more of a high volume method of training.
Regardless of which type of leg training you like to do, one thing we can all agree on is the fact that leg presses and squats are amongst the most beneficial exercises when it comes to muscle hypertrophy (growth).
But when it comes down to leg press vs squat, which is best? Well, that’s what we’re going to be looking at today.
Table Of Contents
The leg press is an exercise that is performed on a leg press machine.
Typically, the exercise is performed at an angle of around 45-degrees, whereby the user of the machine will sit in the seat with their back against a padded backrest, place the flats of their feet on a platform, unlock the device, and press the platform with their chosen resistance by extending the legs and returning to the starting position.
Leg presses primarily work the quads, and hamstrings, though the glutes also receive a workout, as does the core for that matter.
Leg presses are great additions to any leg workout, yet some believe that they’re pointless if you do squats.
If we’re going by that logic, though, that’s like saying push-ups are pointless if you’ve done bench press, or lateral raises are pointless if you’ve already done shoulder presses.
If you’re ready to take your leg training to the next level, you might want to familiarize yourself with the following common leg press mistakes, so as to avoid making them yourself the next time you’re in the gym training.
If you use a leg press machine incorrectly, not only will your legs not fully benefit from the exercise, but more worryingly than that, you run the risk of seriously injuring yourself, and nobody wants that.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, check out these common leg press mistakes to avoid making.
One of the worst mistakes you can make when using a leg press machine is to lower the platform/sled too far down.
You see, when you use a leg press, because of its unique design, it supports your back so there is less risk of a back injury than when squatting.
However, that does not mean that there is no risk of a back injury, as we’re about to explain.
When leg pressing, your lumbar is still vulnerable, and if you allow the sled to drop down too far your butt will lift off of the seat slightly and your lower back will lift up off of the backrest and will therefore not be supported.
This position is actually where your lumbar discs are the most vulnerable so you could potentially suffer a very serious back injury if you aren’t careful.
Another common leg press mistake to avoid making is fully extending your legs when you complete a rep.
There are some truly horrendous videos online of people suffering leg injuries whilst using a leg press machine and fully extending their legs, but take it from us, don’t watch them yourself as they’re not nice to see.
When you use a leg press machine, never fully extend your legs and lockout your knees because you run the risk of dislocating your knee or potentially snapping your leg.
Another common mistake that people make when using the leg press machine is to perform shallow reps.
When you perform bicep curls, you don’t do a quarter rep as that won’t target maximum muscle fibers so you won’t get the most from the exercise.
The same principle applies to leg press.
So many people in gyms up and down the country, and all over the globe, are guilty of performing partial reps with too much weight, which means that the exercise is pointless.
Partial reps will yield partial results, and nobody wants that.
When you perform leg presses, you want to be executing a full range of motion to complete each rep correctly.
If that means using less weight and doing more reps to feel the burn, as it were, then so be it.
We’ve all seen the videos of bodybuilders and strongmen leg pressing ridiculous amounts of weight and having grown men sitting on the machine to add additional weight to it, but be under no illusions, this is not safe, nor is it necessary.
When you leg press, forget about trying to show off and show other people how strong you are and how much weight you can press and instead focus on using weights that test you, but that you are in control of at all times.
Ego lifting for attention will not only put you in danger and render the exercise ineffective, but it will also make you look like a massive douche in the process, and nobody wants that, right?
When it comes down to squat vs leg press, another common mistake that people make when leg pressing is failing to place their heels flat onto the sled.
No matter the size of the sled, you should never use your quads to lift the weight by lifting your heels off of the sled.
When you lift your heels off of the sled you have less base of support and consequently, you will not be in control of the weight and your joints will be placed under more pressure.
Not only that but if your heels aren’t flat on the sled you won’t be able to execute the exercise correctly and you won’t get maximum benefits from it.
Now that you know more about leg presses, it’s time for us to learn more about squats.
Barbell back squats are considered by many to be the ultimate leg exercise.
If you’ve ever experienced leg DOMS the day after leg day you’ll likely have performed barbell back squats the day before.
There are many different variations of the squat to perform, yet ultimately, they’re all very similar in terms of how the exercise is performed.
When people think of squats, typically they think of barbell back squats, so it is these we’ll be referring to today when talking about leg press vs squats.
Barbell back squats are performed when a barbell is loaded onto a squat rack or cage at around shoulder height.
Next, the bar is placed carefully across the back where it rests on the traps on the upper back.
The individual will then take a few steps backward to un-rack the weight, before slowly squatting down with the weight, and standing up again in a slow and controlled manner.
Squats are fantastic for working the hamstrings, the glutes, the quads, and even your calves, making them a fantastic compound exercise.
You can also perform squats with dumbbells, front squats, bodyweight squats, Hindu squats, and many more besides.
Just as we looked at common mistakes to avoid when performing leg presses, we’re now going to take a look at a few common squat mistakes to avoid making.
If you perform barbell squats or any other squat variant for that matter, it’s vital that you know how to execute the exercise correctly.
This will not only help to keep you safe, but it will also help you to get more out of the exercise as well.
Check out these common squat exercises to avoid.
Again, there are plenty of videos online of people sustaining injuries whilst squatting and usually, these are caused by people simply trying to lift weights which are too heavy.
When you squat, your knees, ankles, hips, and lower back are all under pressure and if you use weights which are too heavy then you run the risk of sustaining a very serious injury.
When you squat, you need to be in full control of the weight.
If not, if you’re lucky you will squat down and simply be unable to stand back up, or if you’re unlucky you could blow out your knees, back, or ankle.
Because of this, only squat with a weight that you are comfortable with in order to keep yourself safe and to get more from the exercise.
Okay, first and foremost, when it comes to squatting, you should never ever squat with even a relatively heavyweight if you aren’t using a rack or a cage.
Failing to use a cage or a power rack could result in you becoming injured.
Say, for example, you squat in a rack and go for a new personal best that you have never squatted before.
If you squat down with the weight and find it is too heavy to complete the lift, you can ditch the bar and the safety bars will catch it for you, and you will stand up perfectly fine.
If you don’t use a rack or cage, the bar could roll forwards and crush your neck, or if it rolls backward it could still seriously injure you.
Not only that, but it will also cause a lot of damage to the floor, so the gym owner wouldn’t be very pleased with you.
Far too many people when squatting will make the mistake of simply not squatting down deep enough when completing the exercise.
When you perform a squat, fitness experts recommend that your knees should form an angle of at least 90-degrees, though if you can go deeper that is also recommended.
Failing to squat deep enough means that you aren’t recruiting and breaking down the maximum amounts of muscle fibers that you should be, which means that the exercise isn’t targeting as many muscle fibers and tissues as it should be.
Whether you’re looking to strengthen your core, build up your legs, or get that squat booty poppin’, it’s essential that you get plenty of depth when squatting.
Another common mistake that people make when squatting is curving forwards.
When squatting, it is tempting to lean forwards, especially if the exercise is testing, but you should try to resist the temptation to lean forwards.
Try to keep your back as straight as possible when squatting as rounding your back is just asking for trouble as this will put you at risk of slipped discs and all manner of back injuries which will be incredibly painful.
Okay, so the moment of truth, it’s now time to look at which exercise is best.
In reality, both exercises are equally as effective as one another which is why it is best to combine them together as part of your leg training.
If you want an all-around exercise for strength and mass, squats are better as they’re a compound exercise.
If, however, you want more of an isolation exercise, leg presses are ideal.
Reda is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.