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Seated Leg Press Benefits: 7 Reasons You Should Love This Exercise

May 19, 2018

Have you ever wondered what kind of seated leg press benefits there are?

Leg press is cool and all, but you’ve probably heard people tell you to do squats, lunges, and deadlifts instead.

And sure, they do have a point — those are all great leg exercises.

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Dark Iron Fitness Weightlifting BeltBut, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice to disregard the use of the seated leg press.

First, since this is a leg day post, I’d recommend getting our genuine leather weightlifting belt — this thing will protect you for all your leg day workouts.

Some think that since leg press can be done on a seated machine, that it is much safer than free weight exercises.

Nothing could be more wrong — you can still become injured using these machines.

Remember, being aware of your health and safety is what gives you longevity in the world of weightlifting.

Now, let’s get into what the leg press is and why leg press benefits are sought after.


What is the Seated Leg Press?

How to Perform the Seated Leg Press

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Leg PressAs per its name, the seated leg press is doing a pressing movement while seated.

Duh, right?

Well, there is a lot more that goes into the movement itself, as it doesn’t restrict you in any way.

There is so much that the seated leg press encompasses, and depending on what you do it on, there are some really killer variations.

However, just as a basis of form, you will be sitting down in a straight or angled chair and pushing a platform away from you to move the weight.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the different ways you can perform the seated leg press.


Types of Ways to Perform the Seated Leg Press

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Seated Leg Press MachineThere are two primary ways to perform the seated leg press.

One is on the seated leg press machine that utilizes a weight stack.

This is the common machine used by average lifters and gym-goers.

It’s simple, straight-forward and has plenty of benefits that people will love.

The other way that the seated leg press is done is with free weights (weight plates).

Free weight leg press machines are great, as well, but require you to manually load and unload the plates.

Usually, these machines take up much more room but have the advantage of holding far more weight.

Both of these machines have similarities, differences, and their own seated leg press benefits.


Which Muscles Does the Seated Leg Press Machine Target?

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Seated Leg Press MusclesThis is a seated leg press benefit that is generally awesome.

The muscles that you can target with the seated leg press are vast.

Of course, your quads, your glutes, your calves, feet, and additionally some help with your knees and lower back depending on how you perform your exercises.

Overall, all the muscles you would target with squats are targeted with the seated leg press.

Related: Leg Press Single Machine Workout


Seated Leg Press Benefits

1. Comfort

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Seated Leg Press ComfortThe first of the seated leg press benefits that I think is important to know about is the comfort.

Why comfort? Well, because we all would rather be comfortable while weightlifting.

As I said, the seated leg press basically simulates a squat — but while you are seated.

So, what this allows for is increased comfort from not standing and taking the load off your knees and spine.

This is generally why most of the average gymgoers will prefer to do the seated leg press (primarily with the weight stack) instead of free weight squats.

Related: Butt & Hip Exercises | Seated Leg Press


2. Helps with Form

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Good Leg Press FormSecondly, the seated leg press is beneficial to help with your form.

Not necessarily benefiting you in the help of squat or lunge form, but by keeping proper form when doing seated leg press.

This is because the natural position you are in for the leg press is very suitable for keeping you secure.

There are normally handles to the sides of the machine to keep you held down and sometimes the leg press platform will have indications on where you can place your feet.

When it comes to weightlifting, and exercising in general, form is always of high importance when it comes to the success of your workout.


3. Prevents Injuries

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Avoiding Lower Back InjuriesThis is another one of those seated leg press benefits that is good for two reasons.

One: you can prevent injuries by doing the seated leg press because it is far less prone to causing accidents and less form-forgiving than other exercises like the squat.

And two: warming up with the leg press before you perform your compound movements like the squat will also help you prevent injuries.

For example, squatting cold can put stress on your spine and knees before you start the actual workout.

An exercise like the seated leg press is perfect to warm up before squats.

Another great way to prevent injuries when off the seated leg press (and on, when you start stacking the weight) is by utilizing a genuine leather weightlifting belt.

Related: Hip Mobility Exercises | Tips to Optimize Your Leg Days


4. Easy Variations (Encompasses Several Exercises)

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Leg Press Foot PlacementAs a seated exercise with an adjustable seat back, adjustable foot platform, and several ways to place your feet — the seated leg press can do almost everything.

Pressing through the balls of your feet will help activate the quads, whereas pressing through the heels will activate your glutes.

You can adjust your feet in variations such as high narrow, high wide, high flared out, mid narrow, mid wide, mid flared, low narrow, low wide, low flared, and all of the above with a natural shoulder-width apart stance.

You’ll notice as you perform these different variations that you can activate specific muscles more than others.

But, be sure to do what is comfortable and don’t go out of your way to do a variation that is painful.

Lastly, you can also do single leg presses, which helps to target each leg unilaterally.

Related: The 6 Toughest Leg Press Variations


5. Quick Weight Adjustments for Progressive Overload

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Weight AdjustmentThe goal with most weightlifting exercises is to achieve progressive overload.

Yes, this occurs over time, but the ability to move up in weight easily is beneficial.

Well, when doing the seated leg press with a weight stack, you can do that in an instant.

The weight stack is adjustable by placing the weight pin within the stack.

So, what this means is that you can go from 1 set of 10 at 90lbs, then 1 set of 10 at 100lbs; so on and so forth.

This is one of the most important seated leg press benefits in terms of convenience.

However, we lose this benefit when we do the seated leg press with free weights.

In fact, if you don’t have a workout partner to add/remove the plates for you, this slows you down tremendously.

But, this can be beneficial in another way — sufficient rest between sets.

So, with these two types of seated leg press, you can look at the weight adjusting in two different beneficial ways.


6. Great for Pyramiding/Drop Sets

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Pyramid Sets Drop SetsThis benefit goes along with the idea of adjusting the weights.

Seated leg press is so great for doing pyramid sets and drop sets.

Basically, all this refers to is weight progression up during your routine for pyramiding.

Or, progressively dropping the weight from high to low for drop sets.

With the weight stack seated leg press machine, this is instantaneous and great.

But, it is also super good with the free weight leg press machine.

This allows you to warm up with low weight and pyramid to your one rep max (1RM).

And, it also allows you to start at your 1RM and drop set down until you are doing one plate (or less).


7. Suitable for Transition to Calf Raises

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Calf RaisesLastly, though calf raises aren’t necessarily “leg press,” you are still using a portion of your legs to press the platform up.

And, to me, that is one of the biggest seated leg press benefits there are — the ability to transition effortlessly to another important movement.

Calf raises are also often overlooked, so what a great way to get them done without having to move to a calf-specific machine.

All you need to do is perform your leg press as normal, then lock the platform to its top position and then begin to press up with the balls of your feet for calf raises.

Trust me, you’ll really feel these… that’s all I need to say.


Other Seated Leg Press Benefits to Consider

Seated Leg Press Benefits — Warming Up on Leg Days

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Warming UpLike I said with the benefit of using leg press for pyramid sets, they are great for warming up.

You can also use seated leg press to warm-up for your entire leg day.

So, if you plan to do lunges and squats, you’ll be ready to go after some leg press.

Also, the vast variations in seated leg press help you warm-up different muscles to prepare for your working sets.

Related: Safety Bar Squat vs Back Squat – Which Should You Do?


Seated Leg Press Benefits — Helping to Break Plateaus

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Breaking Leg Press PlateauThe other reason to implement the use of the seated leg press is to help break plateaus in your other movements.

You will most likely plateau with your squat progression at some point.

But, using the seated leg press to help stretch your muscles and work your joints for depth can help with your squats.

Mess around with the variations of the seated leg press and they may be able to help with your explosivity, rep ranges, and momentum with other exercises.

It’s worth a shot to try seated leg press to help burst through other plateaus.

Related: How Long Does it Take to See Results from Squats and Lunges?


Your Last Option When Everything Else is in Use (Not a Bad Thing)

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Gym Squat RacksAnother great reason to do the seated leg press is that there are usually at least a few machine versions available and one or two free weight versions.

When all your squat racks and Smith machines are taken up, where else can you perform your heavy leg movements?

Exactly… so take yourself over to the seated leg press machine and kill your leg workout.

Don’t be one of those people in the gym who walks up to someone in the squat rack and constantly asks, “are you almost done? How many sets you got left? Can I work in with you?”

Instead, figure out your options, and if leg press is the available option then get to it!


Final Thoughts on Seated Leg Press Benefits

Is the Seated Leg Press Actually Worth Pursuing?

Seated Leg Press Benefits - One Leg Seated Leg PressYeah… the seated leg press is definitely worth pursuing.

I was once told not to do seated leg extensions because they are dangerous.

People always say squatting is far superior to leg press.

Well, these ideas clouded my judgment at the time.

Sure, the leg extension machine can be dangerous if you are swinging your legs during the reps.

Obviously… I mean you are basically slamming the crap out of your knees.

But, if you control your reps and speed, as well as keep your weight reasonable, it is a great movement.

The same thing applies to the seated leg press — if done right, it can be just as good, if not better for some, than squats.

You wouldn’t recommend doing squats to someone with terrible back pain if they are more comfortable on the leg press, would you?

That isn’t to say only pursue seated leg press if you have pain and injuries, because everyone can benefit from using the seated leg press machine.

Related: Hack Squat vs Leg Press – Building Bigger Legs


Should I Track My Seated Leg Press Progression?

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Tracking Leg PressSome believe that seated leg press, particularly on a weight stack machine, is only good for warm-ups and burnouts.

They don’t look at these machines as a way to actually build up your foundation, therefore why track your progress on these machines?

Well, the fact is, tracking your progression and your progressive overload is quite beneficial.

For one, you see if you are actually getting stronger and more consistent with your rep progression.

Secondly, you can compare your strength on the seated leg press and compare it to the free weight variation or even with other leg exercises like squats.

It is a good gauge of your strength and muscle building and relating it to a vast majority of other leg workouts.

So, in my opinion, yes — track your progress!


What is the Point of Wearing a Weightlifting Belt During the Seated Leg Press?

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Heavy Leg PressNow, going back to the safety of your exercises and keeping proper form — I highly suggest including a weightlifting belt into your routine.

This is more so important for any exercises that put stress on your back and spine.

Reaching a high amount of weight on the leg press can result in some butt lift off the seat.

This can be detrimental to your lower back and spine if you over stress yourself with the load.

Heavy weights are the goal, so it will inevitably happen once you reach these extreme levels of leg pressing.

Seated Leg Press Benefits - Dark Iron Fitness Weightlifting BeltI’m sure you’ve seen those guys in the gym who have 8 plates on each side and another 4 plates on top of the platform.

Sometimes they do it for show and can’t perform real reps, other times they are that strong.

However, regardless, I’d want them to be protected by using a genuine leather weightlifting belt because it would be the safest way to go about doing such insane leg presses.

Don’t risk your health — wear a belt when it is relevant to you.