Sports performance coaches often crap on 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," said the late great Charles Poliquin, "especially for the quadriceps." So what's the best way to use the leg press for quad size? This:
- Medium to narrow foot position
- Feet placed low on the sled
- 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 timer under tension.
Most lifters have a high percentage of slow-twitch fibers in their quadriceps. "With quads, you can go as high as 50 reps per set. There's been some pro-bodybuilders who've grown on 30 reps per set," noted Poliquin.
While not everyone's fiber-make-up is the same – and while varied rep ranges are usually best – we'd say that if you lack quad size, then high reps may be the cure you've been looking for. Here's a classic 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," said Poliquin.