Discover the various types of leg press machines and their differences. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each machine and how to use the correct form to get the most out of your workout. Find out the best leg press machine for your fitness goals.

An excellent supplement to any leg exercise is the leg press machine. All leg press machines are not created equal. Discover the primary benefits and drawbacks of various leg press machines here.

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Leg Press Machines Come in Three Varieties

While leg press machines perform the same job (training your quadriceps), they vary greatly in how they do it, how resistance is created, and other factors.

While doing the exercise, the angle of your spine is an easy method to distinguish between the three types of leg press machines.

  • Your back is inclined at roughly 40-45 degrees on angled (or 45-degree) leg press machines.
  • Leg press machines that are seated maintain a (mostly) vertically straight back.
  • Vertical leg press machines have you lying flat on your back.

Finally, the majority of the variances stem from the direction in which the leg press travels or provides resistance.

TL:DR

Here is a Comparison of Different Leg Press Machines

Types Angled Leg Press Machine Seated Leg Press Machine Vertical Leg Press Machine
Exercise Variations High Low Low
Muscles Worked Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings
Foot or Back Position Feet on platform, back against backrest Feet on platform, back against backrest Feet on platform, back against vertical back support
Space Requirement More Moderate Less
Stability Moderate High High

Let’s get more into each of the three, including how to perform them correctly and the main advantages of each.

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  • Angled Leg Press Machines

The first machine is the angled leg press, commonly known as the 45-degree leg press.

It’s the most prevalent sort of leg press in the gym, and it’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when people hear the term “leg press.”

They are popular for a reason: because of the angled resistance and controlled movement of the load, you can place a TON of weight on them.

Angled presses feature stoppers to prevent the carriage and all of the plates stacked on it from crumpling you up like a dirty Kleenex.

They also include several plate storage pegs on the machine to hold weight plates.

How to use an angled leg press machine for presses:

  • Enter the low, reclining seat.
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart on the elevated footplate.
  • When you’re ready to press, give the carriage a little push with your legs, and it will rise high enough for you to twist the stoppers out of the way.
  • Your legs should be straight but not locked out and should not be hyper-extended.
  • Descend slowly until your legs are 90 degrees.
  • Return to the starting position after a brief pause.

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Important facts angled leg press machines:

  • Fixed path.

Leg press machines, like other leg machines you’ll find in a gym, follow a predetermined course.

You won’t have to worry about using your stabilizer muscles or keeping a big barbell in the air.

It’s a safer alternative to free weights, thanks to the set route.

Each repetition on a 45-degree incline leg press machine involves the same arc of motion against the machine’s fixed resistance.

  • Provides 60-70% of “real” resistance.

One of the most common questions is how much weight on a leg press translates to “actual” resistance.

Because of the tilted direction, a substantial quantity of weight is lost to gravity.

How much?

Depending on the angle, 30-40%.

This is why lifters may routinely push 500 pounds on the leg press yet “only” squat 250 pounds with a barbell.

(There’s more to it, including lower nervous system and stabilizer muscle demands while utilizing machines, but we’ll get to that later.)

  • Excellent for hypertrophic development.

Leg presses are an individual exercise that mainly works the quadriceps.

(The glutes, hamstrings, and calves are secondary muscles recruited in the leg press.)

The quadriceps’ laser-focused attention makes them a good choice for finishes, repping out, and higher-rep, hypertrophy-focused sets.

You may raise to complete failure with relative safety and confidence if you have handles and stoppers at your side to rack the carriage quickly.

The hybrid hack squat/leg press machine may also be found among angled leg press machines.

This Franken-leg machine combines two powerful exercises—hack squats and leg presses—into one machine.

While they are typically intended for home and garage gym enthusiasts, I have occasionally seen them at commercial gyms.

The advantages of a hybrid machine are obvious: you receive twice as many workouts in one machine.

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  • Seated Leg Press Machines

The second leg press machine you will likely find at the gym is the seated leg press machine.

Rather than pressing the weight at an angle, we are pushing it horizontally.

The lower beginning resistance is ideal for beginners in lower body exercise, while more experienced users will benefit from the unilateral components of training with this machine.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on using the seated leg press:

  • Slide into the seat, adjusting the seat as needed.
  • Select a starting weight.
  • When you’re ready, press to free the carriage from the stoppers.
  • Turn the handles (if the machine has them)
  • Extend your legs so that they are straight but not locked out or hyperextended.
  • Slowly “lower” the weight until it begins to draw back towards you.
  • Pause while your legs are at 90 degrees.
  • Return the weight to its initial position.

The seated leg press machine is notable for many reasons, including:

  • Best for beginners and rehabilitation.

Because the initial resistance on a seated leg press is minor (the weight of the first plate on the stack—5-10lbs), you can genuinely begin slowly with this exercise.

Lower resistance is great for lifters recuperating from injury or those just starting out with resistance training.

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  • Excellent for single-leg presses.

While unilateral presses may be performed on an inclined machine, moving the weight horizontally feels different. More organic. This feeling is based on my training and dealing with customers, not any specific science.

Single leg presses are an excellent approach for athletes and those who just want to get more “functional” training out of the leg press.

A study of female college students indicated that unilateral leg press training improved single-leg leaping ability by 2.5″ after six weeks1.


  • Vertical Leg Press Machines

The vertical leg press machine is the last piece of equipment. You slip inside the machine, back to the floor, and push your weight straight up into the sky.

The main advantage is that you are pushing “real” weight. It’s not as ubiquitous in commercial gyms as sitting and angled machines since it’s not a beginner’s equipment.

There’s something viscerally unsettling about seeing individuals load and slide beneath a vertical leg press machine.

This equipment is unneeded for most users, and I would highly advise even intermediate lifters to use caution while using it.

Having said that, there are many folks who swear by it.

There are many variations on the vertical leg press.

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There are home presses, commercial-grade gym presses (which are the safest choice since they have stoppers), and lifters can MacGyver a Smith Machine to vertical presses.

Vertical leg presses are performed as follows:

  • Load the machine with the number of weight plates specified.
  • Slip into the back pad with ease.
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart on the footplate or bar.
  • To “unrack” the weight, push up slightly.
  • To clear the rails, twist the stoppers.
  • Descend softly and completely under control.
  • Before extending your legs, pause at the bottom (as always, without locking or hyperextending them)
  • Repeat as needed.

Vertical leg presses provide the following advantages:

  • The “real” resistance is closer to 1:1.

When doing this exercise, vertical leg presses are the closest we can go to raising “real” weight.

In other words, the weight you place on the machine is the weight you really push.

  • Leg press machines with a smaller footprint.

Vertical leg press machines, with the exception of commercial-grade ones, take up very little space.

They feature the lowest footprint of any sort of leg press machine, making them perfect for the space-constrained home or garage gym enthusiast.

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FAQs about Buying Leg Press Machines

Which leg press machine is most effective?

The most effective leg press machine is one that is able to provide a full range of motion, allowing for proper form and enabling users to target different muscle groups. It should also provide adjustable settings, so that users can customize their workout to suit their individual needs. Additionally, the machine should be sturdy and wellconstructed, so that it can support the weight of the user and provide an even, safe workout.

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Does it matter which leg press machine you use?

Yes, it does matter which leg press machine you use. Different machines can provide different levels of support and resistance, and may stimulate different muscle groups. It is important to choose the one that is best suited to your fitness goals, body type, and experience level. Additionally, some machines may require more coordination or balance, so it is important to select the one that best fits your abilities.

Is single leg press better than double leg press?

Single leg press exercises can help to improve core stability, balance, and coordination. They can also help target specific muscle groups in the legs and glutes more effectively than double leg press exercises. However, double leg press exercises can help to increase maximal strength and power development, which may be beneficial for some athletes. Ultimately, the best exercise for an individual will depend on their fitness goals.

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