When it comes to building muscle and shaping your physique, things can get very complicated. It does take a strategic plan, consistency and time to make the changes – but, sometimes, all you need is a simple tweak to change things up.
Let’s talk legs. I’ve written many times about my strategy behind structuring your training routine for maximum results. (Read it “Build Your Foundation”.) It’s important to build the bigger picture of your workouts in the way I discussed in that article, but what is just as important is form and technique during those lifts and exercises.
Key Leg Exercises
My two favorite exercises for leg development are the squat and the leg press. And, believe it or not, I actually spend more time leg pressing than I do squats. If we are comparing, squats will always be queen, because of their capacity to recruit so much more than just your legs (core, back, energy systems, stability, etc). Squats are part of my regular leg training routine, but I leg press much more often. I have achy knees so I feel like I can work harder in the leg press without compromising them. Also, I really like that I can practice many different variations and foot placements without worrying about falling on my face.
My Favorite Leg Press Variations
1. Standard Foot Placement
This is the “normal” leg press foot position. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart, placed centrally on the leg press and your knees, legs and feet should all be equal distances apart throughout the entire movement. Use equal pressure throughout your feet for overall quad, hamstring and glute development.
2. Narrow Stance, High Foot Placement
Moving your feet higher on the leg press will move the emphasis to the hamstrings and glutes. In general, a narrow stance will work on your vastus lateralis (also know as your awesome quad sweep) but moving your feet up as high as possible on the foot plate and pressing with your heels will grow that posterior chain!
3. Sumo Stance
This is a wide stance with your toes pointed outward at about a 45 degree angle. The wider your stance, the more emphasis you will put on your vastus medialis and adductors (inner thigh and quad muscles) – and the toes turned out helps get that great pump in your glutes.
4. Frog Stance
This one always surprises people and is one of my absolute FAVORITE exercises for developing quads! Move your feet down on the leg press foot plate, keep your heels close and your toes slightly pointed out (like a frog). This will shift the emphasis to the quadriceps. Keep the weight in the balls of the feet as you do the movement.
5. Single Leg
You can do these with any one of the above foot positions (although, I haven’t tried a single-leg frog stance and don’t think my knees would like it) for even more intense leg pressing.