Whether you want to target your leg muscles or protect your back during a workout, a leg press machine is essential. Using a leg press machine throughout your strength training can quickly and safely tone up your legs, glutes, quads, and core. And with a number of different options available to choose from, your possibilities are endless!
Of course, you don’t want to go out and buy the first leg press machine you encounter. Finding the right leg press machine means taking your fitness goals, physical capabilities, and budget into account. With a little guidance and research, you’ll be well on your way to getting that toned lower body you deserve.
In this article, we’ll explore what a leg press machine is and what to look for when buying one for your home gym. We’ll also cover five of the top options out there for home leg press machines, along with which type will best fit your needs.
Using a Leg Press Machine
If you do any sort of assisted strength training, where you use weight resistance to make your muscles work harder and grow, you may have heard of a leg press machine. Like lat pulldown machines and other equipment, the leg press machine targets exactly what you might expect: your leg muscles.
Most leg press machines contain a seat and a flat surface (“sled”) or bar to place your feet against. There are two main types of leg press machines, based on the type of resistance mechanism they use:
- A sled-type press uses leg press machine weights placed on the sled to create resistance.
- A cable press uses a weight stack attached to the sled by a steel cable to create resistance.
Even though there are different types of leg press machines, exercising on them is fairly the same concept. First, place your feet on the sled or bar with the desired weight selected. Next, bend your legs and straighten them again—much like the standard squat—while keeping your feet firmly planted. Also keep your back firmly pressed against the seat, using your hands to hold onto the edges of the seat as needed.
You can vary the depth of the squat, your speed as you complete the reps, and how much weight you press. Each variation will help you target different leg muscles.
Benefits of a Leg Press Machine
Many people wonder why they should use a leg press machine instead of doing leg exercises like squats and lunges. While those exercises are great for toning up your legs, there are also many benefits to using a leg press machine. In addition to providing a diverse experience that can challenge your lower body workouts, leg press machines can:
1. Help you target more muscles.
Leg press machines have varying seat angles, and each type of angle helps to target certain muscle groups in your legs. Seats can range from straight-backed to 45-degree, and even to completely flat. For example, by using a horizontal or seated leg press machine, you can sit up straight or at a 45-degree angle. This allows you to work your quads, calves, and lower core. A vertical leg press machine, on the other hand, seats you below the weight with your back on the ground. By pressing upward with your legs, you can target your hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
So, although regular lunges and squats are good for targeting your legs in general, you can really dial down your focus using a leg press machine.
2. Add more weight to your resistance training.
If you don’t have dumbbells or a barbell weight set, a leg press machine is a great alternative. It’s got a lot of weight options in one package, and takes up minimal space.
Not to mention, your legs contain the largest muscle groups in the body. That means typically, they can hold a lot more weight than your back, shoulders, and arms can support. By eliminating the need to use your whole body, you can make your leg muscles stronger than ever by upping the amount of leg press machine weight you use.
3. Encourage proper form and protect your back.
When you perform lunges or squats, proper form is essential to protecting especially your spine and back. Improper form can result in not only lower back injuries, but also knee and leg hyperextensions, tears, and sprains.
Even with this knowledge, it’s hard to get the perfect form every time—especially when you’re getting fatigued! With a leg press machine, you eliminate the guesswork. By forcing you to sit with proper posture and relieving back pressure, leg press machines ensure you don’t get hurt. This also makes them ideal for people with back injuries who still want to work out.
The Best Leg Press Machine For Your Needs
We’ve touched on what type of leg press machines are available, but which one is right for you? Depending on your fitness goals and overall strength, you’ve got plenty of options. Here are some of our suggestions for the home leg press machine of your dreams.
Seated Leg Press Machine
Closest to a regular squat, the seated leg press machine helps you work your quads and inner thighs. Seated leg press machines can have seats that either sit straight up (also known as a horizontal leg press) or at 45 degrees. They especially protect your back and knees by removing the pressure from them and focusing it on your thighs and hips. This type of leg press machine can be either cable or sled-type.
Cable seated leg press machines are equivalent to what most gyms have, and they can be somewhat cheaper than sled-type machines. However, they also offer less versatility and weight options, since they come with a predetermined stack attached to the cable. Sled-type seated leg press machines can be costlier because you must buy leg press machine weights to effectively use them. These weights are plates that can be applied to and removed from the machine as needed. They offer more challenge in terms of muscle-building and endurance.
Looking for a seated leg press machine that offers more than just one piece of equipment? The Powerline Home Gym fits the bill. This leg press machine is cable-based and includes a 160-pound weight stack. It can also be upgraded to 210 pounds, which is a great option for people who want more of a challenge.
The best part? This home leg press machine comes with a calf press, lat press, adjustable weight benches, and more! That makes it the best option for anyone who wants the versatility of multiple pieces of equipment at a quarter of the price.
- Contains a full home gym, including seated leg press machine
- Horizontal leg press machine for less strain on knees
- Compact and efficient
Who Makes It?
Body-Solid is a trusted brand, with a number of top-ranked leg press machine products and home gyms. Their Powerline products, a line of home gym equipment bundles, are sold online through Fitness Factory, and more.
The Bottom Line
If you want a seated leg press machine that comes with more home gym equipment, this option is for you. While $1,500 is above the price range for a leg press machine, you can’t beat the amount of equipment this bundle includes.
While Body-Solid’s Powerline products take the field of bestselling leg press machines, Powertec’s Fitness Leg Press is a fierce competitor. A sled-type leg press machine, this powerhouse allows you to add leg press machine weight plates to challenge yourself. Its seat sits at 45 degrees, which provides more focus on both the hamstrings and glutes. It can also hold up to 1,000 pounds, which is great for bodybuilders and hobby athletes alike.
- Safe up to 1,000 lbs.
- Four weight horns for even distribution of weight
- Levers on each side of bench for better stability
Who Makes It?
Powertec designs strength equipment in Europe and the U.S. Their products are known for being durable and easy to assemble, and are popular among both professional gyms and hobbyists.
The Bottom Line
With high ratings and plenty of evidence for its versatility, this product is a great fit for athletes looking for a sitting leg press machine. It’s budget-friendly for what it includes, and its 45-degree seat provides a greater challenge than horizontal leg press machines.
A happy medium between a home gym and simple leg press machine, XMark’s Leg Press Hack Squat offers versatility, comfort, and a compact structure that fits perfectly in any home gym. This is a 45-degree seated leg press machine. It can be used like a typical leg press machine or converted into a hack squat machine. For the latter, you simply stand up and lean your back against the seat, performing the same squatting motion you use on a leg press machine.
The two functions included in this product mean that it offers another level of challenge for your leg workouts. Use the leg press machine function to build up your strength and protect your back and knees, or make use of the hack squat function to up the challenge and add resistance.
- Two functions
- Sled-type machine allows for greater challenge
- Cushioned shoulder pads (for hack squats) and seat
Who Makes It?
XMark Fitness is known for creating high-quality home equipment for less than normal prices. They offer a variety of strength equipment, including leg press machines, barbells, and benches.
The Bottom Line
Cheaper than similar equipment and backed by customer reviews, this product offers more than a typical leg press machine. It’s perfect for the athlete who wants to buy something cheaper than a home gym, but with added versatility.
Vertical Leg Press Machine (Smith Machine Leg Press)
Known as the most challenging type of leg press machine, a vertical leg press machine requires you to lay on your back and use your legs to lift the weight upward. You can place leg press machine weights, in the form of plates, above the bar or sled to create more resistance. Because the squat is much deeper and more difficult when laying at a 90-degree angle, a vertical leg press machine primarily works your hamstrings and glutes. You can vary the depth of your squat as well, which works even more muscles like your core and quads.
The vertical leg press machine, also known as the Smith machine leg press, can have a wide plate to place your feet on. Others simply use a bar—much like a barbell, but with flat edges for better foot grip. This leg press machine is ideal for athletes who want a greater challenge, since the angle works your muscles more. It is also effective for people who don’t want to spend as much on free weights, since you’ll need less weight to feel the impact. Not to mention, vertical leg press machines typically have lower prices than seated leg press machines in general!
Body-Solid makes it into this list again with their vertical leg press machine. With a 400-pound capacity and cushioned back and neck pad, you’ll be well on your way to ripped legs in no time with this machine. It also has three convenient weight posts, allowing for an even distribution of leg press machine weight.
- Made from durable steel and nylon
- Padded, contoured neck and back pad
- Rated for up to 400 lbs.
Who Makes It?
Body-Solid doesn’t have much competition in the leg press machine market, with their affordable and customer-backed products. Their Powerline products are especially successful, among the bestselling home gym equipment available.
The Bottom Line
If you want a leg press machine that doesn’t take up much space and provides more challenge than a seated leg press machine, this product is for you. Its positive customer reviews and budget-friendly price add to its value as one of the best leg press machines out there.
Looking for something a little prettier than Body-Solid’s leg press machine options? Check out Valor Fitness’ Vertical Leg Press machine, which can withstand up to 500 pounds. Its smooth metal finish and high-class rubber weight stoppers make it a little more elegant-looking than the Powerline option—though that certainly shows in the price!
- Made from steel
- Rated for up to 500 lbs.
- Contoured handles, rubber stops, and cushioned neck and back pad
- Better rating than other options, such as the Yukon Fitness vertical leg press
Who Makes It?
Valor Fitness has been around for years, but has only just recently been gaining respect in the home gym market. Their product line includes more than 400 gym-quality products. Customers rate them high for customer service and elegant, durable products.
The Bottom Line
While Body Solid’s leg press machine is cheaper and better known, Valor Fitness has an edge in terms of looks and fine details. Valor Fitness’ community is helpful and individual-centered, so if you’re looking for a Smith machine leg press with present and future support, this could be the product for you.
Build strong legs
You’ve learned more about why leg press machines are popular in the home gym market, and their best options. A leg press machine will help you isolate your legs during workouts and protect your back and knees from injury. It will also help you focus your strength training efforts on your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
There are many budget-friendly options out there, so now it’s time for you to choose! Pick the leg press machine that fits your fitness goals and lifestyle, and it’ll serve you for years to come.
Do you have a leg press machine you’ve found effective? Have you tried any of the ones on this list? We’d love to hear from you—let us know in the comments below!