T Nation

Squat vs. Leg Press, Does It Matter?


This is something that seems to be constantly discussed with a lot of intellectualizing being thrown back and forth.

The first time I ever got my legs strong I did no free weights besides lunges -- hack machine squats, leg press, hamstring curls, back extensions.

Now I've been mainly squatting, deadlifting (or a variation thereof) and lunging for leg strength. Even though I've added a ton of weight to my lifts and I have strong legs again-- there isn't anything magical about it vs. lifting on the machines. I don't have some kind of special strength that I didn't have before. In fact it was much less convenient to do it this way because of all the form issues I had to worry about.

I bring this up mainly because of all the MMA talk lately -- people saying the pro's are idiots because they are working on machines. I just don't see what the magical difference is -- resistance is resistance, hard work is hard work.


i tend to agree.... as long as your posterior chain is being worked just as hard on a regular basis with other exercises like deads, good mornings, and stiff legged deads. but personally, i love squatting and think that it has improved the strength of my posterior chain like no other exercise.


I say use both.


As far as just leg strength you have a point, but I think free weight exercises like squats have an effect on the whole body as you need to balance and control all the weight up and down.


leg press was created to keep the nerds out of the squat rack


I agree. Squats are better, there is no question about that. But variety is key. If I squat for a month straight, then use the leg press on leg day as a substitute, I get a whole new pump that I didnt get before. Then, I usually get a whole new pump when I go back to squatting.

Mix things up. Take in everything, don't be afraid to try new ideas.




The predominant difference is the squats (with full ROM) will work on balance, coordination, raise your natural T levels, and strengthen the supporting muscles. (not only the quads)I remember reading that a full range squat practically stimulated the full body with all the balance, and stabilization required. The full range squats will also strengthen the knee.

Leg Presses will cause hypertrophy in the legs without a doubt, but squats are a better exercise for the body as a whole. In my leg workouts, I will use both.


And curls were created to get em back in there.


LOL, ok that was funny


This is not an absolutism but, in general, the leg press hits the glutes more and the quads less. If nothing else the two exercises do work the muscles though different joint angles.

And I for one don't see the basis for the belief that squats are superior as a "whole body" or systemic exercise. If anything I think the leg press is superior for hypertophy of the prime movers since you can generate more force in those muscles when your nervous system isn't "distracted" by the need for stabilization