Leg Press Foot Placement Variations

How to change your stance to target glutes or quads.

The leg press is a great machine for building your entire lower body. But the muscles you use on the leg press depend greatly on where you place your feet!

So you could be targeting quads when you’re trying to grow your glutes. Or you could be building power instead of maximizing growth.

That’s why I put together a complete guide to leg press foot placement variations. By the end of this article, you’ll be a leg press guru.

Leg Press Foot Placement

What Is A Leg Press?

If you’re new to lifting, the leg press is a piece of gym equipment designed to target your lower extremities. On a fundamental level, it’s essentially the machine version of the squat.

Keep in mind; there are different types of leg presses. Some are plate-loaded leg presses, and others are cable or belt-driven machines.

All leg presses have a large platform on which to place your feet. And that’s where this article picks up.

Leg Press Muscles Worked

Generally, 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.

Leg Press Foot Placement Muscles Worked

Leg Press Foot Placement Basics

The leg press foot platform is usually a large rectangular shape. Often the platform is made from a textured or grippy material, so your feet don’t slip.

When looking at the foot platform from the leg press seat, there are three directions you can move your feet. These directions are the vertical height, the horizontal width, and the angle of your feet.

Height

You can place your feet high on the platform, low on the platform, or anywhere in the middle. The vertical position changes the muscles worked on the front or back of your thighs.

Although leg presses vary by brand and style, so it’s always essential to test out the height of your feet with no weight on the sled. That way, you can see how it feels before committing to a stance.

How Much Does A Leg Press Sled Weigh?

Width

In addition, you can place your feet wide apart or close together on the platform. The horizontal position changes the muscles worked inside or outside of your thighs.

Foot Angle

Lastly is the angle of your foot on the platform. In other words, whether you have your toes pointed out, pointed in, or straight ahead.

Although the angle should not be extreme, 10-30o of rotation is enough. That’s less than one position on a clock face. For example, if your toes are pointed out at 30o, they would be at roughly 11 and 1.

Leg Press Foot Placement Muscles Worked

Figure 1. This illustration is an example of leg press foot placement on a specific machine. Please be aware that the relative terms “high” and “low” depend on your equipment and the resulting leg mechanics.

Common Leg Press Foot Placement Combinations

Now that you know the leg press foot placement categories let’s look at real-world examples. Below is a table summarizing the muscles worked by each foot placement combination.

Table 1. Leg Press Foot Placement Combinations
Height Width Angle Muscles Emphasized
Middle Medium Straight Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings
High Wide Out Inner Thigh, Glute, Hamstring
Low Wide Out Upper Quad, Inner Quad
Low Close In Upper Quad, Outer Quad

Feet Centered and Shoulder Width, Toes Straight

Keep in mind; you don’t need to get too fancy with foot placement. This is especially true for beginners looking for overall strength a muscle development.

You can’t go wrong with a shoulder-width stance and your feet about mid-way up the platform. Also, toes pointed forward or just slightly out should be your default stance.

With this foot position, you hit a little bit of all the major muscle groups in your legs.

Feet High and Wide, Toes Out

Once you’ve mastered the leg press movement, you might be ready to try some more specific muscle targeting. The most common foot placement is high and wide with your toes out.

With this leg press foot placement, you increase the power you can generate. At the same time, it emphasizes the hip dominant muscle groups of the glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs.

Leg Press Foot Position High and Wide

Feet Low and Wide, Toes Out

Next up is a placement with your feet low and wide and toes pointed out. This foot position is knee dominant and works the vastus medialis or the “teardrop” of the inner quad.

However, this is not the most common variation because it is specific to a minor muscle area.

Leg Press Foot Placement Low and Wide

Feet Low and Close, Toes In

Finally, my favorite leg press foot position is feet low and close with toes pointed in. With this stance, you target the vastus lateralis or theouter sweep” of the quads, an area that is often lacking development.

Leg Press Foot Position Low and Close

At this point, you might be a little confused with all the possible variations. Admittedly, it can be hard to memorize all those adjectives and muscle groups.

That’s why I’m about to break it down in more practical terms like how much your knees and hips bend. In the videos and sections below, I show you exactly how to target your glutes or quads.

Leg Press Foot Placement High vs Low

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe or click on the button below!

Subscribe

Leg Press Foot Placement for Glutes

When targeting glutes, your feet should generally be higher on the platform. The higher you go, the more significant hip bend and glute activation you will get.

Remember, the foot platform location relative to the seat varies between leg press machines. So the exact level of your feet could be different, and you should test it out with no weight first.

All you need to know is that your knees should form about a 90o angle at the bottom of the movement. That way, your hips bend much more than your knees, and your glutes do more of the lifting.

Leg Press For Glutes Foot Placement

In addition, use a shoulder-width stance or a little wider to hit the meatiest part of the glutes. And keep your toes pointed straight ahead or slightly out.

With this variation, you should be able to push some serious weight. So don’t be afraid to go heavy as long as you continue to use the proper range of motion. Partial reps won’t work your glutes!

Leg Press Foot Placement for Quads

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

Again, your actual leg press may vary in terms of the exact placement. So do a dry run before you add weight to see if you feel it in your quads.

Leg Press For Quads Foot Placement

I also recommend a narrower stance for this variation. And keep your toes straight ahead or slightly in unless you’re targeting the teardrop.

You may notice that you can’t lift as much weight with the low foot position. This reduction in strength is because you singled out the quads and reduced glute and hamstring involvement.

But that’s the idea! Use a lighter weight and focus on slow and controlled reps instead of brute force.

Custom Nutrition & Workout Plan

Get a personalized meal plan built to fit your body and lifestyle. Including a custom workout routine designed around your fitness goals.

With your custom plan, you will finally be able to burn fat, build muscle, and transform your body. All this for just $19.99!

Click here to choose your plan.

Leg Press Alternatives

The leg press is not the only compound exercise for building strong legs. Below are some additional exercises to add to your leg day workout routine.

Low Bar Squats

The barbell squat is the king of leg exercises. While it doesn’t have as much versatility as the leg press, there are ways to adjust the squat to target more quads or glutes.

One way to target your glutes and hamstrings is by holding the bar lower on your shoulders. That’s because the low bar squat results in more hip bend than the high bar position.

Hack Squats

A hack squat machine is similar to a leg press, except you push the sled with your shoulders. Another difference is that your back stays more upright, which results in greater knee bend and reduced hip bend.

As a result, hack squats are an excellent alternative to the low leg press foot position for targeting your quads.

Goblet Squats

The goblet squat is a leg exercise you can do with nothing more than a single dumbbell or kettlebell. You hold the weight at chest level for this variation while performing the standing squat.

With the goblet squat, your back stays more upright, emphasizing the quads. Also, try the heel elevated goblet squat for even more quad activation!

Leg Press Foot Placement for Calves

The leg press is a go-to machine for building bulging quads, glutes, and hamstrings. But you can also use the leg press to train your calves.

The leg press calf raise is an excellent way to kill two birds with one stone while you’re on the machine. And you can use the heavy weight to shock your stubborn calves into growth.

Just like training legs, there are leg press foot placement tricks for targeting specific parts of your calves as well. Click below to start building better calves using the leg press!

Leg Press Calf Raise
Build Your Calves

With this information, you’re well on your way to building a better body. And if you found this tutorial helpful, be sure to check out some of my other free content below!

Easy Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Recipe

Learn how to prepare a delicious chicken, broccoli, and rice recipe in under 20 minutes. And you can split it up into 2 meals to save even more time. Get the recipe -->

Share with your community and get the conversation started!