Squat vs Leg Press

Squat vs Leg Press


One topic that is often debated in the gym is comparing the squat to the leg press. Both certainly have their place depending on the athlete's training goal, and they can both be used together. But there are some questions that can be addressed to help decide which is best for you:

Which is better for making you stronger?

Which is better for an increase in hypertrophy?

Which is better for increasing athletic performance?

First of all lets briefly go over the basics of each lift:



The back squat is the primary 'push' movement for the lower body. As you are pushing the weight up from the ground, predominately an anterior dominant movement. The purpose is to control the weight down to the desired range (ideally below parallel), and the drive up through your heels. Massive muscle recruitment throughout the lift as you have to balance the weight on your shoulders requiring a large number of stabilising muscles being involved.

Check out the full How to Squat article here.

Leg Press

The leg press can certainly be a very useful tool in the gym when performed well. Easy to use, minimal equipment to set up and reasonably safe to operate. Fantastic for strength, a must have for hypertrophy and great to use in a rehab setting. During the movement there is less load through the spine compared to the back squat, and it can easily be performed single leg which is a big plus when rehabbing a lower body injury.

Check out the full How to Leg Press article here.


Which is better for making you stronger?

In terms of gaining pure overall strength you can't go past the Squat. As well as building strong legs, you also have to hold the weight on your shoulders requiring your torso and the stabilising muscles through the hip to be working over time to keep balanced during the lift.

There are numerous studies showing that squats have an increased recruitment of Hamstring, Glutes, Quad, Calf and Erector spinae compared to leg pressing - leading to an increase in strength.


But I can leg press more than I can squat, doesn't that mean the leg press makes me stronger?

The reason you can leg press more than your squat is due to the position you are seated in and the angle of the leg press puts you at a mechanical advantage when pressing the weight. The movement is through a smaller range of motion and less stabilising means you can focus on just pressing in one motion no balancing required.

Which is better for an increase in hypertrophy?

The Leg Press is actually the answer when looking for an increase in hypertrophy, for a couple of reasons.

The position you are in during the Leg Press and the shorter range of motion assists with having constant tension during the movement enhancing the 'pump' feeling. Which can lead to an increase in the release of growth hormone, helping to increase muscle size.

It is also recommended to complete high rep numbers on the leg press instead of the squat to reduce the load going through the spine.

Which is better for increasing athletic performance?

Most would think the squat wins for sure here but once again this depends on the athlete's goal. For example, if the athlete is a rower the position of the leg press is very similar to that of the start of a rowing stroke.

Overall though the Squat is the king for athletic development. There are many sporting examples where the squat has a similar movement eg. similar position as a jump, puts the hip in a similar position to that when applying force to the ground when sprinting and also the scrum position during rugby. During sports you need to balance and stabilise your body so the squat also assists here especially single leg variations.



Wrapping it all up, Both movements certainly still have their place in a training program it just depends on the athlete's training goal.

Overall though the Squat still reigns as the King in our opinion, nothing better than being able to load a bar up, hold it on your shoulders, lower down and then drive it back up. Beast Mode!

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