Sports performance coaches often poo-poo the leg press because it doesn't transfer well to sport, plus squats are more effective anyway at building overall strength, something that's obviously important to coaches who work mainly with performance athletes. But what about the leg press for bodybuilding?
"The leg press is a great exercise for hypertrophy," says Charles Poliquin, "especially for the quadriceps." So what's the best way to use the leg press for quad size? Medium to narrow foot position, placed low on the plate/sled, and performed with high reps.
High reps? What about "Go heavy or go home!" There's a time and a place for that, but if your quads are only a little bigger than your calves, then it may be time to strip off some plates and go for some nauseating time under tension.
Most lifters have a high percentage of slow-twitch fibers in their quads. "With quads, you can go as high as 50 reps per set. Some bodybuilders grow like crazy on 30 reps per set," notes Poliquin.
While not everyone's fiber-make-up is the same – and while varied rep ranges are usually best – if you lack quad size then high reps may be the cure you've been looking for. Here's a routine from Poliquin that puts all this info to work.
Using a much lighter weight than normal, a full range of motion, and the narrow and low foot positions, do leg presses for two straight minutes, no rest. Remember, full-range means you go down until your quadriceps cover your chest.
For each rep, extend your legs to 95% of lockout. Again, the key is to keep the tension on the muscle at all times.
"By the time you finish this exercise, you may want to cough up a lung or two," notes Poliquin. We believe that's his idea of encouragement.