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How to Do Leg Presses

Kathryn Vera
woman doing leg presses

The leg press is a beginning-level resistance training exercise that targets muscles in the lower body, including those in the legs, hips and butt. For optimal results when performing the leg press, using proper posture and remembering to breathe is a must.


To perform the leg press, start by positioning yourself properly. In Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, the American College of Sports Medicine reports that individuals who want to maintain safety while doing this exercise should sit on the leg press chair with their back and tailbone pressed firmly against the backrest.

Next, exercisers should place their feet on the resistance plate a shoulder-width's distance apart with their heels flat on the plate, their toes pointing toward the ceiling, and their knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Depending on height, exercisers may need to move their seat forward or backward to ensure proper form.

Additional Support

To support your upper body, hold onto any available handles and engage your abdominal muscles during the performance of the leg press.

Performing the Leg Press

Before starting the leg press, take a deep breath.

  • As you exhale, use the muscles in your legs, hips and butt to extend your knees and press the resistance plate away from your body. At this point, your legs should be fully extended, but your knees should not be locked.
  • Next, as you inhale, slowly bring the resistance plate back to its starting position.
  • Continue to perform repetitions of the leg press until you have completed one full set - which may include anywhere from five to 20 repetitions - or until you can no longer maintain proper exercise form.

For optimal results, aim for one to three sets of the leg press.

Leg Press Variations

In general, differences between the traditional leg press machine and the 45-degree leg press machine focus on variations in chair position. In the traditional leg press, exercisers sit in an upright position and extend the weighted platform straight out in front of their body, ending with their legs parallel to the ground.

In contrast, ExRx notes that in the 45-degree leg press, exercisers sit in a more reclined position and extend the weighted platform toward the ceiling at a 45-degree angle. This change in angle increases the workload that exercisers must press against, therefore making it more difficult to move the same amount of weight.

Maintaining Safety

As with any resistance training exercise, maintaining safety with the leg press is crucial. To avoid potential injury while doing the leg press, the American Council on Exercise stresses the importance of keeping your heels in contact with the resistance plate during the entirety of the movement.

Avoid locking out your knees during the leg press extension to maintain safety and prevent potential injury. Preventing the compression of your upper thighs against your rib cage during the return phase of the movement is also important when it comes to avoiding injury.

Work It Out

As with other forms of resistance training, the leg press can be helpful when it comes to increasing muscle mass and strength. Positioning yourself properly, using proper form, and following appropriate breathing techniques will not only help you maximize your workout, but will also be crucial when it comes to avoiding potential injury or burnout.

How to Do Leg Presses