Your quadriceps need adequate workout. These are muscles of your thighs, present in the front. Which exercise is good for these muscles – squats or leg presses? Also, which one can yield better results and is safe?
Your thigh muscles – quadriceps – are worked through squats and leg presses. Not stopping with your quads, both can make you exercise the muscles of your buttocks (known as glutes) and also those at the rear side of your thighs (called as hamstrings). Let us look at the pros and cons of each of these exercises.
These are workouts done in a seated position. It is performed with a machine made for this. You are in a seated position with your back resting on a pad in the leg press machine. Your legs are made to rest on footrests. At the start, your knees are kept in a bent position. The machine helps you move weights when your legs come to a straight position.
Broadly, there are two types of leg presses. The first type is a seated leg press, also called as 45 degree leg press. You have to sit erect and work your legs to push the weights wired to a plate. The second type is a vertical or diagonal sled leg press. Here, you would be seated under the weight and using your feet you would push the sled up. The angle of orientation favors the diagonal leg press wherein you can load lot more weights than the seated leg press machine.
Leg presses can be done with a few variations. These include doing it with your foot placed higher (your spotter may make your feet to be placed at the top of the leg press’ footrest; this helps contract and extend the group of muscles – hamstrings, glutes and of course, your knees). As an exact opposite, your spotter may tell you to rest your feet at the lower end of the footpad. This helps to give lesser focus on the hamstrings and glutes; instead, the emphasis turns more towards your quadriceps. Your spotter – at times – may also advise you to work one leg at a time. This is done when you are working out with different emphasis on each leg. With a one leg press, each leg will get to individually work out and you avoid risks of a skewed workout.
Leg presses can work your quadriceps effectively. This is because there is not much focus on your hamstrings or glutes in this exercise. Leg press can give a good amount of strength to your legs. However, it has a few inherent risks. At times your knees may get locked. There are also risks involved when you try working out with more weights. Such risks include rounding your rear side, injuring your knees, etc. People who use leg press often state that the machine tempts them to work out with more weights. Also, you may be working one leg more than the other. The leg press machine simply moves the weight regardless of which leg is working more.
This workout involves keeping your feet on ground. There are several variations to the way this exercise is done. In a few versions, the weight is behind your neck and in some, a dumbbell is in front. This exercise makes you straighten and bend your knees against the weight – either in the rear or before. There are also squat machines which have weights on the ground. Apart from your quadriceps, squats also work your hamstrings as well as glutes.
The exercise is done with a lot of variations. These include the hack squat (you bend down to rake the barbell and stand with it; there is more stress laid on your lower back), front squat (the barbell or dumbbells are placed at the height of your shoulders; this is way too safer for your back side) and back squat (with weights resting on your shoulders – at the rear of your neck – you stand up; this may put added stress onto the group of muscles in the rear). All these variations offer benefits of working your muscles from various directions. Squats are known for improving your pose and enhancing the flexibility of your lower limbs – especially your knees. These workouts can also make your rear muscles stronger. Squats also pose a few risks. If you are using a very heavy dumbbell, it can harm your pectoral region – especially shoulders. There are also chances of harming your knees, while you spread your legs very far. You may also develop some injuries when you lean ahead or while rounding it off at the rear.
So, which is better?
If you are having a pain in your back side or if your shoulders are paining, then leg presses may suit you more. Also, if you have an issue with balance, leg presses score over squats. On the other hand, if your need is to work your body, squats trump leg presses.
It is undeniable that both these exercises – squat and leg press – work almost the same group of muscles. Both of them vary in the angles in which these muscle groups are worked out, as well as on the intensity and focus each offers to a few muscles. Owing to this, you can strike a fine balance doing these two workouts for better effectiveness. It is hence recommended to do both these workouts to strengthen your legs and the group of muscles on your back side.
If you are at the starting stage of your fitness training, it is recommended to perform your workouts under the supervision of a trainer. Under trained hands, you will be made to understand the need to strengthen the foundation of your leg. It is only after having a firm foundation, will your trainer add more weights to your squat exercises or to the leg press machine. Also, under trained eyes any uneventful injuries – especially locking of knees or unbalanced working out between your legs (in a leg press machine) – or falls may be averted with ease.