Leg press machines and sleds both provide ways to work out and strengthen your lower body. Leg presses come in a variety of designs, although they're typically loaded with weight plates or use a pin mechanism to change the weight load. Sleds contain flat metal plates on which weights can be placed, plus harnesses that attach to a belt around your waist or torso. Both machines are useful additions to a training program, but serve different purposes.
Leg Press Benefits
Leg press technique varies, depending on the type of machine you use, but most either move horizontally or at a 45-degree angle. You sit on the seat, place your feet on the resistance plate and press the weight until your legs are straight. The leg press is a good choice for beginners, as it's easier to learn than a squat. It's effective for muscle growth and is a staple tool among bodybuilders, notes New Hampshire-based trainer John Sifferman. You also put less pressure on your back with leg presses than with heavy squatting movements.
Sleds are most commonly used to develop explosive speed and power. When you sprint while pulling a sled, your body position stays almost exactly the same as when you sprint normally. But you can add extra weight to sled to help improve your acceleration, according to strength coach Mike Boyle. Accelerating faster will help you in sports such as football, tennis or soccer, as well as track events. Sleds are also more comfortable and easier to use than other forms of resisted sprint training, such as weighted vests.
The action performed when you're leg pressing, plus the fact you're in a seated position and not using stabilizer muscles, means it doesn't have as much carryover to sporting performance as a sled. Athletes, therefore, will typically find sleds more beneficial than leg press machines. Few commercial gyms provide sleds, however, so you may have to visit a special sports conditioning facility or buy your own if you wish to use a sled.
Always use perfect form on both exercises; ask a qualified trainer if you need assistance. Make the leg press your main focus if you're aiming for muscle growth, along with other strength moves such as squats, deadlifts and lunges. Use the sled for high-intensity cardio workouts. For athletic purposes, base your conditioning workouts around sled sprints and perform leg presses in your gym strength sessions. For best results with sled training, keep the load to between 8 and 20 percent of your body weight and perform four to 10 sprints of 5 to 20 yards during each workout, advises Jim Kielbaso of Total Performance Training in Michigan.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.