One of my favorite machines to use at the gym is the Leg Press machine. Why am I so partial to it? Because I’ve recently been doing some variations using this machine that target the butt really well.
If you want to learn how to hit your gluteal muscles with the leg press machine this article is for you. We’ll take a look at why I like the leg press machine, as well as how to change up your feet positioning to make this exercise into a real butt-burner.
Using The Leg Press Machine For Glutes
For those uninitiated, here’s what the leg press machine looks like.
Designed specifically for training the legs, it’s basically a weighted platform that you can put both of your feet against, and push by extending your legs.
These type of machines can be great because they allow for an easier experience when training specific areas of the body, and the movement is usually isolated enough so that it’s easy to master.
Compare this to using free-weights, where an exercise which trains similar muscles to the leg press machine is the barbell squat. While it has its own benefits, it’s much harder to master a barbell squat movement because there’s a lot to think about and coordinate when it comes to performing the move using correct form. From this perspective, you can see why sometimes machines can have their benefits.
Here’s how to do actually use the leg press machine to do a standard leg press:
The leg press machine primarily targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. To be honest, I never used to be that much of a fan of using it because I tend to be quad-dominant (my quadriceps tend to take over during moves like squats more than my glutes), but after I learned the few variations to turn the leg press exercise into a glute-targeting move, it’s now one of my favorites to use.
Variations on The Leg Press Machine
To change the leg press exercise, you can actually do small variations in where you position your feet and where you focus etc. This changes the muscles that are loaded during the exercise, and you should be able to use this to help target your desired muscles.
For example, to target your glutes more during a standard two-foot leg press, try going with a wider stance, feet higher up the board, and make a point of driving through your heels rather than the balls of your feet. You should feel a leg press done from this position in your glutes more than a leg press which is done with your feet close together, low down on the board, and pushing through the fronts of your feet.
My favorite way to work my glutes using the leg press machine is using both legs as well as single-leg variations.
I like to start with a light weight single-leg version to activate the glutes first, then hit them with a working set of heavier presses with a foot position that
Boosting The Leg Press’s Booty Building Power
To turn the leg press into a butt building machine, put your feet wide and high on the board. This should help you feel the load more in your hamstrings and glutes.
Here’s what it looks like:
Never lock out your knees straight when leg pressing – this can be extremely dangerous if you are pressing heavier weights, but you can also injure your knees even on lighter weights if you do this.
I like to do very slow movements and really focus on slowing down the point in the movement where I feel the load in my glutes the most. For me I find that this is when the glutes are quite stretched (as if you were in the bottom part of a squat). However, be careful not to go so low that your back starts to round or your butt actually starts to come off the chair – this just means you don’t have enough flexibility to go to this position, so you shouldn’t.
Basically, remember to listen to your body. If you feel pain or discomfort, stop. But also if you notice feeling your glutes doing the work in one position more than another, take note of that and use it to help you get the most time under tension load on your glutes as you can.
Single Leg Variation To Target The Butt
This can be dangerous! Turning sideways and twisting in the chair like this takes your spine out of a neutral position, and when combined with pushing a weighted load through your leg, there is potential for injury. So please don’t do anything like this:
Be very careful when doing single leg variations to target your butt. These have become pretty popular on social media recently, and it has led to people trying this move in the gym in a way that uses the machine in a way that it wasn’t designed to be used, for example, with your upper body positioned sideways like shown below.
So how can you do a single leg variation on the leg press that still targets the glutes, while keeping things safe for your body?
You can still use some of the same cues, but always make sure to keep your back and butt pushed back and aligned correctly in the chair, more like what is sort of shown in this video:
From a normal seated position in the leg press machine I like to actually angle my toes and place my knee OUT rather than inwards, which allows me to target the glutes more (imagine doing a wideer stance sumo squat, then drop one leg off the platform.). I feel that this gives the same angle as what some of the earlier ‘sitting twisted in the seat’ videos were aiming at, but without comprimising your spine by twisting in the chair as you will be sitting normally instead.
I like to do single leg presses that target the glutes only on lighter weights and I do it to activate the muscle at the beginning and then as a finisher at the end. I like to do a heavier set of wide stance glute-focused leg presses in between.
What Not To Do
Always listen to your body and keep safe! Remember, if you are experimenting with weights it is possible to injure yourself, so always make sure you never do anything that hurts or feels uncomfortable.
That being said, here are some things you shouldn’t do when playing around with leg presses to see what works best for you:
- Never twist or position yourself differently in the chair than the machine is designed for
- Don’t press so low that your lower back starts to round or your butt comes off the seat
- Don’t use a heavy weight without warming up with a lower weight first
- Never lock out your knees to the straight position
Do you like using the leg press machine? Do you feel this exercise in your glutes, hamstrings or quads more? Let me know in the comments below!