You might have noticed there are a few different types of leg press machine. What is the difference between the types and does it actually matter? Let’s find out.
There are three main types of leg press:
- 45 degree
These types refer to the direction you push the weight in. The movement pattern is very similar between all those types but there are differences in: Size, price and comfort.
Find out more about the differences below.
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Types of leg press machine
There are a few different types of leg press machines. As already mentioned above, there are three main types. However, there is another way leg press machines differ we should also look at.
There are two ways leg press machines are different:
- Pushing direction
- Load type
Below you can find exactly how leg press machines differ in those ways and what difference it makes.
Suggested: The 10 best leg press alternatives you can do at home.
The most obvious difference you can see in an instance is the seating position. The way you sit and push on the leg press can differ quite a bit from model to model but there are three main types you can distinguish between:
- Horizontal leg press
- 45 Degree leg press
- Vertical leg press
Let’s take a look at the different seating positions.
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Upright/horizontal/seated leg press
This is the most common type of leg press machine you’ll see in large gyms and health clubs. You have a seat with a backrest that is in the normal upright position just like a chair. This makes this type of machine really easy to get on and off, especially compared to the types we’ll discuss below.
The foot plate vertically (or almost vertical) in front of the seat. You raise up your legs and place them on the foot plate.
From here there are actually two more types:
- Machines where the seat moves
- Machines where the foot plates moves
The first type has the seat on a set of inclined rails which are angled up. The foot place stays in the same place. The resistance is connected to the seat. This type tends to be a bit smaller and cheaper than the second type.
Suggested: The 6 best multi-gyms with leg press attachments.
The second type the seat stays in place but you push the foot plate away. This type can have a slightly more natural movement pattern because the foot plate doesn’t quite move straight back and forth. This makes these machine larger and extra complicated which in turn makes them more expensive. This is probably the best type for most people. The slightly different movement pattern is easier on the joints. Combine that with a seat that’s very easy to get on and you have a machine that’s suitable for most people in most gyms.
45 Degree leg press
The second type is another one that’s common in many gyms, usually the more muscle building focused gyms. On this type there are two rails that are at a 45 degree angle (on some models the angle varies slightly). The place you sit is actually under the foot plate. So when you lay down, your back is almost horizontal to the floor. From there you push the foot plate with weights up.
This type of machine is more difficult to get on and off and for less mobile people it can be a problem. The 45 degree leg press is virtually always plate loaded and can handle very high loads. That’s why it’s a popular choice in gyms where people want to lift heavy weights to build a lot of muscle and strength. Since they’re not limited by the weight stack, you can go up to 1000 lbs. or even more on some models. As long as you’ve got enough weight plates, you can keep stacking them on.
Check out the PowerTec Plate loaded 45 degree leg press on Amazon. It’s relatively affordable and can handle up to 1000 lbs.
Vertical leg press
Finally there is the vertical leg press. As you might get from now, the ‘vertical’ in the name refers to the direction the weight moves in. You push the weight straight up and down on this machine. Imagine a 45 degree leg press but tilted until the slide rails are vertical. That’s the seating position you’ll be in. So your back will actually be at a slight decline, your head is a little lower than your hips.
There is often no large foot plate, just a little bar your push against. This type of machine is difficult to get on and off because you basically lay flat on the floor. There is a backrest to make it more comfortable but for less mobile people, this is probably not a good choice. Vertical leg presses also tend to have much lower load limits than the 45 degree version. A 400 lbs. load limit is common, which is actually similar to the resistance you get on stack loaded horizontal leg press machines. There are some options that can handle up to 800 lbs. though.
The benefit of this type is that it’s a lot smaller and cheaper than the other two types of leg press mentioned above. That means it’s a much more accessible option for a home gym. A vertical leg press can cost less than half of a 45 degree leg press machine although there are huge price differences between models of all types.
Leg press machines load type
The second way leg press machines differ is the load type. There are two ways to add resistance to a leg press:
- Weight stack
- Weight plates
Let’s look at the differences between the two.
A weight stack is a common way to provide resistance for many gym machines and a leg press is no different. There is a stack of weights that is connected to the foot plate (or seat, whichever moves). The stack is connected with a cable through a system of pulleys. You can pick the amount of resistance you want by putting a pin in the weight plate you want.
This is a really easy and tidy way to load any machine. All the weights are contained within the machine and it’s very easy to change the resistance by just moving a pin. You can often do this without even leaving your seat.
Virtually all selectorized leg press machines are of the horizontal type.
- No weight plates needed
- Easy to change resistance
- Keeps your gym tidy
- Machines that have this are usually of very high quality
- Limited in weight
- Cable and pulley system needs a little maintenance
The other type to add resistance to a leg press is with weight plates. These machines have pegs to put plates on, simply put on as many as you need. There are load limits to machines that are plate loaded so make sure to adhere to those limits.
Plate loaded machines tend to be a bit cheaper since the weights are not included in the price. That doesn’t mean these machines are lower quality. They can be but there are also very high quality plate loaded leg presses.
If you’ve already got a set of weight plates and you’re willing to move them around to load onto different equipment, it’s a good way to save some money. Another benefit is that these plate loaded machines often (not always) have a higher load limit than machines with a weight stack. So if you want to leg press very heavy, a plate loaded machine is a better choice.
Of course you do need enough weight plates to be able to get that amount of resistance. Weight plates themselves aren’t cheap either so you’ll have to figure out for yourself what’s better and/or cheaper for you.
Almost all 45 degree and vertical leg press machines are plate loaded.
- Machines tend to be cheaper
- Can be loaded heavier
- You can use one set of weight plates for many things
- Loading can be a pain
- There will be weight plates all over the place
Differences between types of leg press machine
All the different types of machines do the same thing in the end. The back of the hips is supported on a back pad and you push a weight away from you. The movement pattern is quite similar with all the different types. There are minor differences with some of the seated leg press machines that make the movement pattern slightly less linear and more natural.
The seating position doesn’t change the movement pattern. It can feel different though. If only because your legs are less or more in the air which can cause a slightly different feel. The differences in getting on and off the machines are likely much bigger though. An upright machine is by far the easiest but also tend to be the biggest and most expensive. The vertical leg press is the smallest and most difficult with the 45 degree types somewhere in between.