Because squats and leg presses work similar muscles it can be tempting to choose one (usually the one you hate least) and skip the other. That might be a bad move. Though they target the same areas, the exercises work together for optimal muscle building and toning.


Woman doing squats in gymThe squat is the workhorse of exercise movements because it calls on muscles of the entire body. Major lower body muscles used in squats include the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Other muscle groups get a bit of a workout as well because they support the squat when it is executed in proper from. For example, hips, torso, and the abs get in the game. Although squats are generally regarded as a lower body exercise, it is easy to see how some might think of them as total body when the stabilizing efforts of the core are considered.

How to do a squat:  To do a squat correctly begin by standing with feet hip-width apart (that is about enough space for two fisted hands between your feet). Keeping your feet flat and spine straight, place your hands on your hips or extend your arms fully in front of your body from the shoulders, engage your core and lower your bottom as if you were going to sit in a chair. Remember to keep your feet flat and to not extend your knees beyond your feet. Slowly straighten to standing and repeat for desired number of reps.

Leg Press

Rear view of male weightlifter doing leg presses in gymThe leg press also works the quads, hamstrings and glutes. But because there is less range of motion than there is with the squat, the quads work harder with this exercise. Although the leg press is a good workout addition, especially if you want to build strong quads, the potential for injury may be greater than with squats. Be sure to get clear instructions from gym staff before you get started.

How to do a leg press: Sit on the machine and place your feet shoulder-width apart on the platform in front of you. Start with the lowest weight until you are comfortable with the movements. Lower the safety bars and, pushing your feet into the platform, extend your legs fully. Do not lock your knees. Your legs and torso should form a 90 degree angle. Now inhale and slowly lower the platform. Exhale and extend your legs again. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Squats and leg presses are complementary exercises. Because they work the same muscles (although with different emphasis) it is a good idea to use balance to avoid overtraining. Watch your load with the leg press if you are also planning to do squats. Alternatively, you can perform the exercises on different days.  Just be sure you get them both in for optimal muscle toning and building.