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Why can I do more leg presses than squats?
A lot of gym goers ask this because they can leg press almost 2-3 times their squat weight, and while that's impressive, it doesn't explain why the leg press is so much easier than squats.
The truth is that most people do leg presses instead of squats because a fixed rail system allows for more stability, the angle of the leg press versus the squat changes the force required to move the weight, and the fact that leg presses strain your back take (the limiting factor). in squats) out of the equation.
That being said, the simple reason the leg press is easier is because of physics. So before we dive into when to squat vs squat safety, let's explore why this is the case by gauging exactly what weight you're using and leaving your ego at home.
Why is leg press easier than squats? Physics! (Among other things)
The first reason leg presses are so easy starts with thinking back to high school physics class.Most leg presses are at about a 45-degree angle, which plays a big part in the answer, "Why can I do more leg presses than squats?"', because of that angle, nobody actually presses all of the weight on the leg press because of the angle.
In a straight up-and-down motion like a squat, a person works against full gravity. So when a person squats, they are squatting 100% of that weight. This is not the case with the leg press.
Source: Tri Cities Gold's Gym on Youtube
When a person pushes an object at an angle other than vertical, they are only working against a portion of the object's weight. Pushing an object horizontally removes weight from the equation and reduces drag.
Leg presses are usually nearly frictionless, so it is possible to calculate exactly how much weight a person is actually pressing on the leg press.
Simple formulas explain why machine leg presses are so easy
For starters, the formula for determining the weight a person actually lifts on a leg press is:
M x S(A)= W
S stands for theSinus(pronounced sine) which people might remember from trigonometry.
On the other hand,A stands for the angle.
While (M) is equal to the mass on the leg press.
So when the weight is multiplied by the sine of the angle, the result is the actual weight a person is pushing on the leg press.
The hardest part is finding the sine of the angle, which will vary at different angles. However, the most common angle is 45 degrees, so it makes sense to start with that.
For a typical 45 degree leg press with near zero friction, the sine of the angle is 0.707. That would read like this:
M x S(45) = W oder M x 0,707 = W
So, pressing 600 pounds worth of plates on the leg press would boil down to this:
600 pounds x 0.707 = 424.2 pounds
The angle of the leg press alone eliminates almost a third of the weight. Therefore, people can do leg presses at least 1.5 times as much as squats.
But wait, it's common for people to do even more leg presses.
Triple leg presses per squat or even five times the squat weight is not uncommon, so while physics is a big part, it's not the whole picture. The full answer to "Why can I do more leg presses than squats?" comes back to the basic fact that squats work the entire lower body, but often the back is the weak spot.
Other reasons leg presses are easier than squats
There is another missing number when it comes to the legpress to crouch transformation.
While the weight a person pushes on a leg press is less than it appears, the weight on a squat is more than it first appears. This is because a squat moves the upper body in addition to the weight of the plates and barbell.
Add that to the difference leg press angle makes, and it makes sense that people often leg press more than double their squat. But there's still a piece of the puzzle missing, as those two numbers don't explain why some people can even do three times the leg press as they can squat.
At the end of the day, the squat is just a lot more complex and back-intensive than it seems, while the leg press is a simple exercise that requires almost zero back strength.
Of course, while keeping the right onesSquat Bar Pathand knowhow your genetics affect your squat formare key to performing the squat correctly.
Good form isn't just about discipline, it's also about developing strong supporting muscles and muscle memory.
The leg press eliminates all of that and works just the powerful quad muscles in one simple, linear movement. These differences between leg presses and squats mean that squats are significantly more challenging.
Squats are a compound exercise and they are more stimulating and beneficial than the leg press
Squats and other compound exercises d. H. Movements that engage multiple muscle groups are the most beneficial and stimulating exercises for all purposes.
There are several reasons for this, such as the fact that they contribute more to the quality of life by strengthening supporting muscles and improving balance. However, they also beat only isolating movements when it comes to stimulating muscle mass and strength gains.
While it might make sense that an exercise targeting a specific muscle group would strengthen that muscle more, this is actually not the case.
that of the bodyhormonal response to compound exercisesis significantly larger, resulting in larger wins.1Not to mention,High intensity barbell squatsshine when it comes to producing high levels of hormonal benefits.2
This is especially true for practical strength, although there are specific use cases for the leg press. A study in comparisonfunctional results between squats and leg pressesand found that those who trained partially or fully on the leg press had better dynamic balance.3
Meanwhile, those who trained partially or fully with squats had greater strength gains as well as better performances in other technical skills. Note that the group that trained with both movements was always equal or better than the groups that trained with only one movement.
Another study testedLeg presses vs. squats for strength and explosive powerresults and generally found the squat superior.4It compared groups that trained with one but not both, and found that squats with different dynamic movements made significant gains, while leg presses did not make statistically significant improvements.
Overall, the squat beats the leg press for transference to athletic ability.
For the most part, squats are more difficult and rewarding than the leg press.
However, that doesn't mean that leg presses are wrong or that the leg press doesn't have its own niche as an exercise. They are useful for overloading the muscles and getting closer to failure, which can be a method to overcome a plateau and make bigger gains.
Also, some people just can't squat because of weaknesses or injuries in their supporting muscles.
Performing squats with poor form can lead to aathletic herniaor other injuries. While it's also possible to injure yourself doing leg presses, good leg press form is easier to maintain than good squat form.
The bottom line is that squats and leg presses are two distinctly different exercises, and asking "why am I better at leg presses than squats?" misses the point. Conversion and transference between the two will always be limited, although both rely primarily on leg strength.
Back and core strength are required for squats versus leg press: Muscles used in leg press versus squats
The squat is a compound exercise, but what exactly does that mean? Well, the leg press only works the quads and calves, while the squat is a full-body exercise.
In addition to the quadriceps and calves, squats work important back muscles like the lats and erector spinae. differences such asHigh bar and low bar squatswill shift the emphasis to different muscles within this group, but front squats with free weights andsquatswill activate and strengthen all of these muscles when done correctly.
When it comes to improving and maintaining quality of life, strong spinal erector muscles are one of the most important potential outcomes of a strength training program.
Chest stretch strength (the ability to keep the spine straight and upright when a weight presses against it) prevents back pain and helps a person maintain good posture while sitting. Squats are great for building a strong back, but the leg press doesn't engage these muscles at all.
Use cases for squats vs. leg press use cases because they are "easier".
Squats are more difficult than leg presses and more rewarding, but it's important to understand that no exercise replaces another. It's true that the squat is better than the leg press, but it's more truthful to say that they are two different exercises.
It is important that exercisers understand how the benefits of each exercise apply to them and apply them accordingly.
What squats are good for and when
The squat is a highly functional, compound movement with major hormonal benefits. This means it's great for hypertrophy and strength gains in the quads, glutes and core.
It can seem intimidating at first, but there are different types of squats that can work with light weights to adapt the squat to any skill level.
Source: Passion.io on Youtube
All of this boils down to the squat being the backbone of any training routine as it is great for building holistic strength and improving results throughout the day. However, because it's a compound exercise, there are many muscles involved in the squat, and if one of them is exhausted, it's impossible to keep pushing the others safely.
This is where isolation exercises like the leg press come in.
When to use the leg press
The leg press is a great isolating exercise that is useful on many fronts.
It's a simple, accessible exercise that can help beginners get started without immediately diving into more challenging free weight exercises. Also, unless a person gets into extremely high weight ranges, the safety risks with the leg press are minimal.
However, the leg press is not just for beginners. A few sets of leg presses can be a great warm-up to improve performance on larger leg exercises, and it can also be a follow-up exercise to something like squats.
If someone does a full routine of squats and finds that their legs aren't quite exhausting, it's a good idea to use the leg press to overload the quads.
Is there a conversion ratio from leg press to squat?
There is no conversion ratio from leg press to squat because the exercises are so different.
While it's possible to calculate leg press weight to squat weight, each person's body weight and proportions mean their total squat weight is unique. A 2:1 leg press to squat ratio is a good goal, but what's even more interesting is trying to find a formula to describe the conversion more accurately.
Accounting for body weight and total body strength in leg press vs. squat conversion
M x S(A)= W describes the actual weight of a leg press, but a squat also has added weight because a person is moving their body. Depending on their proportions, the exact number will be around 70% of their body weight.
So add a new number to the formula, B for a person's body weight, and subtract that from the leg press weight.
M x S(A) – (B x 0,7) = W
Imagine a person who weighs 200 lbs and presses 600 lbs on a leg press at a 45 degree angle.
Multiplying M=600 by the sine of a 45-degree leg press (70.7) gives 424 lbs, and then subtracting 70% of body weight (140 lbs) gives W=284.
As a result, her legs should have more than enough strength to handle a 280-pound squat.
However, there is no way to reduce total body strength and coordination to one formula. Core and back strength are an important part of explaining questions like "why can I do more leg presses than squats?" but there are no mathematical rules that govern core strength.
For this reason, rather than overdoing it with heavy weights and risking injury, people should follow the guidelines below to safely transition from leg presses to squats.
How to safely transition from leg press to squat
No matter how much someone has done the leg press, they will not be fully prepared to squat.
When someone squats for the first time, they should radically lower the weight compared to their leg press performance. Choosing 1/5th your leg press weight is a good starting point that has a small risk of overtaxing your core strength.
From here, there's a proven approach to transitioning to a new elevator. A person should try to do a full set of 12 reps with perfect form, and when they can do that, they can increase the weight.
Taking this slower approach toProgressive overload trainingwill still result in gains, but it's safer than trying to overdo the weight right away.5
Leave ego at the door and put safety first. Be extra safe by finding someone experienced in squatting to point out any form errors or bad habits that can lead to injury.
Don't try to work to exhaustion or near failure until you've been squatting for months. The most important thing to start with is building a mind-muscle connection and improving technique.
For the first few months, getting a little sore or feeling adequately stimulated is enough.
Every time someone asks, "Why can I do more leg presses than squats?", the reason the leg press is easier than squats is a combination of physics, total body strength, and bodyweight.
Frequently Asked Questions About Why Can I Do Leg Press More Than Squats?
About the author
Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years, alternating between different types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics and backcountry hiking. Due to the different calorie requirements of many sports, he has switched between all types of diets and is currently eating whole foods. Also, Nathan lives with multiple injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he undertook self-rehab and no longer lives in debilitating pain.
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