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One of the most common strength and mass-building exercises you see performed at the gym is the leg press for quads. The problem is while it’s an excellent movement, many let their ego take over and end up doing it with poor form. However, it’s also great because you can change foot position around on leg press for quads to focus development on exactly where you want it.
Many newer trainees know that the leg press is a good all-around movement for the lower body. And when you see trainees really loading the sled with plates, it’s obvious you can build a lot of strength. However, should you use the leg press for quads when what you want is a balance of size and strength…especially in the quadriceps? The simple answer is yes, as it can be such an effective exercise. However, you have to ensure you’re doing it the right way.
One of the biggest problems using the leg press for quads is how so many choose to perform it. They pile on entirely too much weight and use a ROM (range of motion) that’s no longer than just a few inches. This not only looks silly, but it will do little for your strength and/or muscular development. You might improve your near-lockout performance, but you’re just overall better served using a more manageable weight and full range of motion.
The standard foot position on the platform for overall strength and muscle mass development is a shoulder-width stance with your feet more or less in the middle of the platform and toes pointing straight ahead. However, changing this up can radically alter how the legs are hit.
Using a wider stance will shift much of the emphasis to the inner quad and hamstrings. Rotating the feet so the toes point outward will target the inner leg, as well. A little known hamstring builder is to keep the feet at shoulder-width and toes pointing forward, but place them as high up on the platform as you can.
Conversely, bringing the feet close together will shift much of the emphasis to the outer leg. Keeping your feet shoulder-width, but rotating toes inward can do this, too. And placing the feet lower on the platform will hit the lower quads much more – especially the VMO (the “teardrop” shaped muscles just above the knee).
There are two quick safety things you should remember when using the leg press for quads. The first is to never go to full lockout, as this can lead to accidentally hyperextending and injuring the knee. The other is to only descend the platform as much as comfortable. Going too low can bring your lower back off the pad and end up straining your spinal erectors.
In the end, just be smart. The leg press can be responsible for crazy amounts of strength and mass, but only if you do it correctly. Go heavy, but not so heavy you skimp on form and ROM. On the other hand, use a full ROM, but not so full that you tweak your lower back. Other than that, use the foot placement that best gives you the development you’re looking for and your legs should be improving in just a matter of a few weeks.