Leg presses and squats are somewhat similar movements that work somewhat similar muscles. Find out whether the leg press helps squats.
Some of the main ways you can improve your squats are by increasing muscle mass and the ability to activate existing muscles in the areas that are holding you back and improving technique to get more out of the generated force.
Both leg presses and squats focus a lot on the quadricep muscles. Growing and/or improving muscle activation in these with leg presses can often help you squat more.
At the same time, let’s say someone is not able to back squat a certain amount due to weak erector spinae (lower back muscles). In a case like that, leg presses will not help squats.
In short, for many people, the leg press can help squats but there are also situations where this is not the case.
Leg presses vs squats muscles worked
First of all, it is helpful to go over what muscles leg presses and squats work and focus on. This already gives you an idea about whether progress in these lifts carries over to each other.
Leg presses mainly work your quadriceps but also engage your glutes and hamstrings to a small extent. These last two muscle groups are typically not worked that much compared to their strengths.
Next, barbell back squats also mainly work your quadriceps but they focus a bit more on your glutes, hamstrings, lower back muscles, and stabilizing muscles.
Especially compared to leg presses with your feet lower on the foot support plate which focus more on the quadriceps and less on the other muscles involved (1).
Ways you can increase your squat
Next, you want to know how you can squat more weight to see whether leg presses would be something that can help with this.
Some of the main ways you can increase your squat include growing muscle mass in the areas that are currently holding you back, activating existing muscles better, and improving technique to make better use of the force you can generate.
Being great in some areas can compensate for others. For example, people with suboptimal squat technique could still lift a lot of weight because they have so much muscle mass.
Can leg presses help you squat more?
With these things, you can start to figure out whether leg presses can help you squat more.
For many people, more quadricep muscle mass and strength will be enough to lift more. In a situation like this, you can say that leg presses can help you squat more.
On the flip side, let’s say you are not able to back squat heavier than a certain weight because your erector spinae or stabilizing muscles are too weak.
In that case, strengthening your quadriceps with leg presses would not do much for your squat.
So doing leg presses in a way that increases leg muscle mass and strength will likely help you squat more.
However, there are a few situations where this will not be the case. Additionally, there are likely other ways to improve your squat too.
Should you be able to squat or leg press more?
Because there is less stabilizing, balancing, and technique going on, most people will be able to leg press more than they squat.
If your only goal is quadricep size and strength, the leg press could be the better choice.
However, training the stabilization and other muscles involved in squats has its benefits. For example, squats are generally better for reducing injury risk in daily activities and sports.
Should you do leg presses after squats?
You can also do both leg presses and squats on the same workout day. In situations like this, you should generally do leg presses after squats.
This makes sure you can get the most out of your squats and after that, complete tire out your quadriceps with leg presses.
In the reverse order, your squat technique would likely suffer and the stabilizing muscles you work would be trained to a lesser extent since your quadriceps would fatigue a lot faster.
Does leg press help squat or deadlift?
Since the leg press mainly works your quadriceps, the main muscles you use in squats, it will mostly help this exercise. Deadlifts focus more on the glutes and hamstrings but quadricep size and strength could be the things holding you back. In that case, leg presses could also help deadlifts.