5 Leg Press Variations to Carve Strong, Defined Legs

Strong LegsThe leg press is a staple workout machine at gyms, but often gets a bad rep because it isn’t as complex as the squat. But if you’re looking for sheer size, the leg press may be in a class by itself since there are so many different ways to safely increase the growth-producing intensity. Read on to learn five ways you can get more results from this machine.

Yes, it is easier to perform than the squat, since mobility is relatively constricted, but does that mean it should be abandoned?

Absolutely not! Load up those plates, jump on, and get it going with these leg press variations for both size and strength:

Drop Sets

Drop sets have been in gyms since…well, the inception of gyms! They are one of the oldest intensity hacks in the weight-training book. They’re also very taxing on the body—which is just what you want!

Pump out sets of 4, at a weight manageable for a drop set. Once there, perform 8 reps, then drop the weight significantly and perform 8 additional reps. Repeat the drops two more times for a total of 32 reps. You will feel the burn for sure!

Time Under Tension Sets

bodybuilder working out at the gym while using fitness machineIf you’ve searched for the best ways to gain mass, then we’re sure you’ve read about TUT or time under tension. Some view it as the be-all, end-all in terms of muscle growth. With that said, slow descents, such as three-second descensions can maximize this particular mechanical tension.

To perform, start by doing a few low-rep sets at normal speed, to get up to your working weight. Once there, do 3 sets of 8 reps using the three-second descent method.

Be sure to drive hard out of the bottom—drive the weight up with force. Also, be sure not to lock out, stopping just short.

Escalating Leg Press

This one is pure shock and awe, as there are different facets that create muscle confusion throughout the legs and lower body.

You’re going to do one extended set with a brief pause on every fourth rep. At each stop, your training partners will add a 45-pound plate (or whatever is suitable to ensure you can last long!). Lock out every fourth rep, and only long enough to add additional weight. The other reps should be short of lockout, keeping constant tension on your legs with smooth turnarounds.

Perform as many 4-rep “pause sets” as you can. Please note: That won’t be too long!

The key, is to begin with a comfortable weight load. Rule of thumb is to start with 60% of your 10 rep max. That way, you can potentially knock out a few sets of this bruiser.

VMO Supersets

Excuse us, we’re getting a little technical here. VMO stands for vastus medialis oblique, which is the teardrop-shaped quad muscle above the kneecap.

Defined Vastus Medialis ObliqueTo get the VMO firing, set your feet with a close stance and slightly lower on the platform. The goal is to garner a great deal of metabolic stress throughout each set, performing a high number for each. Perform a few 25-rep sets at a lower weight to get up to your working weight.

Drive hard out of the bottom and get into a rhythm—pumping the weight up and down, making sure not to lock out. If you hit 25 reps, go up 25 or 45 pounds per side. Keep going until you just miss that 25 rep goal.

Frog-Style Supersets

Sound like a wrestling move? Well, that’s because it somewhat is!

sumo stance leg pressAssume a wide-stance and slightly deviate your toes outward in a frog-style stance. Allow your knees to come down just outside of your body, so you’ll be pushing your knees out as you lower the platform. The concentric part of this exercise should be done explosively, with pause reps along the way. Set the stops relatively high and let the weight rest for 1 second before powering it back up toward the ceiling.

Keep it going until you can’t perform 20 reps—push yourself! If you reach 15 reps and need to rest for a second or two, that is more than fine, as it will keep constant tension on the legs throughout the respective set.

Perform 20 reps on every set you can and limit your sets to 5.

A good muscle-building program will feature a variety of quality movements rotated in and out to suit your individual fitness needs. Your success depends more on your effort than it does on your overall exercise choices. Just make sure you don’t discount the leg press, just because it doesn’t involve a barbell. Every variation can help you sculpt those legs!