What’s the best foot placement for leg press?

When it comes to working out on the leg press machine, what’s the best foot placement for leg presses? 

Your foot position depends on what you are trying to achieve in your leg workouts. 

The different foot placements are determined by the different muscles you want to target during your leg press workout.

woman doing leg press exercise in the gym

Depending on your goals, you can improve your leg strength and muscle mass while targeting specific muscle groups on leg day. 

What is the leg press machine? 

The leg press machine looks like a big chair with a platform for your feet used to work out your legs. 

On a basic level, it’s essentially the machine version of the barbell squat.

Depending on your foot placement, you’re working the muscles in your legs, like your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thighs), hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your thighs) and glutes (your butt). 

Leg muscles worked during leg press exercise

The leg press works all the muscles in your upper legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.

However, you can emphasize one muscle group more than the other depending on where you place your feet on the leg press platform. 

You’ll target different muscles depending on if you go with a wide stance leg press versus a narrow foot placement as well as whether you go with a high foot placement versus a lower foot placement. 

Different foot positions for leg press

The different foot positions on the leg press has their own unique advantages and disadvantages

The 6 leg press foot placement variations are:

  • Middle of the platform placement (Regular stance): Works your quads, glutes and hamstrings
  • High foot placement: Targets your glutes and hamstrings
  • Low foot placement: Focuses on quads
  • Wide stance foot placement: Works your glutes, hamstrings, abductors and inner thighs
  • Narrow stance foot placement: Focuses on your quads
  • Single leg: Unilateral training

Your adductor (inner thigh) and abductor (outer thigh) muscles are often neglected but can be hit more easily with different foot placements on the leg press.

Turning your toes out like a sumo stance will help target the adductors more, whereas turning the toes inward like you are pigeon-toed will hit the abductors.

Leg press for overall strong legs

The leg press is a great exercise to improve lower body strength. 

A simple way to help build overall strong legs is to keep your feet centered and shoulder-width apart in the middle of the platform.

This position with your feet in the middle of the platform, centered and shoulder width apart will allow you to hit all the major muscles in your legs.

Leg press foot placement for glutes and hamstrings

When targeting your glutes, the position of your feet will be higher on the platform. The higher you go, the more glute activation you will get.

Feet high and wide with your toes turned out (high foot position) is my favorite leg foot position. 

This is a common foot placement for targeting your glutes. You’ll also hit your hamstrings and inner thighs.

You can typically press heavier weights with this leg press foot placement.

In addition, use a shoulder-width stance or wider. Also keep your toes pointed straight ahead or turned out slightly.

Leg press foot placement for quads

For targeting your quads, keep your feet lower on the platform. The lower you go, the more your knees must bend during the movement.

best foot placement for leg press low placement

With your feet low, wide and toes pointed out, you’ll hit the “teardrop” of the inner quad.

Leg press foot placement for calves

The leg press is a great way to train your calves. You can add calf raises during a superset while training with leg presses. 

You also can train your calves like you do your legs by different foot placements on the foot pad. 

Leg press single-leg isolation

You can do isolation leg exercises with single-leg leg presses. 

best foot placement for isolation is single leg

You can target the quads by sitting regularly with your foot in the center of the pad. You also can turn to the side and press through your heels as an option.

You do not need to do each foot placement each time you do leg presses. Are you focuses on glutes during leg day? Are you working on your quads? Pick one foot placement and use other lower body exercises like deadlifts or lunges as a part of your leg day.

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