DID YOU KNOW ?
The Incline Leg Press is a fairly safe exercise movement which strengthens all major lower body muscle groups, while virtually eliminating potential back strain as long as it is performed correctly. But even though its proper technique is actually not very difficult to master, gym-enthusiasts often load up the machine’s sled with tons of weight-plates that far exceed their capability and end up performing truncated partial reps with a range of motion just spanning a few inches. To top it all off, they frequently even keep their hands on their knees to support their legs with their arms. Whether doing so is due to too much ego or too little knowledge, botching this valuable exercise in such a way makes it ineffective at best and hazardous at worst.
The INCLINE LEG PRESS is, in fact, nothing else than an inverted squat movement with a reduced range of motion and without lower back involvement. This makes it a good exercise for people with knee problems, or for people whose lower back is injured or just too exhausted from preceding squat-work to safely perform additional free-weight thigh exercises. It may also be the safest option for beginners, especially if there are no qualified spotters around, who could assist them with the performance of barbell squats.
When performing the INCLINE LEG PRESS, the athlete sits on a padded seat with a reclined back support and uses his legs to push up a plate-loaded sled along inclined guide rods. This eliminates any worries about balance and provides the advantage that the athlete does not need to work against his own body weight, but can fully concentrate on applying the strength of his thigh muscles against the provided weight resistance.
The Incline Leg Press offers, however, much more than mere thigh and glute development. For the safe performance of this movement it is vital to forcefully pull on the handle-bars next to the device’s padded seat in order to ensure, that the buttocks stay in contact with it throughout the entire movement. This also brings your upper body muscles, especially your upper-back-, shoulder- and arm-muscles, into play, which isometrically contract, making the Incline Leg Press in essence rather a whole body exercise than a mere leg movement. Failing to continuously pull on the handle-bars while executing the Leg Press, may allow your buttocks to raise up and your lumbar spine to curl forward during the lowest portion of the movement, which may lead to serious back injury. So, never just place your hands on your knees as long as the sled is unracked.
Here are some tips to ensure your safe and most effective performance of the Incline Leg Press:
Start the most basic version of this exercise by adjusting the seat’s angle appropriately for your body-type. Then place your feet about shoulder-width apart on the machine’s foot-platform, pointing your toes slightly outward; if you have long legs, place your feet a bit higher, if you have short legs, place them lower to allow for an effective range of motion. Unrack the weight-loaded sled, then pull on the handle-bars next to the padded seat, and begin the controlled descent by bending your knees; gradually go down until your knees form an angle of not much more than approximately 90 degrees. Avoid going so low that your frontal thighs would exert pressure on your lower ribcage, or that your buttocks would move, or even lose contact with the seat. Also, don’t go as low that your heels would come off the foot-platform; rather push through your heels and keep the soles of both feet in contact with the machine’s platform throughout the entire movement. During the descent as well as the ascent, make sure that your knees always stay in line with your toes and prevent your knees from bowing inward or outward while pressing against the sled. Further, do not fully extend your knees on the top of the movement; avoiding complete lock-out will keep the tension on your quadriceps muscles and will prevent strain on your knees’ ligaments. It is further vital to pay attention to correct breathing: inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Some automatic breath-holding may occur during the lowest and heaviest portion of the movement, which is ok, but don’t intentionally hold your breath longer than necessary as this may lead to momentary dizziness, exertion headaches, or even to a temporary black-out, especially in individuals with poor physical condition.
If you keep all these points in mind and perform the Incline Leg Press as above described, it will not only prove to be a valuable and safe compound exercise for your initial period of weight training, but it will become and stay an indispensable complement and valuable part of your thigh- and glute-training throughout your entire fitness career.