Exercise & Fitness Blog

Do you Work Out in a Gym? Your Gym Probably Has The Wrong Leg Press!

Posted on May 12 2013 in Gym Instruction

Of the thousands of gym machines people use when they work out in a gym, the leg press is one of the greatest machines.  There are three main types of leg press machines found in most fitness centers and they are:

  • the Cybex squat press
  • the horizontal leg press
  • the vertical or inclined leg press

Using a leg press can be an important part of any work out in a gym for the following reasons:

  1. Mimics the act of squatting, which is one of the most fundamental and crucial human movements for everyday living as well as fall prevention
  2. Uses multiple muscle groups for both strengthening and stabilization
  3. Is a great opportunity to practice body consciousness and Total Body Posture
  4. Increases the muscle metabolism of some of the biggest muscles in your body which are a great compliment to weight loss
  5. Promotes and enhances joint and bone health throughout the body

Work Out in a Gym? Make sure your gym has the right leg press machine!

Now here's the problem.  Nine out of ten gyms have the wrong leg press machines!!!  Of the three I listed above, only one of them really mimics the normal motion of a squat.  First, lets look at two of the leg presses that most gyms choose, but are not the best choice for you.

Work Out in a Gym? Check the Leg Press Machine.

The Cybex squat press: Using this machine usually requires you to get close to the ground and push upward.  This movement is not only NOT functional, but puts you at excessive risk.

  1. You're excessively flexed forward, putting your hips in an significantly cramped position which is a lousy starting position for any exercise.
  2. Similarly,  this same position puts unhealthy pressure through your spine, as your spine is excessively flexed forward. 
  3. Laying on your back and pushing with your legs isn't very functional.  Your body wasn't designed to operate like this, so training like this also puts you in harm's way.
  4. Picture yourself bent over and then perform a squat.  You wouldn't do this while lifting something in your everyday life and expect a great result, so don't do this in the gym on this type of leg press.

Now combine these two problems with heavy weight and you're begging for an eventual issue in your knees, hips, or back.

The vertical or inclined leg press:  This machine is not that much different than the hack squat. However, it looks a lot more like the horizontal leg press.  Unlike the horizontal press, the sled and back rest is upright.  The issues are no different than the hack squat machine.  Poor hip and spinal positioning mimic squatting while bent over.  This type of squat over time will advance breakdown and stress in your joints.

So I guess by now you know which leg press is the right choice for you.  It's the horizontal leg press.  This leg press is different and more functional for several reasons.

  1. With the sled back rest in a horizontal position it puts your spine in the same exact position you would be in during a functional squat while lifting something in everyday life. So it's functional. 
  2. Your hips and spine start in the 90 degree position which keeps them in the optimal place to push from.
  3. Finally, This type of leg press allows you to safely perform single leg press and even calf raises without all the hip and spine injury risk.

Learning how to successfully negotiate a gym setting is crucial to your success.  If you have the choice to use the horizontal leg press versus the other options during your work out in a gym, do it!  Lower your injury risk and get better results!  If, however, your gym only has a hack squat or a inclined leg press, try one of the following:

  1. Smith Machine squat: The smith machine is the big machine with the bar that glides up and down on tracks.  Ask your gym staff if they have one.  Remember to set the machine properly, prepare your Total Body Posture, and as you exercise monitor for warning signs including toes pointing outward, knees falling inward or bowing out, failure to sit back as you squat and allowing your knees to extend past your toes and finally, your back excessively arching or flexing forward.
  2. Ball Squat:  Simply take one of the large exercise balls and place it up against some open wall space.  Lean back against the ball so it is against your lower back.  Prepare your Total Body Posture, and perform a squat holding for 5 seconds.  Monitor your posture and the same warning signs as the  Smith Machine squat.  

Overall, never squat too deep.  You should experience light shaking and muscle fatigue in your quads but never loss of your posture, and certainly, never pain.

Do Now

Still don't get it?  Try this.  Stand up, and while bending over in half, perform 20 squats.  It's just not right!  Squatting should include keeping your spine in an upright position never bent over like the hack squat and the inclined leg press.  Learn much more in my Free E-course!

The Takeaway

Choosing the right equipment in the next work out in a gym may be the difference between success and failure, between results and an injury. More specifically, The choice of leg press makes all the difference in the world.  The horizontal leg press is the leg press of choice.  Ask your gym staff where the horizontal leg press is located.  If they don't have one, try one of the other alternative exercises I suggested.

If you'r still not sure which one to use, take a picture of the leg press at your gym with your phone and send it to me at info@StopExercising.com.  I will give you the answer!

   In exercise, what you don't know CAN hurt you!


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