So which is better for hypertrophy squats vs leg presses ?
Open any reputable bodybuilding magazine and the first thing they will be talking about is the importance of doing squats for leg development. In addition to being the most difficult leg exercise it is also considered by most people to be the most challenging exercise you can do for any muscle group.
While some people enjoy the challenge others avoid it for that very reason.
Squats are a compound movement which means they work the entire body. Quads, hamstrings, lower back, glutes are all used to move the weight while upper body muscles are recruited as stabilizers.
Given that there are so many muscles involved in the squat it’s usually not the quads that run out of energy first but one of the other muscles. We’ve mentioned time after time on this site the importance of overloading the muscles.
While squats allow us to move a lot of weight it’s hard to truly overload the muscle when it still has capacity to lift more. That’s why machines like the leg press and the hack squat are so popular with advanced bodybuilders. They take out a lot of the support muscles and allow the trainee to overload just the target muscles groups.
While squats are a great exercise, some people get better leg development from other exercises.
It really comes down to how your body is structured – some people are built in such a way that all the stress from a squat goes to their thighs.
Others, however, will feel it mostly in the glutes and lower back. Having said that squats are still a great exercise for building overall strength and explosive power.
They will help you in just about any sport because they force you to be very well coordinated and balanced.
However, this site and article are about building muscle so we’ll focus on just how useful they are for that purpose.
So lets get it started squats vs leg presses !
Which Are Better? Squats Vs Leg Presses
Squats for Building Mass
Saying that squats don’t belong in a bodybuilder’s repertoire is just plain stupid. For someone who is new to bodybuilding it’s a great exercise for building overall strength throughout the body.
Remember when you are starting out basically every muscle in your body is underdeveloped so you need exercises that can work everything. They will allow you to increase your power quickly and get used to the idea of pushing your body hard.
After spending some time with squats trainees can determine if they should switch to a different exercise that is better suited for their body structure.
One of the reasons people don’t benefit from squats is that they don’t perform them with proper technique. Like any exercise, if you don’t do it the right way not only will you not get the full benefit of the exercise – you will also be putting yourself at risk of injury.
Keep the bar high on the back, in line with the top of your shoulders. Holding it lower is more of a powerlifting stance that will allow you to lift more weight but transfers the stress away from your quads and onto other muscles. Since we are trying to build up the leg muscles this isn’t ideal for us.
While performing the squat you want to keep your chest upright. This will help your body avoid shifting the weight from the quads onto the lower back.
Keep lowering the weight until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. The pace should be smooth – don’t rush through the rep or bounce out of the bottom otherwise you could end up hurting yourself.
If you perform squats with proper form and don’t get the results you want then it might be time to look into other exercises.
Even people who benefit from squats tend to switch to other leg exercises over time that better allow them to isolate the legs. One of the best exercises for doing this is the leg press.
Leg Presses for Bodybuilding
Unlike squats, leg presses allow you to isolate your quads and really overload them. One of the problems with this exercise, however, is that they can very quickly turn into an ego exercise.
Rather than doing proper form and working the quads people become more interested in seeing just how many plates they can load onto the machine. As a result the range of movement is minimal and they end up using poor form in order to move the weight a few inches.
To get the most benefit from this exercise you should put the backboard as low as possible so you can go through the full range of motion. Keep your back flat and against the pad so that you don’t start bringing your glutes into the exercise. When you round your back you start working the glutes more and you put a lot of pressure on your lower back.
However, when performed correctly this exercise allows you to overload the quads and get a great workout.
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Remember that bodybuilding is different for everyone. What works well for one guy might not have the same result on you.
If you have been doing tons of squats and you aren’t getting the quad development you hoped for it might be worthwhile for you to start focusing on some different exercises that focus more on the quad muscles.
So the debate on squats vs leg presses comes down to the individual and how he responds to those two exercises!