Leg Press vs. Squats: Which One Is Better?

Since leg presses and squats work the same muscles, most people always wonder whether they can stick with the one they least hate and skip the other one.

Both exercises have advantages when it comes to building muscle mass and strength. But read on to find out if one is better suited for you.

Leg Presses vs. Squats

If you have back or shoulder pain or a problem with balance, leg presses may be better for you. But if you want an all-over body workout, squats are the best option.

These two exercises work similar muscles, but they do it from different angles. A leg press hones on your quad, while a squat incorporates multiple muscles. Most trainers go for squats because it's a full-body motion with multi-muscle engagement.

 Leg presses are great, especially if you are targeting your quads specifically because it uses a controlled motion. However, both exercises have benefits, so balancing them might be the best option.

Leg Presses

Leg presses are done on a machine that heavily targets the quads. You have to set the desired weight; it usually takes trial and error the first time before you figure out the amount of weight that works for you.

You can focus on the leg muscles because there are hand rests, and your back is supported. The machine has safety stops that make the exercise easy and safe. Leg presses are the best for people who have restrictions on how much they should or can load their spine.

You can use one leg to ensure every leg gets a thorough workout. But you have to be careful with the weight when using one leg at a time. Lower feet placement will increase the knee’s range of motion.

On the other hand, higher feet placement reduces the range of motion and increases contraction and extension of your glutens and hamstrings. Leg presses don't have a lot of variations, but you can mix things up a little.

Leg press recovery is quicker because the exercise is less fatiguing. You can lift more weight without using a lot of energy because it’s less of a compounded movement. It helps lifters progress quicker than other options.

You will probably need guidance the first few times, but you can get through leg presses without a supporter. When you know how to work the machine, you can adjust the weight accordingly during your workouts.


  • Leg presses are easier to learn
  • It’s a safer movement
  • The consistent movement pattern is great for beginners
  • You can adjust your leg position on the footpads and focus on one leg at a time
  • It’s easier on your back since the leg does all the heavy lifting


  • You can easily be tempted to press more weight than you can handle
  • You need a machine to do leg presses


Squats are done with both feet on the ground; it has several variations. There are also squat machines that can help you do the exercise correctly. It targets the leg muscles, back, and core.

It’s a compound exercise because you are working multiple muscles at once. You can stick to the basic squats or add barbells or weight to build strength.

The reason squats are the go-to exercise is that they strengthen multiple muscles. They have been shown to burn even more calories than the treadmill. That’s why it’s great for weight loss goals.

It will improve your coordination and balance, especially when you do it while under a load. You should never overload the weight because it can cause back problems and a knee injury.

Most casual weightlifters are familiar with back squats. That’s where you place the weight behind the neck on your shoulder while doing squats. Be careful not to bow forward a bit to manage the weight you are carrying because it can strain your back muscles.

Front squats are safer for your back and tend to be a little easier on the knees than back squats. You do front squats with two dumbbells or a barbell.

Hack squats are also common; people like it because it puts less strain on the lower back. The weight will be under your center of mass, not in front or above it.


  • There are a variety of exercises that keeps your workouts exciting and varied.
  • It strengthens your core and back muscles
  • Improved stability
  • It’s a strength builder across all sports
  • It’s a foundational exercise
  • Requires minimal equipment
  • You can modify it to fit your individual needs


  • You need traditional safety precautions
  • You can strain the shoulder when you carry too much weight
  • More Prone to Injury

Final Thoughts

It all comes down to what your workout goal for the day is. Both exercises work, and lifters widely use them. You can incorporate both of them in a comprehensive leg regime. Always start with a weight you can handle and progress gradually.

Related Reads:
1) Our List of Top Leg Press Machines
2) Vertical Vs Horizontal Leg Press

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