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Leg Press Foot Placement – Foot Placement Matters

Did you know that the position of your foot on a leg press machine matters? It’s true. Your foot position may work more with a specific muscle group than another. If your mind is blown, we’re here to give you the correct foot placement for the muscles you want to target.

We’ll go through leg press variations, show muscles targeted, and guide you through each foot position on a leg press machine. Let’s get started.

Normal Stance

The normal stance foot placement on a leg press machine may be the only one you thought possible. This foot position mainly works the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings. Additionally, the muscles in the calves, the gastrocnemius, and soleus, are used in this compound exercise.

When setting up for the normal stance, your foot placement should be hip-width apart on the leg press platform. Ensure that your feet are flat on the platform with your toes slightly lifted and spread apart. As you push the platform away, engage the leg muscles. Make sure you do not raise your heels or toes off the platform as you push out or pull in. Keep your feet flat the whole time.

Narrow Stance

The same major leg muscles, like the hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes, work in the narrow stance. However, the narrow foot placement emphasizes the outer thigh muscle more than the normal stance. You’ll feel more through the abductor’s muscles and still feel those secondary muscles of the calves.

As with standard foot placement, the narrow stance requires feet to be flat against the leg press platform. Once your feet are flat and your back is tall, place the feet shoulder-width apart. Ensure the feet do not shift further out or in as you use the leg press machine. Pull your core tight to protect your back as you utilize the narrow stance to ensure an injury doesn’t occur.

Wide Stance

If there is a narrow stance, you know that a wide-foot placement is coming. In the wide stance, significant emphasis is on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. However, like the narrow stance, more muscle work comes from the thigh muscles. The wide foot placement works the inner thigh muscles called the adductors.

Place the feet a little further than shoulder-width apart to perform the wide stance leg press. As always, place the feet flat on the leg press machine by spreading your toes wide and lifting your toes slightly. This position ensures your feet don’t slip off the platform resulting in a severe injury to your leg or knee.

Low Stance

Until this point, the leg press foot placement was in the platform’s middle. With the low stance, your leg press foot placement is now at the lower portion of the platform. The low foot placement targets the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

To perform the low foot placement, ensure your feet are positioned at the lower portion of the leg press machine’s platform. Your toes should have a slight outward turnout in this position.

High Stance

When we go low, we always go high. The high stance foot position for leg press machines works the normal leg muscles, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps. However, this leg press foot position also activates the abdominal muscles.

Place your feet at the top of the leg press platform hip-width apart for the high-foot position. For this foot placement, ensure your toes are facing forward and keep your feet flat on the platform.

Why Does Foot Placement Matter?

Now that you understand the different leg press foot placements, why do they matter? You’re not alone, but there are many reasons why foot placements are so vital when training with leg press machines.

Using a leg press machine without proper foot placement could result in injuries to your muscles. For example, if one foot is slightly in front of the other, you could be pushing too hard with the hamstring and glute of one leg versus the other. Using a leg press this way results in more pressure on the quadriceps and could cause a strain or a pull.

People suffering from knee pain might think a leg press machine is unsuitable. However, it comes down to your leg press foot placement on what causes issues. Placing your feet too high or too low on a leg press machine without having the proper shoulder-width or hip-width stance causes too much stress on the knee. This improper foot placement could result in a knee injury.

If you’re not placing your feet improperly, it could result in stress on the ankles. Adding too much load to the ankles causes them to strain beyond their intent. Doing so risks ankle injuries due to inflammation that could cause long-term damage.

ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears could result in improper foot placement. If too much pressure is put on the knee, the ACL could stretch too far and tear. An ACL tear usually requires surgery and has a lengthy recovery period.

Foot Placement with Leg Press Machine vs. Squats

Squats and leg press machines work similar leg muscles. Activating the glutes, hamstrings, and quads results in more substantial muscle mass in the lower body. Stronger muscles in our legs promote better posture, help with functional fitness, and reduce the risks of falls.

The foot placement varies for a leg press machine depending on the stance. The foot should be flat against the leg press platform with the knees and toes facing forward. Feet should be either shoulder-width or hip-width apart.

When you perform squats, your heels are pushed into the floor, hingeing from your hips, with your glutes going towards the back wall. The feet are shoulder-width apart, and the knees and toes are facing forward. There are variations to squats, like the sumo squat, that require a wider stance with a small turnout, but for the most part, the stance is back tall and knees and toes forward.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be intimidated by a leg press machine. They are an excellent workout for your low body and your core. It’s just like anything else where form matters. Since you understand that proper foot placement can impact your joints, ligaments, and tendons if done incorrectly, you are ready to go. Leg press away and get that lower body you’ve always wanted.

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Kristen holds a bachelors in English from Louisianna university. With a longstanding passion for fitness, she owns and operate her own gym and is a certified jazzercise instructor.

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