Strength Training

Is The Back Squat Better Than The Leg Press?

leg press vs back squat

The legs are considered one of the hardest body parts to train, and most people have a love-hate relationship with leg day.

There are two great exercises for building muscle mass and strength in your legs; the back squat and the leg press. But is the back squat better than the leg press?

For overall leg development, the squat is a better exercise when compared to the leg press.  Whilst they both follow a similar movement pattern, squatting is a much more technical exercise which carries a higher risk of injury.  If you find squatting difficult, the leg press makes for a good alternative.

Most people who are serious about weightlifting will prefer squats over the leg press for a few reasons.  These include the following;

  • As a compound exercise, squats use almost every muscle in the lower body.
  • They have a tremendous metabolic response which helps with weight loss,
  • They improve core strength which can help with better balance and posture.
  • Squats can help to enhance overall athletic performance.

This article will discuss whether or not the back squat is better than the leg press. So, keep reading! We have everything you need to know about back squats and how they compare to the leg press.

If you’d like to learn more about squatting read our article; Squats: How To Do Them And Why

Can You Squat And Leg Press On The Same Day?

Back squats and leg presses are two of the most essential exercises for any weightlifter, powerlifter, and gym goer’s lower body workouts.  Squats will give your legs an overall workout in a single movement, whereas the leg press will really focus on your quadriceps.

A common question asked by beginners and inexperienced lifters is, can you squat and leg press on the same day? The answer is simple, yes, you can and should.  These two exercises will work on your legs from different angles, and both have a place in a lower body workout.

If you want to get the most out of your leg day, it’s an excellent idea to squat before leg pressing.  As a technical movement, squats usually take a little more time and require more back and core stabilization Not only that, squats expend much more energy but don’t necessarily exhaust all your leg muscles.

By heading over to the leg press post squatting, you can better isolate specific leg muscles, such as the inner thighs, making for a great leg finisher.   Getting used to doing both exercises in one day can be difficult for many beginners as it requires a lot of energy. Squats and leg pressing are why many people avoid leg days, but if you’re serious about gaining quality strength and muscle, forget about shortcuts and focus on these exercises.

Does The Back Squat And Leg Press Work The Same Muscles?

Squats and leg pressing are exercises that will work your lower body muscles. However, they don’t necessarily hit the muscles in the exact same way.

The squat will activate muscles of the posterior chain and stabilization muscles.  By comparison, the leg press will isolate the quadriceps and glutes.  Despite the squat working a greater range of muscles, the leg press is best for accentuating specific muscles helping to work on definition.

Squats are great for athletes of all sports and weightlifters, and they strengthen your lower body by focusing on muscles including the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip muscles, obliques, lower back and core.

Even though leg pressing won’t necessarily focus on the lower body muscles as intensely as back squats, it can be a great way of working on the smaller muscles of the quads, such as the vastus medialis (inner thigh muscles).

This is achieved by placing your feet at different locations on the foot plate, thus isolating the smaller muscles.  You can read more about the benefits of different foot placements within this article; What Are The Different Types Of Leg Press.

Those that incorporate both squatting and leg pressing into their training are able to build significant mass with heavy squats and focus on leg definition with the leg press machine.  This makes leg pressing a great supplementary workout alongside squatting.

Why Is The Squat Harder Than The Leg Press?

For anyone who’s ever had a leg session that entailed both the back squat and the leg press, you’ll probably already be aware that the back squat is sufficiently harder than the leg press if both are completed with intensity. But why can you typically put almost double the weight on the leg press compared to back squats?

One of the primary reasons behind this is that leg pressing often involves a much shorter range of motion. Squats, if performed correctly, should take your legs to at least a ninety-degree bend and force you to make use of your core and lower back to aid with stabilization.

Your core is heavily involved in squats, as it works to support your body as you’re performing the exercise. In contrast to squats, leg pressing is typically easier as it doesn’t require the same level of stability, balance, or any significant form. Thus, you may feel like leg pressing is slightly easier than back squats because of these factors.

Why Can I Squat More On The Leg Press?

One thing you may notice when you utilize both back squats and the leg press during leg training, is that you can usually put more weight on the leg press.  But what is the reasoning behind this?

Two key reasons allow you to leg press more than you can squat.  Firstly, the force of gravity is reduced on a leg press where you push weight at a 45 degree angle.  Secondly, the leg press machine offers stability to the upper body thereby limiting the number of muscles being used.

So, while you may be lifting a lot more weight on the leg press machine, it doesn’t mean that your strength will benefit more when compared to squats. Both exercises are great options for leg day. However, if you want to increase your strength and muscle mass, you should incorporate back squats as much as possible.

Conclusion

So, now that you know the difference between back squats and the leg press and that both can be incorporated in to your leg day training, you’re ready to get into the gym and blast your lower body the next time leg day comes around.

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