Leg presses are performed using machines available at most gyms.
There are many exercises you can do for your legs, but few have the combination of safety and effectiveness as leg presses. These are compound, or multi-joint, movements that allow you to work your hip and thigh muscles. The best leg press exercises are those that allow you to emphasize the leg muscles you choose, allowing you to work on your lagging body parts so you can develop a more balanced physique.
Leg Press Basics
To do the leg press, begin by sitting on the machine with your back against the seat. Lift your feet off the ground, bend your knees and position each foot flat on the platform in a shoulder-width stance. Push the platform away from you by extending your hips and knees. Focus on contracting your quadriceps and gluteus muscles of your thighs and butt, respectively. Stop short of your knees locking, then bend your hips and knees to return to the beginning point.
Closer for Outer
You can utilize a variety of foot stances when doing the leg press. Doing so will allow you to work a different part of the four-headed quadriceps muscle. The shoulder-width stance works all four muscles -- rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and vastus intermedius -- relatively equally. When you position your feet closer than shoulder-width apart, you will shift the emphasis to the outer vastus lateralis muscle. Pointing your toes slightly inward will also place more emphasis on this muscle.
Wider for Inner
If you want to shift the emphasis to the inner vastus medialis muscle, position your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Also, point your toes slightly outward. The wide-stance leg press exercise will allow you to use more weight than the close-stance leg press because you will also involve another muscle in the movement. This muscle is the adductor magnus, located in your inner thigh. The adductor magnus is one of the largest muscles of your thighs, so it is important you do wide-stance leg presses if you want to increase the muscle mass of your thighs.
Reps and Sets Matter
Doing leg presses is one thing, but performing the adequate number of reps per set and enough sets per exercise is crucial if you want to get the best results. For muscle-building purposes, do four sets of 10 to 12 reps per exercise, using the heaviest weight possible. For more of an endurance purpose, lower the weights used and raise the rep count to the range of 25 to 30. Regardless of your goal, however, always begin with a 10-minute warm-up, such as jog, and always finish with a 10-minute cool-down, such as a light walk. Always warm up at moderate intensity to increase your body temperature and do your cool-down at light intensity to lower it.