Looking for awesome legs? Start pressing the issue

Want awesome legs that look great in everything you wear? Do you strive for those teardrop quads people can’t help but notice? Maybe you are post-rehab and looking to build a little extra strength.

The leg press machine could be your answer.

Simple to use and versatile, it is an effective part of most workout routines. It simulates a squat in the muscles it uses and enables variations in training for individuals of all fitness levels.

If you are new to the gym or unable to perform a barbell squat, the leg press is a great machine for safely strengthening your leg muscles.

And if you want to sculpt the ideal physique, you can use the leg press machine in different ways to achieve those goals.

You will find a variety of leg press machines in most gyms. It can be a cable-and-pulley machine with an easy-to-use pin for weight selection or a machine that holds plates that have to be manually loaded.

Starting position: Sit in the machine with legs bent at 90 degrees. The ankles, knees, hips and shoulders should be aligned. Feet should be parallel, placed in the middle of the foot plate with toes pointing straight. The back should be straight and placed firmly against the back of the seat.

Action: Push with the entire foot, not just the toes, until the legs are extended. Make sure that the feet stay parallel and the knees stay in alignment.

Common mistakes when doing the leg press include allowing the feet or knees to turn in or out. Maintaining correct form will allow the leg muscles to engage properly while minimizing the potential for injury. Proper speed also will help avoid injury. Executing the exercise too fast when not properly conditioned can lead to improper form — and injury. The key to this exercise is control. You must be able to control the form and weight when pushing up and letting the weight back down.

The suggested repetition ranges from 10 to 20, depending on fitness levels and training goals. If you’re trying to build muscle, a repetition range of 10 to 12 should be used with heavier resistance. If you’re trying to lean out and build endurance, a repetition range of 15 to 20 should be used with lighter loads.

Variations of the leg press are used to isolate different leg muscles for concentrated training.

Moving the feet up on the foot plate so the toes are at the top and driving through the heels will further isolate the hamstrings (in the back of the thigh) and the gluteal muscles (the butt).

Placing the feet wider and at the top of the foot plate with the toes pointed out at 45 degrees will isolate the adductor complex (on the inside of the leg). When in doubt about form, repetition ranges, or whether using the leg press machine is ideal for your goals, inquire with a fitness professional at your gym.

Chris Huth is a master trainer at the Rainbow Sport 24 Hour Fitness. You can email him at 702trainer@gmail.com. Before beginning any exercise program, consult a physician.

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