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Weight lifting gurus; squats, leg-presses, or both?(44 posts)

Weight lifting gurus; squats, leg-presses, or both?hrv
Oct 14, 2003 7:22 AM
For the longest time I've always done squats and leg presses in the same session. I guess this is called supersetting? Anyways, I'm starting to think I'd be better served (more power gains for less fatigue?) by doing only one of those in a session. I have to gradually build up to the heavier stuff by doing lighter warmup sets and progressively adding weight, and I normally alternate the squat and leg press exercises (with other stuff thrown in: rows, abs, pushups, etc.).

Maybe do squats one day, leg presses the next? I know many believe squats are the best compound exercise you can do; do leg presses give you something squats don't? By the end of the year I want to be squatting and/or leg pressing some heavy (for me) weights and I've come to realize no way can I do that doing both of these together. Any ideas/thoughts?

Yes, I know there is more chance of injury with squats and that's why some choose leg presses but this will not be a factor in my decision.

re: Weight lifting gurus; squats, leg-presses, or both?theBreeze
Oct 14, 2003 7:43 AM
Unless you are really trying to bulk up I don't see a reason to do both in the same session. Aside from the different body orientation there is no huge difference in how the muscles work.

Are you using a stack leg press machine or a plate loaded squat press? In other words does the bench you are laying on move away from your feet (leg press) or does the foot plate move (squat press)? You can change the muscle focus slightly by how you position your feet on a leg press or squat press. Something you can't really do with a standard free bar back squat.

So switch off between the two exercises, squats one session, machine presses the next. But remember, you shouldn't train the same muscles group on consecutive days. You have to give them that rest day.

Have fun!
M Anderson NSCA-CPT
re: Weight lifting gurus; squats, leg-presses, or both?Saddle_Sore
Oct 14, 2003 7:52 AM
Do not neglect your hamstrings or calves or you will end up seriously imbalanced. To function efficiently you need to remember that your limbs are graced with antagonistic muscle groupes. For your leg to work, it needs both your front and rear muscles (quads and hams).
Oct 14, 2003 8:50 AM
I'd use whatever machine, cage or weights were available with the least waiting and if I were doing a 2nd exercise for the upper legs it would be lunges.
According to me.... ColnagoFE will likely disagree...funknuggets
Oct 14, 2003 7:58 AM
Kidding ColnagoFE....

I think that they work basically the same muscles, but you are right, Squats, if done properly are one of the best compound exercizes you can do.

However, Leg presses have their benefits. I think often, due to the ability to change foot positioning, it is easier to isolate specific muscle groups. In addition, squats are often uncomfortable to knees, and lower back and also require some good core muscle strength to maintain balance. Due to the fact that there is no stability to the hips in squats, it is common for people to lose form quickly when they begin to fatigue or use too much weight. If form is lost, people will often jump out of form to try to find leverage as they try and get the weight back up. This can cause all kinds of injuries ranging from ankles, to knees to hips, to lower back, to neck... so, in a nutshell, Leg presses are safer... especially if you do not have someone around to spot.

Leg presses take a lot of stress off your back, and will typically isolate your hams and quads. Squats will hit both, but also tax your glutes as well.

Just my two cents.
form is the key...ColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 8:33 AM
I agree...squats with bad form are bad, but I've seen people load up the leg press with tons of weight and use bad form (not keeping the back flat against the platform) too and that is a back injury waiting to happen. All it takes is a slight break in form and you throw out your lower back because it can't handle the weight. Assuming you have spotters or are working in a power cage with the safety stops set properly the squat is fairly safe. Deads are probably more so because you can just drop the weight if something goes wrong. I probably sound like a broken record, but I think athletes who are using weight training for sport don't need many isolation exercises anyway. Save all the bicep curls and leg extentions for the bodybuilders and those who are rehabbing specific muscles after an injury.
Oct 14, 2003 8:26 AM
What are your goals? Strength? Hypertrophy? Weight loss? All the above? How often do you lift? What is your split? Personally I think leg press (and most machines) are actually more likely to cause injury than a person lifting free weights using proper form and staying within a safe weight for their stregth level. You'll notice that people can lift a heck of a lot more weight on the leg press than squatting. The reason is that you are not recruiting as many stabilizing muscles to lift the weight. For a lot of people the back and abs are the sticking point for squats--not the legs. And by all means forget using a weight belt to compensate for that. Use a weight you can lift without a belt and you will keep getting stronger in your core as well as your legs. If you are doing all-body weight workouts I'd do the squats first. Maybe throw in some deads as well. Then move on to chest, shoulders, etc. You should be able to get in a good workout in 45m to an hour 3x a week.
Oct 14, 2003 8:45 AM
Squats are better for working the glutes. Squats force you to work your legs while other body parts (abs, back, stablizers) are screaming for help. The key is stability. That's what squats develop.

I follow squats with leg presses. You can overload the legs with more weight than is possible with squats. With squats, your back and other muscles weakness will limit how much weight you can use. With leg presses, you can concentrate just on the legs.
Plus, when I do leg presses, I do SINGLE leg presses. A cyclist's pedal stroke is pretty much a series of alternating, single-leg presses. You don't pedal by pressing down on both legs at the same time. That's one of the goals of weight work; to replicate the motion of the cycling.

Single-leg presses help eliminate leg imbalance. If your right leg is stronger, your right leg will do most of the work with regular 2-leg presses. Your left leg has no incentive to get stronger because it knows your right leg will bail it out when it starts to get tired.

Try a set of single-leg presses and you'll quickly find out just how much stronger one leg is than the other.
Why not single leg squats then? (nm)hrv
Oct 14, 2003 9:26 AM
Why not single leg squats then? (nm)Spoiler
Oct 14, 2003 10:00 AM
If you've never squatted before, it might be a good idea to try some single-legged squats with NO weight. You can hold both arms outstretched for balance. But any single-legged squat with weight, is too dangerous.

Also, you need the balance of two legged to have proper squat form. When you're squatting, you should be sitting back, like you're lowering yourself to sit on the toilet. You can't do this with one leg.

Here's an article about box squats. Some of the info is for hard-core lifters, but the set-up and other technique info is GOLD.
lunges would be better (nm)ColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 10:12 AM
No guru, and didn't sleep in a Holiday Inn Express, but...Asiago
Oct 14, 2003 9:10 AM
I'm working with a coach who said do both. The fitness trainer at the health club where I'm lifting said to do both. Reasoning: The squats are a multi-group exercise while the leg press isolates. For my workouts, he wants me to start with the squats, then go to leg press. Start with the multi-group exercise then move to the specific. And the leg press is preferable on the Hack-Squat machine, or so I'm told.

My prescribed workout consists of...Asiago
Oct 14, 2003 9:16 AM
Leg Press (hack squat)
Leg Extension
Leg Curl
Straight-leg dead lift
pull downs
tricep ext

Just started accomodation phase this week.

Whoa there!!!!funknuggets
Oct 14, 2003 10:09 AM
There is a lot of difference between the hack squat and the leg press. You can also do a single leg hack squat and it will more resemble the range utilized while doing a lunge.

The hack is more like a stabilized squat, as it places stressors on the shoulders, through the back, to the legs.

The press will take all the stress and place it through your hips. That changes the load balance A LOT, but does offer the option to change foot position to isolate different muscles. The single leg hacks, however, are one of the most taxing exercizes one can do to peg quads and glutes.

Single leg stuff is good, but consider it is bearing a specific weight against a relatively immobile stationary support. So, what happens is a disproportionate amount of physical stress is placed on one or more joints...on only ONE SIDE and this is NOT similar to the bike. Where your downward force on the pedal is offset by movements in the upper body, hip, ankle or bike... or flex of the frame. The same force when applied (when lifting machines single legged) to joints is much higher as one or more joints is likely in a static position (especially the hip and lower back). This is not exactly what your body was intented to do.

This being said... doing single legs is effective, but can also cause some pretty dramatic injuries (kind of like jumping up the stairs using only your right leg carrying a fridge on your shoulders...a chiropractor's dream).

Form is everything. Be careful out there. I speak from experience with single leg isolation injuries (hip and back).

how often and what are your goals?ColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 10:17 AM
do you do them in that order? curious about why your trainer would have you do those particular exercises. especially triceps extentions? no bench press? i don't see any chest work there and TONS of quad work. Sounds like a recipe for overtraining.
how often and what are your goals?Asiago
Oct 14, 2003 10:33 AM
Actually, the trainer just prescribed the order of doing the sqauts before the leg press. My coach prescribed the exercises.

This is only what I am doing right now, at low weight, 3 sets at 10 reps. 3x/week.

Right now, all I am supposed to be doing is just getting my body used to lifting weights. Hence minimal weight.

how often and what are your goals?ColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 10:46 AM
ask him why no chest and what each exercise is supposed to be doing for you. if he/she can't give you a good answer then look for a new trainer. definately do squats before the leg press. it's a lot safer and you'll need your strength for the squats. personally if i was prescribing a 3x a week whole body workout for a "average" personally i'd do something like this and in this order. 2-3 sets of 10 or less reps:

1. squats
2. deads (or safer would be trap bar deads if your gym has a trap bar)
3. dumbell incline chest presses (or the barbell equivalent)
4. chinups--use the assited ones if you need to or just do pulldowns
5. Seated rows (cable machine or dumbell rows on a bench)
6. dumbell military presses--do em standing for more back work or seated for more safety and control when starting--can also do barbell version
7. Abs--you can do hanging leg raises and weighted crunches or get one of those exercise balls and do the crunches on that

should be able to get thru this in a hour or so of you keep moving and pretty much hits all your major muscles.
how often and what are your goals?Asiago
Oct 14, 2003 11:24 AM
WEll, it's the coach prescribing the workouts, the trainer is just showing me how to do them.

As for the back, the trainer did recomend the pull downs, with wide hands and chest out and up to work the entire back/shoulders.

Your workout list looks to be much more an entire body workout. My coach said he really wanted me to target the legs with some back, ab, arm work. I'll ask him why no chest work. Oh yeah, I forgot to add in that I am also doing step ups (with no weight). And my lunges are not up-down-up:1, but from standing to the down position and then slight raises (10), then up.

here's my guessColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 12:37 PM
he doesn't want you to bulk up your chest which is pretty much dead weight for road cycling but somewhat helpful for mountain biking. might make sense from a cycling standpoint...are you a pro or high level racer? the only thing i'd worry about is creating a muscle imbalance by not working everything.
here's my guessAsiago
Oct 14, 2003 12:44 PM
I'm not a high level road racer, yet... But that's what he is training me for.

hack squat machine=really hard on your knees (nm)ColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 10:13 AM
dammit ColnagoFE, stop agreeing with me... haha(nm)funknuggets
Oct 14, 2003 10:18 AM
hack squat machine=really hard on your knees - how?Asiago
Oct 14, 2003 10:37 AM
How can a hack squat machine be worse on knees than squats? Would seem to be easier to have bad form on squats...

I'm very worried about improper form, which is why I'm having the trainer go over all exercises with me.

See my previous post...funknuggets
Oct 14, 2003 10:58 AM
Hacks tend to get your knees forward of your toes which creates some insane stressors on the front part of your knees.

Also, since your hips and feet are static, nearly all lateral stressors are placed directly into the knees.
Saw it..Asiago
Oct 14, 2003 11:32 AM
But I guess I didn't understand it. Obviously, any exercise with bad form is just plain bad, which is why I wanted to be sure I was doing them correctly.

Now, I was checking out what a hack squat is and when I did a search, that is not what I'm doing, so I guess I'm not doing a hack squat. I guess I don't know what this machine is then! This is essentially what I am doing:

I'm basically doing a leg press in this position...

Oct 14, 2003 11:55 AM
This is a leg press. Hack machine would look similar, however, you would be in a standing position, and you would be basically laying on your back on the machine, and have some padded supports above your shoulders.

So, instead of your back being on the floor, your feet would be there. And as ColnagoFE stated, it is pretty taxing on the knees.

Similar to a smith machine...Asiago
Oct 14, 2003 12:04 PM
The trainer was very adamant that when using a smith machine, have your feet forward and lean back into the bar and stick your butt back and chest out. When he did the smith machine, his shins were perpendicular to the floor when his thighs were parallel. It would seem on the hack squat that you would not be able to stick your butt back as you can on the smith machine.

Oct 14, 2003 12:36 PM
Correct, but on the hack, you do typically have a large base plate on which you could change your foot position to more closely mimic a "perpendicular" shin, which will protect your knee and kneecap.

One thing that I can suggest is that you press through the bottom of your foot, not put all the pressure on your heels or in the balls of your feet. Pressing through the center of your foot and putting equal weight on the heels and balls of your feet (albiet hard on arches with heavy weight and non-supporting shoes) will maintain stress through the shin and into the knee. Pressing with toes or heel will change the angle of the motion on your knee.

Be careful with your motion. Most people's natural stance will point slightly outward at shoulder width, and not straight ahead as some trainers I've dealt with suggest.

Best of luck, and be careful.

ColnagoFE and I are going to start our own Hanz and Franz column right here on RBR... kidding.

smith machines are evil and should be bannedColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 1:21 PM
smith machines force you into a single plane of motion and don't let your body follow its own natural motion. even done the way your trainer suggests, they are hard on knees (lots of shear force generated by that position) and don't tend to use supporting musculature so the strength you gain from them is not often as applicable to real sport situations. do a google search for smith machine squats and see what opinions you find out there. the only thing smith machines are good for (in my opinion) is short range motions like shrugs or the like.
and calves? (nm)funknuggets
Oct 14, 2003 2:19 PM
yeah they probably work for calves tooColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 2:40 PM
though most cyclists really don't need additional calf work IMO.
Leg presses isolate WHAT???theBreeze
Oct 14, 2003 12:31 PM
On a leg press you flex and extend at both the hip, knee, and ankle joints and work quads, hamstrings and calves in the exercise. Same as in a squat. But like pointed out above you don't have the same balance issues. I also stress proper form. My clients sometimes get sick of hearing, but i don't get sick of reminding them. I can't tell you what unbeleivable things I sometimes see where i work. Some people will do anything to be able to load up the stack, and then wonder why they get hurt and aren't getting the results they want. ok, end of rant.

Leg presses are not an isolation exercise like a single leg extension or curl would be. Now if the traniner said it isolated the legs and took out issues with torso stabilization and lateral balance, then that's correct. But for general strength training I don't see any compelling reason to do both in the same session. Unless you really have that much time to spend in the weight room.

If your focus is training for cycling, keep it simple in the weight room and do any extra leg specific training on the bike or on a stationary trainer. Train the movment, not just the muscle.
Relative foot positioning on the footplate....funknuggets
Oct 14, 2003 12:43 PM
I agree it is still a complex motion, but I was referring to the ability to place your feet higher or lower, wider or closer together on the leg press to isolate the stress of the lift. The higher you place your feet, obviously is going to tax more on the hams and glutes. Heck, sliding your feet to where you hang off the bottom will allow you to do calves. I was just saying that relative to squats, the leg press offers some alternative positioning that will allow some interestion isolation of particular muscle groups.

Do close feet then wide feet, you will most definitely see different areas of the muscle being isolated. Im sure you know what I mean. Perhaps something was lost in the translation.

Oct 14, 2003 12:45 PM
sorry theBreeze, I thought you were talking to me.

my bad!

Keep doing both!!JBergland
Oct 14, 2003 9:46 AM
Squats are GREAT!! Use the leg press with a single leg. You don't pedal your bike with both legs moving in the same direction at the same time do you??:) Much better cycling specific power development.

I have a cool pic of me doing JUMP squats!OldEdScott
Oct 14, 2003 10:13 AM
Sorry, couldn't help but recall this board's second funniest moment.
the one with the dog and the weights on his back was the best-nmColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 10:21 AM
I have a cool pic of me doing JUMP squats!Spoiler
Oct 14, 2003 10:22 AM
Before doing any jump squats, you should try my fool-proof method of getting your knees accustomed to the stress. I climb a 5 foot ladder with 300+lb barbell on my shoulders. I jump off the ladder and land stiff legged.

I'm a full foot-and-a-half shorter and my knee joints have turned into a small pile of bone powder, but the still pics look COOL!
here's the pic...gave me a chuckle anywayColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 10:26 AM
The one and only original ... still LMAO.OldEdScott
Oct 14, 2003 10:35 AM
Any necessary apologies in advance...

PODIUMBOUNDdotCA "Cool pic - weight room workout report" 2/28/03 2:52pm
30% of his squat? you mean he squats more than 400?ColnagoFE
Oct 14, 2003 1:25 PM
That is actually pretty impressive for a cyclist if true.
Oct 18, 2003 9:57 AM
At the time, I didn't think much of anything on that thread was very funny. Looking back, there IS a good laugh or two!!:)

re: Weight lifting gurus; squats, leg-presses, or both?MikeDee
Oct 14, 2003 11:35 AM
"For the longest time I've always done squats and leg presses in the same session. I guess this is called supersetting?"

No, supersetting is when you do a set for one muscle group and immediately follow it up with a set for the opposing muscle group (e.g., leg press followed up with leg curl).
Thanks for all the great replies! Will try squats ...hrv
Oct 14, 2003 3:01 PM
one day , leg press the next, with focus on squats, since I know I am capable of pushing a whole lotta weight with the sled, but I'm really limited when it comes to squats. I'm 5'11, 160 and am just squatting with 135, hi-reps, for now, and my goal is about 225 - 275. Came real close last winter. My limiter comes when I put the weight on my shoulders and my mind says : 'You're not going to squat that much, are you?!?'. Did 540 last winter in the press and don't see any problems with taking it to 630 this year.

Thanks again,