Leg Press Vs. Squat: Which Is The Better Workout?

If you've ever felt lost on your fitness journey, you're not alone. Between fitness influencers and celebrities, fad diets, and just the sheer amount of information out there on working out, hitting the gym can feel super intimidating. There's a lot to consider when putting together your workout plan: the kind of exercise you enjoy, pre-existing health conditions, your fitness goals, etc. So, when leg day rolls around and you're deciding what exercises to include in your routine, it makes sense to stick with the staples, enter leg presses and squats.

Leg presses and squats are two incredibly common lower body exercises. While performed in different ways, both predominantly target the quadriceps as well as the hamstrings (the muscles in the back of the thighs), and glutes (the muscles in your buttocks), via Healthline. So if both exercises serve essentially the same function, is one better for you than the other? Keep reading to find out.

Leg presses are great for beginners

If you're a gym novice, leg presses may be the way to go when it comes to working your quads. Leg presses are done on a leg press machine, which requires the user to set their desired weight on the machine, then sit down on the seat, which is typically on the ground and angled towards the ceiling (via Byrdie). The user then places their feet on the platform, and straightens their legs to press the platform out and perform the exercise. Ryan Lasure, CEO of Kuna Fit, told Byrdie that there are many benefits to leg presses, particularly for beginners in the gym.

For one, using a machine means more consistency of movement than using free weights, so the user can really nail down the motion of the exercise. Second, the machine stabilizes the user and takes a load off the spine, making it far easier on the back.

Squats are recommended, but both are effective exercise

While the motion is similar, squats differ greatly from leg presses. Squats are done standing up, typically without the use of a machine, sometimes even without any equipment (via Healthline). Weighted squats can be done in several ways — with the weight behind your neck, with the weight starting on the ground, or with the weight in front of you. Dale Santiago, a trainer for Rumble, told Byrdie that the main benefit of squats over leg presses is the ability to train multiple muscles, rather than just your quadriceps.

When you sit in a machine, the only muscles being targeted are the ones immediately in use, whereas with a standing exercise like squats, your core needs to be engaged throughout to keep you in an upright, correct position. Santiago went on to explain that a stronger core and lower back have the added benefit of better balance and posture, so squats might be the exercise to opt for!