The leg press, what an amazing machine. Not only is the leg press a great machine for building strong legs, but if you know how to use it, it’s great for building the glutes too.
Unlike barbell and dumbbell movements, the leg press allows you to lift much heavier weights than you’d be able to with free weight exercises. With strength and size closely correlated, if we can get stronger with our glute leg press, then we’re going to grow our glutes – happy days!
While many of you may already be utilising the leg press to target the quads, let’s see how with some simple form tweaks, we can use the leg press for glute growth.
|Table of Contents|
|What is the leg press|
|What muscles does the leg press target|
|What is the role of the glutes|
|How to use the leg press for the glutes|
Think of the leg press as a kind of squat movement, but on a fixed machine. Admittedly it’s easier than the squat as you don’t need to worry about stabilising the weight and it doesn’t recruit the upper body muscles as a squat would. But you bend at the knees, move the hips towards the platform, and extend again – just like you would for the squat.
There are 3 main types of leg press machines that you’ll probably come across in most gyms.
I wouldn’t say 1 machine is better than another as it comes down to personal preference at the end of the day, each machine has its advantages.
That being said, the load on the machines will be different. If you can press 80kg on a Horizontal leg press, you won't necessarily be able to press kg on a vertical leg press due to the added force of gravity. We’d suggest sticking with 1 type of machine so that you can get stronger over time at the same movement.
Regardless of which leg press machine we’re working on, if we adopt the ‘normal’ foot position, the muscles that are going to be worked the most are the quadriceps.
The quadriceps are made up of 4 different muscles and work together to stabilise the body through the eccentric part of the movement and to generate power to push away from the leg press platform in the concentric part of the movement.
The hamstrings, calves, and glutes are also recruited to a certain degree; but when the common ‘neutral’ foot stance is being used, the quads are doing most of the work. But, with a couple of form tweaks, we can shift the focus from the quads to the glutes.
To understand how to effectively increase the glute involvement in the leg press, we must first look at the role of the glute muscle.
Hip extension involves straightening the hip joint after it’s been in the bent position. Ie. moving out of the bottom of the leg press position. Hip extension is the primary role of the glutes.
This involves moving the leg away from the centre line of the body. The further you move the leg out towards the side, the more abducted the hip is.
Hip external rotation is when the leg is rotated outwards (so that your toes are pointing outwards). This rotational movement is down to the glutes.
Now we understand the role of the glutes, we can apply these principles to the leg press exercise to shift the emphasis from the quads, onto the glutes.
As we mentioned in the previous section, the primary role of the glutes is hip extension.
Rather than placing our feet in the middle of the platform, move them towards the top of the platform. This new stance will reduce forward knee travel and increase hip flexion.
Increasing hip flexion will therefore increase the range of motion (extension) the glutes need to go through to get out of the bottom of the movement.
Similarly, to the tip mentioned above, if we can increase hip flexion (creasing at the hips) then we’re going to increase hip extension. With hip extension being the primary role of the glutes, if we can increase this, then we’re going to be taking the glutes through a larger range of motion, therefore asking them to do more work.
Going deeper on our reps will increase hip flexion/extension and will force the glutes to work harder.
Hip external rotation is one of the 3 roles of the glute muscles. This involves rotating the leg outwards so that the toes are also pointing outwards.
It, therefore, makes sense that to further target the glutes, we point our toes outwards, and keep them in this position throughout the movement.
Hip abduction is the other role of the hips. To recap this means moving the leg sidewards away from the centre line of the body.
We can replicate this role on the leg press by adopting a wide stance. From a neutral foot position, move the feet a further 4inches outwards on either side. Drive through the middle of the foot as normal and you should be able to feel the added stretch on the glute muscles.
Most leg presses allow you to change the angle of the seat, if yours does, take advantage of it.
Adjust the seat so that it’s in the most upright position possible. The increased forward tilt of the upper body will help move the focus from the quads, onto the glutes. Essentially we’re starting the movement with more hip flexion, thus targeting the glutes to a further degree.
The lying leg press is a more advanced movement. Special care needs to be taken when performing this variation so that we don’t injure ourselves. We also going to need to drop the weight!
Rather than sitting flat on the seat and facing the platform, try lying on your side and pressing one leg at a time.
The reason it works is due to the flexion/extension required. The lying side leg press allows for more hip flexion which results in more hip extension (that’s right, the primary role of the glutes, I think we might have mentioned it!).
This increase in range of motion will work wonders for glute development.
A resistance band is a great accessory to any glute workout. Placing it around your knees during the leg press forces the knees inwards toward each other.
As a result, we need to push out against the band (hip abduction), to get the knees back to a neutral position. This constant pushing outward tension throughout our leg press reps will have the glutes on fire after each set – beware of the burn!
If you don't already have an glute bands, we recommend the following:
Yes, the leg press can be a great exercise to target the glutes if used correctly. Tweaking our form by adopting a higher foot position, performing deeper reps, utilising a wider stance, and pointing the feet outwards are all effective methods to target the glutes on the leg press.
The best foot placement to target the glutes on the leg press would be a high and wide placement. Place the feet high up on the platform and move each foot 4inches outwards towards the side. Point the toes outwards for further glute recruitment.
Exercises that target the glutes are exercises that mimic the role of the glutes – Hip extension, abduction, and external rotation. These include squats, lunges, hip thrusts, step-ups and deadlifts. Check out our article ‘The 10 Best exercises for a bigger butt’ to see the best exercises that target the glutes (the butt).
The conventional leg press is an awesome exercise for quad development, one that we should probably be utilising if our goal is to develop our legs.
If the goal is to build our glutes, then we can do that too. With a couple of simple form tweaks, we can shift the focus from the quads onto the glutes – and it’s fairly straightforward too.
Building our glutes on the leg press is a sound idea. The fact that we can safely work with heavier weights will over time result in building muscle. Additionally, the glute strength built as a result of leg pressing will transfer over to other exercises such as squats and deadlifts, helping us get stronger and build muscle in these areas too.
We hoped you liked the article, give the tips a try, and let us know how you get on in the comments.