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8 Types of Leg Press Machines Explained

A comprehensive fitness routine isn’t complete without including leg workouts. They’re crucial in enhancing speed, stability, and overall strength. Training your legs, you cultivate powerful lower body muscles essential for maintaining balance and coordination.

The leg press machine enhances your leg hypertrophy and helps to strengthen your lower body (1). It builds your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and adductors. It replicates squats but with back support. You can use this machine to train your lower body as an accessory to the squat or load it high as a primary exercise. 

There are many different types of leg press machines, and they all have unique movement patterns. As a result, you can use these machines to activate different muscle groups. Here are eight different type of leg press machine that you need to know about and what each machine has to offer.

Types of Leg Press Machines

Traditional 45-Degree Leg Press Machine

The traditional 45-degree leg press machine, also known as an incline leg press machine, is the most popular leg press machine and are commonly found in commercial gyms. Using this type of machine involves pushing weight at a 45-degree angle incline on a sled. Typically, users of this machine sit against a back pad and put their feet on the sled. 

BodyKore G277 Signature Series 45-Degree Leg Press

The BodyKore G277 45-degree leg press offers extra smooth movement. It’s plate loaded and has a large foot platform that you can use to vary your leg positions and target your leg muscles differently (2). This machine also offers seat back adjustments, enabling you to hit your full range of motion with full back support. 

How to use the 45-Degree Leg Press Machine

While the look of this machine type may be different according to brands, they generally work the same. Here’s a step-by-step guide on using the 45-degree leg press effectively and with proper form: 

  1. Put the required weight on the machine. 
  2. Sit down against the pad and put your feet on the sled. 
  3. Your toes should point outwards slightly, and your feet at shoulder-width distance, then release the safety locks of the machine. This is your starting position. 
  4. Slowly lower the weight with your legs towards your body and pause. 
  5. Return to starting position by pushing the sled away from your body and straightening your legs to complete the rep. Don’t lock your legs out fully to protect your knees. 
  6. Repeat for as many reps as desired.

    45-Degree Leg Press Machine Benefits 

    • Effective lower body isolation. Almost zero spinal stress and discomfort, which is great for those with lower back injuries. 
    • Smooth and consistent controlled motion, which is ideal for muscle hypertrophy. 
    • Users can customize the weights to get their desired amount of resistance. 
    • A safe way to train to failure as it has stoppers and handles that you can use to rack immediately. 
    • Wider foot plates allowing for different foot position 

    Read More: Leg Press Foot Placement Variations

      Leg Press Hack Squat Machine

      The leg press hack squat machine is versatile and allows users to do both the leg press and the hack squat. This makes it a contender for the best leg press machine for your home gym. This machine lets you switch between a 45-degree leg press and shoulder-loaded hack squat with an adjustable back pad and footplate.

      The Body-Solid GLPH1000 leg press hack squat machine is of top-notch quality and is perfect for small spaces, letting you do the hack squat and leg press on one machine. This particular leg press machine number comes with different start and stop positions keeping it under your control. Both pads also come with a quick flip and lock mechanism for ease.

      Body-Solid GLPH1100 Leg Press & Hack Squat Front Side View

      How to Use

      Will you use your leg press hack squat for a leg press or a hack squat? Check below for some directions.

      1. Choose what exercise you intend to do and adjust the machine to fit your body comfortably. 
      2. Load up as much resistance as you want.
      3. Brace your core, legs, and glutes, then release the safety mechanism. 
      4. Do the leg press or the hack squat for the desired reps.

        Leg Press Hack Squat Machine Benefits 

        • This machine is versatile and allows you to perform two great lower-body exercises.
        • Unlike traditional squats, this machine variation puts less stress on your joints.
        • Save your budget and space by getting one machine that performs two roles.
        • This machine allows you to choose your resistance.

          Horizontal Leg Press

          The horizontal leg press differs from the seated leg press, although you are also seated when using this machine. The difference is that with this one, the footplate moves, but the weight is pushed horizontally. The seated leg press is also considered a type of horizontal leg press.

          The Body-Solid Pro-Select Leg Press is a wonderful example of this machine, and this version also doubles as a calf press machine. It’s selectorized with two side handles to lock you into place while the precision bearings ensure smooth movement. The footplate is rubberized for better traction.

          Body-Solid Pro Select GLP-STK Leg And Calf Press Machine Side View Bended Knee

          How to Use

          The horizontal leg press is the most popular leg press machine in gyms. Check out how to use it for your workouts.

          1. Sit in the machine with your knees at a 90-degree angle.
          2. Choose the weight you'd like to use and then put your feet on the footplate at shoulder width distance apart.
          3. Grab the machine handles for stability and then release the weight. This is your starting position. 
          4. Drive your foot into the plate using your quads while keeping your glutes and core engaged. 
          5. Pause and slowly return the plate to the starting position to complete the rep.
          6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

            Horizontal Leg Press Benefits

            • This machine is great for doing single-leg presses.
            • Beginners are safe with this machine as it has a low starting resistance.
            • This machine puts minimal stress on your joints since the movement is horizontal.
            • Horizontal leg presses primarily target the quads.
            • As a result of the selectorized weight system, you can easily switch between weights making this machine easy to use. 

              Seated Leg Press Machine

              The seated leg press is also a horizontal leg press machine because the mechanics move the weight horizontally. However, the footplate is stationary with this machine while the seat moves. This also adds your bodyweight to the resistance, which is great for your lower body muscles.

              The Muscle D Elite Leg Press is a seated leg press with selectorized weight. This machine is hugely effective and comes with a large foot platform. As a result, it allows you to vary your leg positions to target different parts of your leg.

              How to Use

              The seated leg press is less popular than the horizontal leg press. Here’s how to use this machine. 

              1. Sit in this machine, ensuring your knees are at a 90-degree angle.
              2. Select a weight and then put your legs on the footplate. This is your starting position.
              3. Release the mechanism, engage your core, and push your legs against the foot plate until it straightens as the seat moves. 
              4. Pause and then return to starting position to complete the rep.
              5. Repeat for as many reps as desired.

                Seated Leg Press Machine Benefits

                • This machine uses a selectorized weight stack, making switching between users and weight classes easy.
                • Movement is horizontal, so there is less stress on your joints.
                • It primarily targets your quad and recruits your glutes and hamstring depending on leg position.
                • It adds weight to the resistance, ensuring every rep counts.

                  Compact Leg Press Machine

                  The compact leg press machine is smaller than the traditional leg press and just takes up way less space. This makes it ideal for home gyms or gyms with limited space. This machine is usually angled at a 45 or 30-degree angle.

                  Body-Solid GCLP100 Compact Leg Press 3D View

                  The Body-Solid GCLP100 compact leg press perfectly embodies the compact leg press. This machine also allows users to do the calf raise, saving them even more space. It has a maximum capacity of 1000 lbs and is fully adjustable but stands at just 47 inches plus width.

                  How to Use

                  Planning to get a compact leg pres for your home gym? Here’s how to use this machine.

                  1. Adjust the seat of your compact leg press and the back pad until it’s comfortable.
                  2. Put your feet on the footplate at shoulder-width distance apart and grip the machine handles for stability. This is your starting position.
                  3. Push the footplate away by extending your legs.
                  4. Pause and then return to starting position to complete the rep.
                  5. Repeat for as many reps as desired.

                  Compact Leg Press Machine Benefits

                  • The design is space saving which is great for home and garage gyms.
                  • You can use this machine for both leg presses and calf raises.
                  • This machine helps you strengthen your lower body muscles and prevents injuries by not straining your lower back.
                  • It’s safer and easier to use than squat racks or barbells.
                  • This machine is less expensive and easier to transport than the larger leg press machines.

                    Isolateral Leg Press Machine

                    The isolateral leg press is a unilateral machine with moving mechanisms for each leg. It’s a good leg press machine to use if you have and want to fix muscle imbalances between both legs since it isolates each side. This unilateral machine is also considered more natural as it mimics leg movements.

                    The BodyKore FL1801 is excellent for focusing on your quads and calves. It comes with a grip plate that prevents slipping when your workout and offers a full range of motion. This leg press machine reduces stress on the ankles and has a load capacity of up to 2475 lbs. 

                    BodyKore FL1801 Iso Lateral Leg Press Machine

                    How to Use

                    Are you interested in getting and enjoying the benefits of an isolateral leg press? Then check out how to use this machine below.

                    1. Adjust the seat of this machine to make it comfortable for your height.
                    2. Choose the weight that you want to use.
                    3. Sit in the machine with your foot on each platform separately. This is your starting position.
                    4. Push the foot platform away from you until your legs are almost fully extended, then pause.
                    5. Lower the weight slowly until your knees are at a 90-degree angle to complete the rep.
                    6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

                      Isolateral Leg Press Machine Benefits

                      • This machine allows users to do the leg press unilaterally and so can correct any strength imbalances.
                      • The separate leg movements feel more natural.
                      • This machine effectively targets your lower body muscles.
                      • This biomechanically correct machine is considered safer than other types of leg presses.

                        Vertical Leg Press Machine

                        Vertical leg presses are unique and different from other leg press machines. As the name suggests, this is because it pushes the weight vertically instead of at an angle or horizontally. You lie flat on the back pad of this machine, mimicking the mechanics of a low barbell squat but with back and neck aligned for safety. 

                        Body-Solid Powerline PVLP156X Vertical Leg Press with Weights

                        The Powerline by Body-Solid vertical leg press is a great machine that minimizes space and provides neck and back support. This machine has a thick back pad and contoured head and neck pads. In addition, the footplate is extra wide and has a no-slip design.

                        How to Use

                        While it may look strange, this machine is great to use. Just remember to start light and work according to your strength.

                        1. Load up the desired number of plates on your machine.
                        2. Lie flat on your back and arrange yourself comfortably on the machine.
                        3. Put your feet in a position where you can reach full depth without your heels or feet lifting off the machine.
                        4. Brace your legs and core, then unlock the safety on the machine. This is your starting position.
                        5. Bend your knees and drive outwards as you allow the weight to come down towards you.
                        6. Drive the plate back up to return to starting position and complete the rep.

                        Vertical Leg Press Machine Benefits

                        • The back, head, and neck pads support your body during the routine, ensuring you feel this exercise in your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
                        • With the vertical leg press, the weight you put on the machine is coming at you 100% and isn’t put off by a slight angle.

                          For more on benefits of the vertical leg press, read our guide: Vertical Leg Press Benefits

                          Leverage Leg Press

                          The leverage leg press is unique because it uses a system of levers to deliver resistance. Usually, this machine has an angle, allowing you to use a high load. This is great for building muscle mass and ensures minimal stress on your lower and upper back.

                          The Body-Solid LVLP leverage leg press is a great leverage leg press machine. It can carry up to 500 lbs and has a back pad that can adjust to 114, 121, and 127 degrees. It’s the ideal leg press machine to target your quads. 

                          How to Use

                          Using the leverage leg press to build your lower body muscles is easy once you know how.

                          1. Adjust the seat to a comfortable position and load up the weight plates on the machine.
                          2. Then, sit against the backrest with your feet flat on the footplate. 
                          3. Grab both machine handles, brace your legs and core, and then release the safety. This is your starting position.
                          4. Allow the footplate to come down and squeeze your quads while engaging your core.
                          5. Push the footplate but don’t fully extend your legs to lockout to return to starting position and complete the rep.

                            Leverage Leg Press Benefits

                            • The range of motion on this machine is supreme, which is great for muscle growth.
                            • As a result of the angle of this machine, very little stress is put on your lower and upper back.
                            • You can use this machine unilaterally and properly train each leg.
                            • The leverage leg press is great for people of all skill levels.
                            • This machine reduces your risk of injury when compared to traditional squats.

                               

                              Types of Leg Press Machines: Conclusion 

                              Alright, we've just flexed our brains through the mega gym of leg press machines, getting the lowdown on what each beast brings to the table. From the classic 45-degree titan to the compact leg press that fits tighter spaces than your gym shorts, we've lifted the lid on the who, what, and why of leg machines, ensuring you can squat, press, and thrust with the best of 'em.

                              Remember, whether you're pushing plates on a traditional setup or getting low on a vertical press, the goal is the same: beastly quads, shredded glutes, and calves that could jumpstart an earthquake. These machines are your ticket to a lower body that doesn't just look powerful—it is powerful.

                              York STS Commercial Leg Press

                              The moral of the story? Variety, my friends, is the spice of life—and of leg day. Mixing up your routine with these different machines not only keeps your workouts fresher than a new tub of protein powder, but it also ensures your muscles are getting hit from all angles, promoting growth and smashing plateaus.

                              So, whether you're a gym newbie looking to build a solid foundation or a seasoned lifter aiming to level up, there's a leg press machine with your name on it. Dive in, experiment, and find your perfect match. Your future self, with legs strong enough to squat a small car, will thank you. Let's crush it, team!

                               

                              More Leg Press Resources

                               

                              References 

                              1. Martín-Fuentes, I., Oliva-Lozano, J. M., & Muyor, J. M. (2020). Evaluation of the Lower Limb Muscles' Electromyographic Activity during the Leg Press Exercise and Its Variants: A Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(13), 4626. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17134626

                              2.  Nunes, J. P., Costa, B. D. V., Kassiano, W., Kunevaliki, G., Castro-E-Souza, P., Rodacki, A. L. F., Fortes, L. S., & Cyrino, E. S. (2020). Different Foot Positioning During Calf Training to Induce Portion-Specific Gastrocnemius Muscle Hypertrophy. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 34(8), 2347–2351. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000003674

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