The lion has always been the king of the jungle. Everyone knows that, right? Zebras and giraffes and every other beast in the wild knows the king when they see him, and they usually run very quickly in the other direction when they do. There's a natural order of things, and it keeps the food chain rolling, and the jungle ecosystem thriving.
In the gym, there's the same sort of natural order of things. Nobody is going to shout the praises of the hanging leg raise machine or the seated wrist curl, even though both are perfectly useful movements. No, when it comes to the gym, the squat is king. It is the movement which stimulates growth in the entire body. Newbies to the gym will gain 20 pounds in their first two months of squatting using the legendary "squats + milk + lots of food and rest = growth" formula.
But this isn't an article about squats. We can all agree the squat is an awesome movement. But it's not always the answer. When you want full-out, pure muscle growth all over the lower body, the squats is a powerhouse, as effective as it is painful. However, it isn't always the way to go. For those with nagging knee injuries, or those looking to target the quads (front thigh muscles), there is a second gear to which one must switch. This gear, of course, is the exercise known as the leg press.
Leg pressing is a great way to slowly isolate the quads while pulling the calves, glutes and hamstrings into play as well. The movements can be slow, controlled, and safe, and the results, while not quite as stellar as is seen with squats, are still pretty darn good. But not everyone completes their leg presses correctly, and a shortfall in leg press execution can lead to wasting time at best, and injuries at worst. Let's check out some of the most common leg press mistakes, and make sure you're not committing any of them!
Going too low
Despite the fact you're on a machine, there are many ways you can actually do leg press incorrectly. Taking the weight too low (to the point where your knees are pinned to your chest) is a great way to damage your lumbar region, and leave you with a very sore back. Yes, you were often taught that a full range of motion is a great thing for activating the maximum number of muscle fibers. However, the defined starting point of the leg press isn't in a position where the knees are vulnerable. Start with your legs a few inches from your chest and don't go too low after that.
Going too heavy
If you use too much weight on the leg press, we all know what is going to happen. Your full, complete repetitions are magically going to become partial repetitions, which you'll somehow count as actual repetitions because you'll be so impressed with yourself at the amount of weight you're using. Shallow repetitions don't stimulate muscle fibers, they just force your hips, joints, and tendons to strain a bit while you show off for your SnapChat following. Look around at the gym. While Ronnie Coleman and every other pro will use 2300 pounds to impress people while making videos, most of them use far less weight most of the time, sticking with safe, moderate poundage which allows them to complete safe, productive repetitions.
Watch those heels
When you think about the mechanics of a movement such as leg press, the impact of what you're actually doing should begin to sink in. You have a base of support - the spot where your heels make contact with the pad - and you are using this base of support to move a large amount of weight. The force generated is spread throughout your feet. You would never consider wearing uneven shoes or only using one leg, because the result would be a reduction in your force capability. You'd move less weight and build less muscle, right? Never make the mistake of letting your heels lift off the pad, or not come in contact with 100% of the potential surface area. You want to build max muscle, you need max heel contact!
Turning the feet too much
Many an article has been written about the potential for targeting various parts of the quad muscles by turning the toes, just a little bit. If you want to engage your inner quads a bit more, you should point your toes outwards. Conversely, if the goal is to hit the outer quads, you are asked to point the toes in just a bit. This can be effective, when used sparingly with caution. However, angling your toes 2 to 3 inches can place an inordinate amount of strain upon your knees, placing you at major risk for devastating injury. Keep the toe points few and far between, with an adjusted angle of about one inch, maximum!
Leg press can be a highly effective supplement to King Squat as part of your workout, if done correctly. Avoid these common mistakes, and you'll grow your quads to the max!