Leg Press Vs Squat – The Final Conclusion

mark rippetoe squats vs leg pressI am usually training in a commercial gym (yes I know… ), and most of the time I don’t really see people using the squat rack.

I think that I am one of those 3-5 people that are frequently coming there to train their legs that use it for squats.

Of course, you can never get rid of the bicep curling squat rack joe’s but I didn’t really had any problems with them even if I don’t really like waiting for that useless move to end so I can do my thing.

Anyways, there are plenty of people out there that still argue over the matter of leg press vs squats when it  comes to their effectiveness, usability and last but not least, technique.

While there are more people out there that are only using the leg press when it comes to training legs because they are either frightened to try the squat because they fear they’ll ruin their back, you can also find people that say squats are better than leg press.

I categorized these statements in three main categories:

  1. People that believe squats are better than leg presses when it  comes to training legs
  2. People that believe leg presses are better than squats when it comes to training legs
  3. People that are too afraid of doing squats and believe the leg press as being superior because it doesn’t ruin your back

Who’s Right And Who’s Wrong?

Well… no one.


Yes… you heard me right.

Biggest Back Destroyer?

Done incorrectly, both exercises can potentially ruin your back:

Squats with poor form and/or big weights can pretty much do the same thing as a leg press  done with poor form (due to low flexibility or rounded back – bringing the sled too far back plus big weights while your back is rounded = back destroyer)

Biggest Knee Destroyers?

The same issue is true when it comes to your knees when talking about leg press vs squats.

Squats done with poor form or not enough depth can also have a negative impact on your knees, just like the leg press if done with big weights and not enough depth.

I want to note that while doing squats, I recommend everyone to do at least 90 degrees parallel to the floor squat and the same is true when doing the leg press – the angle you knee should form when the sled is moving towards  you should be at least at 90 degrees.

Keep that lower back in check and don’t round it!

While there’s plenty of research out there that can make you think squats are superior to leg presses because they activate more quad, hamstring, calf muscles, glute and erector spinae muscles than the leg press, the reality is not as it appears.

The thing is that the primary stimulus for muscle mass growth is progressive tension overload.

Yes, repeat it with me: progressive tension overload.

The exercise that  you are performing, be it squat or leg press doesn’t matter as much as the number one determinant of muscle growth.

Let’s suppose that squats are better than leg presses when it comes to adding muscle mass on your legs BUT what happens if you are not built to squat?

If you have poor squat mechanics like very long femurs, squatting would be a bad choice for a leg training exercise because your lower back would most likely give up too fast and proper squat loading wouldn’t be possible.

If you were stubborn and continue training by doing squats and ditch the leg press just because of the thought that squats are better, progressing with poor mechanics is a chore and slow thing.

Whereas, if you would have chosen the leg press as your primary leg exercise, progression aka adding more muscle mass would have been easier.

Better In Terms Of Hormonal Response

You might have heard the supposition that squats actually show the biggest increase in your testosterone production or growth hormone production when compared to any other exercise.

The truth is that even if there is an additional small hormonal response to doing heavy squats, this fact is simply useless because there’s no research out there that shows this as a correlation to more muscle mass increase.

A proper caloric intake (caloric surplus) plus progressive overload over time is what matters the most.

Squat Vs Legg Press – The Conclusion

The conclusion to this matter is the following:

  • You don’t really have to squat – powerlifters or competition athletes that are required this move have to do it
  • The primary stimulus for muscle growth is progressive overload – putting more weight on the bar as time passes will put more muscle on your frame
  • Leg press is not a worse exercise than squat and vice-versa – it all depends on your personal body and if you have an injury, a leg press might be a smarter choice
  • Getting stronger in any of these two exercises will invariably put on muscle mass on your legs – if you squat but don’t put any additional weight on the bar as time passes, you are not growing and the same is true in the case of a leg press

What’s your opinion when it comes to leg press vs squats matter or what worked the best  for you?

Also, if you have some friends that are squat rack curling, this article might open their eyes OR some friends that want to get those legs bigger, you can share it.

Sharing is caring.


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