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The irony is we can all leg press more than we can every hope to squat. That is part of why leg presses are such a vanity exercise.
Levers are an amazing thing...

Ronnie Coleman squats 800lbs and leg presses 2,400lbs. That's kind of how I came up with 500/1,500 for my earlier example scaled down to a fairly advanced lifter.

Leg press machines are set at a 45 degree angle. We can calculate the incline force required to move 2,400lbs on the leg press machine with simple physics. We calculate the perpendicular incline force as follows:

force(perpendicular) = mass x sin(45) = 2,400 x 0.707106781 = 1,697lbs.

this is assuming a frictionless surface so the required perpendicular force is slightly higher due to friction, although that's minimized as much as possible and we can ignore that for the moment.

so the "lever" as you call it accounts for maybe 703lbs.

the difference between the 800lb squat and the actual force required to move 2,400lbs on the leg press machine is about 897lbs.

so said another way, 897lbs is the incremental force above the 800lb perpendicular squat force necessary to move 2,400lbs on the leg press machine... in essence moving over twice the weight you would on the squat... on an apples to apples comparison basis...

the difference in lifting capacity is likely made up by the specificity of the motion in the leg press machine, not having to deal with an unstable weight...

levers indeed... :)

i still think you get stronger legs maxing out on the leg press 3x a week for a year than maxing out squats 3x per week.

some adjustment may be necessary for differences in reps done for each weight by ronnie since i'm using him as a scalable baseline for what is possible... actually it looks like he does more reps on the leg press than on squats...

Tuesday : Legs

Squats – 800lbs – 5-6 sets – 2-12 reps

Leg presses – 2,500 lbs – 4 sets – 12 reps

http://goldenmuscles.com/training/ronnie-colemans-workout-routine/

i guess you can add some portion of BW to the squat number because you are probably lifting some part of your bodyweight in the squat which is probably higher than the portion of BW lifted on the leg press machine... and the weight of the rig you're moving on the leg press... but even these doesn't close the fairly wide gap...

Edited by ETFnerd

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here's lyle mudding the waters about the superiority of squats over leg presses... obviously many don't agree...

http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/squat-versus-leg-press-for-big-legs.html

I agree with that article. The leg press can be superior for training legs and only legs. Squats work a lot more which is why they are preferred for general fitness and not for specific leg training.

The problem with Smith machines and machines in general is that they lock someone into what the makers believed was the correct posture, stance, movement, etc. Very few people will find it comfortable or easy to get good ROM with a smith machine. Hence, the preference of barbell squats because it allows ones body to move more naturally.

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Why not become a bodyweight exercise god instead? Either that or kettlebells. I think the smith machine is evil, and you can't do squats or deadlifts effectively with dumbells.

I wanna argue too! bahahha, really though, i disagree with this statement a whole bunch.

I kick the shit out of 1 legged dead lifts, and 1 legged squats with dumbbells. VERY effective.

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Man, did I open the bait can or what?

OK, OK, I'll stay off the Smith except for the inverted rows! :) Just for the record, I've been using the 3X10 Fatburner routine off the T-Nation website, http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/10_x_3_for_fat_loss&cr= with some modifications. Obviously, I'm focusing on form over numbers. I like the three-day cycle and the mix of cardio and weights, and I've been seeing some gains. Right now the big goal is getting the bodyfat down, and this is definitely helping.

So, goblet squats instead of front squats, and lunges or Bulgarian split squats rather than back squats. My quads are already drawing up protest signs. The dumbbells at the gym go up to 90 pounds, so I think I'll be busy with those for a while.

Hooboy this is going to be fun.

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Many pro athletes in the US do squats with the smith machine. I don't see anything wrong with it...

To that I would respond, how many of us here are pro athletes?

Pro athletes do a lot things very specific to improving their skill at a specific sport, at a level hardly anyone else will do. It doesn't have anything to do with health or fitness. In fact, much of what they do is unhealthy and likely to cause injury and overuse problems. But they do it to accomplish specific tasks in their profession. So whether pro athletes use the Smith machine to help them achieve their goals or not is irrelevant to us in the general public looking to get stronger.

Edited by gymell

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I wanna argue too! bahahha, really though, i disagree with this statement a whole bunch.

I kick the shit out of 1 legged dead lifts, and 1 legged squats with dumbbells. VERY effective.

That's a good point... this one is definitely a case where I'm looking at a specific set of goals, and for people with other goals, bodyweight exercises and bodyweight type exercises with some weight added would be awesome.

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here's lyle mudding the waters about the superiority of squats over leg presses... obviously many don't agree...

http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/squat-versus-leg-press-for-big-legs.html

Having only skimmed the thread to get an idea of what's going on and then skimming the article knowing Lyle's work pretty well I have no real issue with this other than the following statement.

Nobody else has to squat (except power lifters and Olympic lifters).

Parenthetical mine.

Ok, you can build some strong ass legs via a leg press machine. No arguments there. Do that in isolation for a while to say, I don't know, an American football player. Let me know how durable that guy is. The answer: he won't be. How about the "recreational bodybuilder" who leg presses 2,000lbs then goes out to play ball with his kids. What happens when that guy sprints and jumps to catch a ball with legs capable of producing that much force but no transmission to harness it? This is the epitome of "non functional" and dangerous muscle. Sure it's functional, just don't try to use it during any sort of activity that isn't pushing things up a ramp with your legs. Same with the Smith machine. You don't live in a cage. Why lift in one (barring pathological necessity)? It's also worth noting that pro athletes are often pro athletes in spite of their training and evaluating their training needs to be done on a careful case by case basis and requires information the public isn't going to get.

Sure you could design a S&C program using leg presses instead of squats but the extra time required to make sure the athlete can safely use the power is going to be a lot greater than the time required to teach them how to squat safely and the squat is going to have a lot more immediate carryover than the leg press.

Can they both coexist in a strength program? Absolutely. Should 98% of the population perform one to the exclusion of the other? Not by a long shot.

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Can they both coexist in a strength program? Absolutely. Should 98% of the population perform one to the exclusion of the other? Not by a long shot.

It sounds like you're saying that people shouldn't squat without also doing leg press? I have a feeling that's not what you meant.

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It sounds like you're saying that people shouldn't squat without also doing leg press? I have a feeling that's not what you meant.

Yeah it's really not. Basically the squat is necessary and sufficient for pretty much every one. Performing the leg press in lieu of the squat isn't sufficient in pretty much any reasonable program outside pure bodybuilding. Adding the leg press as assistance to squatting, knock yourself out.

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It sounds like you're saying that people shouldn't squat without also doing leg press? I have a feeling that's not what you meant.

HA! I read it as the opposite, "most people shouldn't leg press without also doing squats".

EDIT:

Yeah it's really not. Basically the squat is necessary and sufficient for pretty much every one. Performing the leg press in lieu of the squat isn't sufficient in pretty much any reasonable program. Adding the leg press as assistance to squatting, knock yourself out.

Bingo!

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HA! I read it as the opposite, "most people shouldn't leg press without also doing squats".

EDIT:

Bingo!

Right... that's what I figured he meant, and I just wanted to make sure. :)

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I wonder about this... it's interesting because you brought it up... if someone was leg pressing 1,500lbs 3x per week or alternatively back squatting 500lbs 3x per week... say for a year... which would result in stronger legs?

i don't know the answer to this, but my inclination would be to say that leg pressing the much higher weight would result in stronger legs... what do you think?

Depends on what you mean by strong, to me strength is not the same as muscular power. To be really strong, one needs control over the weight, a large amount of coordination. Leg pressing won't give either of these things and doing it too much without strengthening the hamstrings will lead to knee problems.

Specific exercises like isolation and smith machine squats have their uses: rehabilitation and bringing up weak links in an advanced athlete.

Neither of those will apply to a healthy beginner (rehabilitation is prescribed by a medical professional following injury), for whom compound exercises with freeweights are the best bet. A beginner doesn't have much use for isolation or stuff like leg presses. Doing leg presses in lieu of squats because you "have underdeveloped quads" is like doing a million different curls because your "bicep peak is underdeveloped". It's not your bicep peak, it's your whole bicep. It's not your quad, it's your whole leg.

If you don't maintain structural balance (with your stabilizers and all that), your strong muscles will pull your weak muscles just a bit too far and you end up with god-knows-what-type-of-injury, which will set you back weeks, maybe even months.

THAT is why you should squat and deadlift with freeweights. Vanity hasn't got to do anything with it. It's about ensuring you can progress the fastest by preventing injuries.

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Basically the squat is necessary and sufficient for pretty much every one.

that's not really lyle's view and i agree with him...

Performing the leg press in lieu of the squat isn't sufficient in pretty much any reasonable program outside pure bodybuilding. Adding the leg press as assistance to squatting, knock yourself out.

that's a far cry from "machines are evil" and don't ever look at one... even cross-eyed... :)

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Specific exercises like isolation and smith machine squats have their uses:...

wow, i count this as a victory when it seemed like using a machine was considered the modern day equivalent of leprosy... :)

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Depends on what you mean by strong, to me strength is not the same as muscular power. To be really strong, one needs control over the weight, a large amount of coordination.

Agreed! To me, strength encompasses so much more than just muscle. Coordination and complete control over those muscles and your body.

To ETF's statement/question, "i don't know the answer to this, but my inclination would be to say that leg pressing the much higher weight would result in stronger legs... what do you think?":

Would it result in a stronger specific leg muscle...maybe, but stronger overall legs, I'm inclined to say no.

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Would it result in a stronger specific leg muscle...maybe, but stronger overall legs, I'm inclined to say no.

that's a reasonable view... i don't happen to agree with it, but i don't purport to know it all... :)

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that's not really lyle's view and i agree with him...

I respect a lot of his work but I don't always agree. This is one of those times. He's absolutely wrong when it comes to athletes. You train up a peewee football team with nothing but leg presses. I'll train one with squats. We'll both play teams that don't do anything except practice. I'll bet you $100 I can predict which team is going to have the most injuries at the end of the season. Improper training can in fact be more dangerous than no training at all.

You can't reduce sport performance training to forces expressed by loads in any particular exercise or training mean. The simple fact that I can elicit hypertrophy and display leg pressing power via the leg press does not qualify it as a replacement for anything other than what it is. Anyone who's goals aren't directly related to that exact activity are better served spending their time elsewhere. If people who scoot around on stage for the crowd want to leg press instead of squat, no arguments from me. It will work. In isolation it's not making them safer or better athletes, but it will em swole.

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jd, i guess where i differ with you is the extent to which leg muscles other than the quads will be developed leg pressing to one's max. there is no way to isolate them completely. where i would be more concerned is that the lower back, back, shoulders and arms won't get such a great workout with the leg press.

the great thing is that there are machines for hamstrings, glutes, calves, etc. i believe that you can work all of these and the stabilizers with a properly designed machine workout regimen.

i was just comparing leg presses exclusively to squats to the exclusion of other exercises to isolate the effect on leg strength along that one track. from just those two exercises.

certainly i don't advocate focusing on 1 major muscle group exclusively for a year and then sending someone out onto a football field...

but to me it seems like most people underestimate how much the stabilizers are strengthened lifting heavy in a machine... or a bevy of machines in a well thought out plan... :)

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But I thought the purpose of the Smith was its supposed safety. That's different from isolation. I understand how the Smith machine might cause the quads to be used more in a squat, but that's emphasizing them, not isolating them. If you truly want to isolate the quads, then there are certainly ways to do that that would likely be more effective. I just don't understand the point of doing a squat in a Smith machine!

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