Leg Press (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

I’m going to be honest. I’m not a huge fan of Leg Presses because I feel there are so many better alternatives for developing lower body strength. However, I also understand that there are some situations where Leg Press may be the best option someone has.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Leg Presses. I’ll also give you the muscles worked, benefits and a few alternative exercises as well.

How To Do Leg Presses

Equipment Needed

  • Leg Press Machine

How To / Coaching Points

Instructions on how to do Leg Presses are going to be extremely dependent on the machine itself. All Leg Press machines do not function in the same way. It’s actually quite the opposite. I would guess there are at least a dozen different designs that all work differently.

With that being said, instead of specific instructions, I’m going to give you some somewhat universal tips when it comes to Leg Press.

  • If using a Leg Press Machine you’re unfamiliar with, always start with no weight on the machine.
  • Make sure you know how to unrack and rack the safeties as well as do a full rep before adding weight to the machine.
  • Go up in weight slowly. No need to make a big jump and get yourself pinned and potentially hurt.
  • Do NOT overextend your knees. Learn how to fully extend your legs without locking out your knees.


The main benefit of a Leg Press is that you can build leg strength without having to load weight on your back (axial load). This is extremely benefit for anyone who may have back issues that prevent them from being able to Back Squat or even Front Squat.

Leg Press can also be beneficial for beginner lifters who are not yet comfortable with their Back Squat technique. I would rather a beginner Leg Press safely rather than Back Squat with improper form.

How Many Reps?

As a strength-building exercise, I would recommend Leg Pressing 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 10 reps each.

Leg Press Alternatives

Looking for an alternative for Leg Presses? Here are a couple of exercises that you may be able to use as a replacement.

Want even more options? Here are my 10 favorite Leg Press alternatives.

Back Squat

Man Back Squatting 315 Pounds

If you’re physically able to and your technique is good, then I would choose to do Back Squat 10 out of 10 times over Leg Press.

Back Squat has so many more benefits – core and back involvement, balance, coordination, etc – than Leg Press that it’s hardly fair to compare the two.

Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat Alternatives

If you’re not comfortable with your Back Squat technique yet (or perhaps you don’t have a barbell), then you might want to give Goblet Squats a try.

You can do Goblet Squats with a kettlebell or a dumbbell. It’s a great exercise for beginners to learn proper technique and body positioning. And, because the weight you’re using will generally be much lighter it’s more forgiving of technique flaws.

More Links and Info

If you’d like to see more lower body exercises, head over to the Lower Body Lifts section of our Exercise Library. There you’ll find dozens of movements for building lower body strength, all with complete step-by-step instructions.

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