In a battle for leg dominance between squats vs leg press, who wins?
Is there a noticable difference between squats vs leg press in terms of muscle activation? Which one of these two leg-building exercises is a better choice for complete leg development?
Actually you would benefit from incorporating both of these leg exercises. Even though they activate mostly the same leg muscle groups, the involvement of those muscles in both exercises is very different. This, in turn, makes the muscle development very different.
The barbell squat is often called the king of exercises. This exercise activates all of the major leg muscles, making them work together at the same time – more than any other exercise. The main muscles activated during a barbell back squat are the quadriceps, gluteus maximus and the hamstrings, while the pelvic and other core muscles act as stabilizers. Despite the squat being a ‘lower body movement’, it actually uses your whole body making it one of the best compound exercises you can do.
The stabilizing muscles are small and often neglected, but they prevent injuries that can arise from unwanted and unnatural movements. You can read our in-depth article on proper squat form and how to get the most out of this exercise, here.
One distinct advantage that squats have over leg press is the range of motion (ROM), which is much greater than leg press. Greater ROM creates much greater muscle activity.
As we previously mentioned, due to the ROM being lesser than the squat’s, the activation of hamstrings and glutes is considerably less. At the same time the engagement of abductors of the thigh and stabilizing muscles is also a lot lower. However you should not completely exclude leg press from your workout routine as leg press can have a great impact on your quad development.
While the activation of hamstrings and glutes is less when compared vs squats, this leaves your quadriceps to pick up the slack. That’s right – leg press is mostly a quads exercise and the great thing is, leg press allows you to train your quads with some really heavy weights. No matter how great the squat is, it just can’t activate your quads more than the leg press.
This is the main reason for why you should have both of these exercises included in your workout plan. You can do them both during the same workout. For example, you can do the first exercise with heavy weights and the second with lighter weights, or you can alter them on different days.
Squats vs Leg Press
- Greater Range of Motion (ROM), which helps with the simultaneous development of the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.
- More recruitment of stabilizing muscles – better development of strength, muscle mass and stability to help prevent injuries.
- Activation of abductor muscles contributes to a full development of the thighs.
- No need for special equipment.
- Compound exercise – squats train multiple muscle groups in one movement, even in the upper body.
- A safer exercise than squats.
- You can use heavy weight while isolating a single muscle group – the quadriceps.
- Lesser engagement of stabilizer muscles increases the load placed on the quads.
- Different feet positions allows you to distribute the weight load.
This article first appeared on GYMNASIUMPOST.com on 2nd July, 2020.