Although bodyweight exercises are popular nowadays, sometimes you may not be in the mood to attend the gym for workouts. Also, for beginners, the free-weight activities will need someone to check constantly, as excessive weight can be disastrous.
A leg press machine is an excellent option in such a case, as it allows you to carry out the same exercises safely at home. However, you need to know how to use it optimally and safely. The guide below provides you with detailed information on how to use a leg press machine.
1. Choose the correct weight
If you plan to use a leg press to exercise the lower yet can’t lift a heavyweight, you don’t have to worry. The leg press is a fully customizable device, so you don’t have to struggle to lift many pounds of weight. Keep in mind that a leg press can do wonders for your hamstrings, quads, and thighs, even with a small weight.
If you feel you are losing control of the platform movement, you are probably using excessive weight. Also, if your head keeps on jerking forward, then the weight is outrageous, and you should reduce it. Keep in mind that proper form is vital than the number of pounds you are lifting. Although the exercise aims to use energy, you should have complete control over the entire process.
As with any other exercise, a good warm-up is essential. The lower body muscles and the ankles need a little warm-up exercise before getting on the leg press machine. It’s advisable to carry out around five minutes of dynamic activities, such as walking, jogging, or biking. You may also need to do some ankle loops, hip loops, and squats to help you stay comfortable and agile.
3. Ensure your hips aren’t moving
Once your seat is on the leg press, ensure the hips are in place. Once in place, don’t allow them to lift off the seating place. Typically, if you fail to maintain them in place, it tilts the hips, compressing the vertebrae and putting unnecessary strain on the lower back. If you’re not careful, you could end up with muscle fatigue or a hernia.
Moreover, if you raise your buttocks off the seat, the leg’s angle becomes too sharp for an effective press. Brace the stomach muscles, and then use your forefoot and heels to push the weight away. Ensure that your heels are flat on the plate. Also, don’t exclusively use your toes or foot front to lift the platform.
When exhaling, it’s advisable to extend the legs as you rest your back and head in a flat position. You can detect incorrect positioning if your knees are right before the eyes or you feel cramped. Remember to use your hands to grip the machine handles instead of placing them on the knees.
4. Use a full range motion
One of the most common blunders people make is emphasizing weight while not achieving the full motion range. Typically, this prevents you from taking full advantage of this machine. Although the motion depends on your mobility, try to lower the leg press platform to your best low while maintaining your hips firmly on the device’s seat.
If your hips start to drop, it means you are going too far, and you should stop just before that point on the next press. Once the platform reaches the top, and you want to pause, ensure the knees are not bowing in or out even without locking them. When breathing in, return the stepping plate to the initial position by slowly bending the knees.
5. Go slow
Keep in mind that the machine’s weight is heavy, so you should always avoid possible injuries. Often you will see people trying to get through the second half of the movement when they push the press up to start, but that is not the way to go. Instead, try to use a steady pace for lowering the press and lifting it back up. Acceleration or pace increase can decrease movement efficiency and increase the risk of injury.
Besides, you can use your breathing pace as a monitor. It’s advisable to count two times, then up, and then two times, and then down. Even when extending the legs to exhale, instead of doing it in an explosive motion, you should do it in a slow control. If you are a beginner, it’s advisable to carry out this exercise modestly, with utmost three sets of around ten lifts. As you build stamina, you can increase the sets or add the number of presses per set.
6. Don’t Move your feet
When you lift the press, it is dangerous to move your feet as it may lead to injury. Typically, moving your feet in the lifting process can have the same effect as slipping, which can be dangerous. Moving your feet means you should mix up the placement of the legs when doing multiple sets, as it will challenge different muscle groups.
You may start by placing your feet at the center of the press, approximately hip-width apart, with your toes about 15 degrees apart. It’s the base of your exercise and works excellent on your thighs. From there, you should try several other variations that you feel comfortable with you.
7. Check for Imbalances
Athletes have a general imbalance of strength and mobility without even realizing it. Often, one muscle is not working or is out of position, while another muscle group replaces the resilience of its looser partner. Typically, these imbalances can cause injuries and less efficient movements because the more balanced your body, the better it will work.
Imbalances are one of the reasons for using a leg press machine to make sure each leg muscle grows independently and works well. As you exercise on the press, make a few adjustments one foot at a time, and this will help avoid the compensations and show you which leg you might have to strengthen.
8. Adjust foot position
Adjusting the position of the legs can change the muscles that are carrying the weight of the leg press. Although this neutral shoulder-length position aligns the glutes and leg muscles reasonably evenly, the broader sumo position with the legs pointing slightly outward workout the inner thighs and quadriceps, with the narrow stance lighting up the outward quads.
The height at which you place your feet on the machine also changes the muscle groups carrying the weight. A tall standing position puts pressure on the hamsters and buttocks, while a shorter standing position hits the quadriceps. However, remember to use the safety features on the incline leg press to eliminate the chances of the weight sliding down on you unexpectedly. Apply the safety bars if your feet slip and when you overestimate your lifting strength.
In conclusion, the leg press is a great workout device for developing hamstrings, quads, calf muscles, and glutes. As the leg press machine strain the lower body, it makes it a great exercise option for people with shoulder or back injuries who want to exercise and tone their leg muscles. Also, you can do single-legged reps to increase leg strength if you aim to correct the imbalance between the legs. The machine’s movement control makes it safe for beginners to do new weight exercises at home, unlike the free-weight activities.