Leg press machines

10.75 ^e major problem with the leg press is the need for a safe machine. ^is makes the leg press much more likely to be used by those who train in commercial gyms as against home gyms. Some leg press machines, at least for some body structures, are destructive. Great care must be given to ensuring you use a machine and style of leg pressing that do you no harm.

10.76 ^ere are several types of leg press machines. Each can stress the thighs and glutes slightly differently because of the differing angles of body positioning. What is important is finding a safe way of leg pressing over the long term.

10.77 ^e first basic type of leg press machine is the traditional vertical one. ^is puts great stress on the knees and lower back, and is not recommended. While this machine may not harm young injury-free trainees, it can cause havoc for older people, especially if they have had knee and back injuries.

10.78 Second are the 45° or sled leg press machines. Some may reduce some of the knee and lower back stress relative to the vertical models, but can lead to excesses that cause damage. Principally they lead to excessive poundage due to the machine's design which permits very big weights to be used relative to other models.

10.79 If used with caution and good form by a person with no injury limitations to work around, the 45° leg press models may yield good results. But for most people, the leg press machine of choice will be of the leverage-style, e.g., the models produced by Hammer Strength and MedX.

10.80 A few leg press machines, e.g., one of the models produced by Hammer Strength, can be used one leg at a time or alternately, i.e., isolaterally/uni-laterally. ^is contrasts with the usual bilateral machines that have a single platform which is moved by both legs pushing together. ^e unilateral leg press machine, however, gives you the option of working both legs bilaterally, too, though each leg will have its own resistance to overcome.

10.81 A unilateral leg press machine applies asymmetrical and rotational stress to your lower back because both legs are not pushing at the same time, unless it is used bilaterally. ^is may or may not pose a problem for you because technique and individual structural considerations are involved. To reduce the impact of asymmetrical stress, keep the non-working leg extended and braced against its resistance while the other leg works. But because the unilateral model can be used bilaterally, if unilateral use poses a problem for your lower back, then stick with using it in bilateral mode.

10.82 At least two potential advantages of using the unilateral leg press model will still apply even if it is used exclusively in a bilateral manner:

a. Each leg can work independently of the other, like pressing two dumbbells at the same time as against a barbell. While this may appear to be a disadvantage as far as control goes, at least to begin with, it permits limb strength differences to be allowed for. You could have your weaker leg loaded with a little less weight than the other side. Or you could load both sides with the same weight but control the set based on the performance of your weaker leg. In this case you would always keep your stronger leg working on a par with your weaker leg, and end the set for both legs when your weakest side has had enough. In either case this will help prevent the twisting (torsion) that can be a problem with a bilateral machine when both legs are not of the same strength.

b. ^e second potential advantage of using a unilateral machine, even in bilateral style, is if you have one leg shorter than the other. ^e unilateral machine, even used bilaterally, will naturally offset your leg length differences. ^is would help reduce the rotational stress that arises from using a regular bilateral leg press machine (and even squatting) with limbs of differing lengths.

10.83 ^e squat is used much more in the programs of this book than the leg press. ^e reasoning is twofold. First, not all trainees have access to a good leg press machine. Second, it is generally assumed that readers are not limited by injuries or excessively disadvantageous leverages for the squat. (And remember that the squat is potentially a much more productive exercise than the leg press.) But you do not have to have perfect leverages to get a lot of benefit from the squat. Even trainees with relatively poor squatting struc tures can get a great deal of benefit from the squat, and more benefit than they ever can from the leg press, so long as they exercise good form and use a sensible progression scheme.

10.84 If you can leg press safely and progressively, then for short periods you may substitute it for the squat. But keep in mind that the leg press, unlike the squat, does not heavily involve the very important lower-back musculature. Include a deadlift for your lower back, to complement the leg press.

10.85 See the insider's tell-all handbook on weight-training technique for a comprehensive and illustrated description of safe and productive leg pressing technique.

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