Which is more effective at building stronger, more muscular legs? The squat? Or the leg press machine? It’s a controversial question that has been debated for decades.
Like so many things in fitness, there’s no easy answer – and it really depends on the individual. Ability level, body type and injuries must all be taken into consideration.
The Leg Press
For one, it’s easy for beginners to understand the machine – and, with a little guidance from a trainer – to perform the exercise in good form. When using the leg press, it’s important for the lower back to stay flat against the machine. At the bottom position, a rounded lower back can leave the spine susceptible to dangerously large compression loads. The leg press certainly isn’t fool-proof, but it’s easier to master than a squat.
In addition, when performed properly – and unlike traditional squats – leg press machines take the lower back out of the equation. For people with lower back issues, this can be a huge benefit. When people with back issues perform a traditional squat, their lower back may give out before the leg muscle are fatigued.
While the leg press doesn’t offer adjustments for different body structures, a squat is unique to you. Instead of forcing your body to work within the confines of an apparatus designed by a manufacturer, a squat accommodates many different body structures. As a result, exercisers are able to avoid the postural or movement dysfunctions that can result from the leg press machine.
Moreover, squats require – and thus build – stabilization. In everyday activities and in sports, stabilization is hugely important. One of the reasons that people are able to work with more weight on the leg press machine is that it does the stabilizing work for you. While the leg press eliminates balance from the exercise, it’s not eliminated from our lives – and so it’s an important skill to develop. This gives squats an important advantage.
We also know that growth hormone and testosterone are important for building muscles. It’s believed that squats are one of the most effective resistance exercises (including leg presses) for increasing those hormone levels.
Both squats and leg presses can be important exercises in any leg workout. Each exercise offers unique benefits to different exercisers – and so it’s just a matter of finding which works best for you. Personally, I like to start my leg workout with squats – and then move to the leg press to fully fatigue the muscles.
And remember, if you’re trying to build muscle, then it’s important to push yourself to higher levels of resistance. If you’re doing the same amount of weight each week – be it on the leg press or in a squat – then you won’t see the muscle growth for which you’re looking.
Which do you prefer? The leg press? Or the squat? Let me know in the comments below!