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6 Leg Press Foot Placement Variations and Why to Use Them

6 Leg Press Foot Placement Variations and Why to Use Them

Switch Up Your Leg Press with These Foot Placement Variations

Foot placement on a leg press machine can dictate which leg muscles you use during exercise.

The leg press is a fundamental part of anyone's leg development program. It is a great tool to build leg strength without the risk of injury by minimizing the stress on your spine. This article will explain how to vary your leg press foot placement to target different muscles and maximize your use of this piece of equipment.

There are six (6) primary leg press foot placement styles. Each style is a little bit different and can help you target leg development in the specific area of your choosing.

  1. Traditional Foot Placement
  2. High Foot Placement - Leg Press for Glutes and Hamstrings
  3. Low Foot Placement - Leg Press for Quads
  4. Narrow Foot Placement - Leg Press for Outer Thighs
  5. Wide Foot Placement - Leg Press for Inner Thighs
  6. Toes Only - Leg Press for Calves

Remember, the leg press primarily works your quadriceps muscle. The glutes, hamstrings and calves are not as active during this movement. Below we'll explore how to target specific parts of your quad and also how to lessen the load up front and get more work on your glutes, hamstrings, and calves by changing up your foot placement during the leg press. 


Traditional Leg Press Foot Placement 

The standard position for your feet on a leg press is very similar to a squat or deadlift. You'll want to keep your feet about shoulder width apart, in the middle of the platform. This positioning is going to target your leg muscles in the most balanced way possible.

The regular leg press stance is probably what you'll use most often. You can use to develop strong, sturdy legs without having to barbell squat.


High Foot Placement - Leg Press for Glutes and Hamstrings

High foot placement is a popular way to use the leg press. You will move your feet up on the platform, meaning your toes will be closer to the top edge and remain about shoulder width apart.

Using a high foot placement technique is going to reduce the range of motion at your knee, while increasing both hip flexion and extension compared to the normal leg press set up. 

This is the best leg press variation to target activation in both your hamstrings and glutes. The leg press by nature, cannot isolate these muscles however. Your quads will still get a lot of work done - specifically the inner vastus medialis muscle. 


Low Foot Placement - Leg Press for Quads

Want to use the leg press for big, strong quad muscles? Low foot placement is the set up you'll want to use. A lower foot placement is going to decrease both hip flexion and extension while increasing the range of motion needed at your knee - isolating the quad mucles.

This movement is perfect to really engage your quadriceps with minimal glute and hamstring activation. A few sets of these will have your legs burning!

Another variation of this would be the "duck stance" - combining both the low and narrow foot placements. At the bottom of the platform position your heels together and point your toes angled outward towards the sides of the platform instead of straight forward. This will really emphasize the use of your quadriceps and help with developing a that coveted teardrop shape!

Setting up on the lower end of the leg press platform may be more difficult or problematic for someone is prone to or has pre-existing knee injuries because of the range of motion, ankle and hip mobility required. It is really important to strengthen your feet, ankles,  hips, anterior tibialis and more to have healthy, strong and secure knees.


Narrow Foot Placement - Leg Press for Outer Thigh Muscles

Using your leg press with a narrow foot placement will help target the outer muscles of your quad and thigh. 

Starting from your traditional leg press foot placement, move your feet closer together (less than shoulder width apart). While hip width is the most common, you can even put your feet all the way together so that they are touching. 

This is a good change up to target the development of your outer quad muscles, including the adductors and vastus lateralis.


Wide Foot Placement - Leg Press for Inner Thigh Muscles

To accentuate the use of your abductors, inner hamstrings and inner quads, place your feet wider during your leg press. You can go anywhere from your traditional setup to having your feet all the way on the edges of the platform. 

Another variation of this would be "sumo stance", where you turn your feet out a bit. 


Toes Only - Leg Press for Calves

This one is simple for most to understand! If you want to target your calves while using a leg press machine, you need to treat it like you're doing a calf raise. 

For this movement, you'll want to position your toes on the very bottom of the leg press platform. The majority of your foot will be off the platform completely.


Leg Press Foot Placement Conclusion

Now that you've learned about the different foot placement techniques for leg press machines, it's time to put them into practice. We've told you how to target the quads, glutes, hamstrings an even calves - so lets go build some strong legs using the leg press machine. 

If you'd like to learn more about leg press machines, please read our Ultimate Guide to Leg Press Machines

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