The leg press is one of the most effective pieces of equipment at the gym and works to tone, sculpt and strengthen the entire leg. One of the biggest mistakes women make on the leg press is not using the proper amount of weight. Too little weight can make the press ineffective, and too much can cause injury.
Leg presses typically come in two varieties in most gyms. The sled-style leg press allows you to lie back and position yourself below the weight load, pushing the weight away from your body at a 45-degree angle. The cable leg press is similar but differs in the direction of the weight. With the cable leg press, you remain in a seated position but push the weight out directly in front of you.
To start, select the amount of weight you feel is appropriate and secure the selected weight in place with the metal pin.
After you lower the equipment’s safety bar, sit down (cable style) or lie back (sled style) with knees bent and feet lightly resting against the weight and slowly extend outward. Your legs should be at a 90-degree angle before you begin. As you extend the weighted press outward, your legs should feel pressure, not pain. You should be able to move them out and in slowly. Avoid quick motions or allowing the weight to slam back against the other plates. These are signs that you are not using proper form.
Finding Your Ideal Weight
To gauge the amount of weight needed to tone and strengthen, try a few repetitions. You should feel a good amount of resistance and pressure, but your movement should still be relatively fluid. A typical amount of weight used for a leg press is about two times your body weight. For example, a 130-pound woman would want to press about 260 pounds.
While pressing double your body weight is a good goal, beginners may want to back off and build up to this weight. Sacrificing form to press a heavier amount will hinder results and could lead to injury. Your ideal weight should feel challenging but not enough to break your form.
At each workout, aim for four sets of leg presses, with about six to 10 repetitions in each set. Leg press sets should be performed two or three times a week, with at least one day of rest between.
Never use a leg press machine without a light stretch afterward. Try a brisk walk around the weight room to loosen joints, followed by a few static lunges and quadriceps stretches to make sure your knees, quadriceps and hamstrings are not too tight.
Tips and Warnings
Do not use the leg press if you have any knee pain, because it can worsen the condition. As with any new exercise, start slowly. When adding weight, increase in small increments, no more than 20 percent weight increase at a time.
Stephanie Rutherford-Scott has more than 10 years of experience in print and multimedia journalism for Booth and Gannett Corp. Her work has been published by the Associated Press and Gannett News Service in news publications throughout Michigan and the United States. She received her Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and journalism from Western Michigan University.