Which One Is Better? Leg Press vs. Deadlift

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The deadlift is one of the best compound exercises for total body strength. However, it can be incredibly dangerous. If your form isn’t perfect, you’re basically asking to pull something in your back.

The leg press, on the other hand, has less chance of injury but isn’t as effective. So, which is best for you?

In this article, we’ll compare leg press vs deadlift.

Which One Has the Most Benefits

It’s no doubt that the leg press and the deadlift are some of the most popular and powerful exercises ever. However, many people often battle the leg press vs. deadlift to see which one is better overall. For overall body benefits, the deadlift comes out on top because it’s a multi-joint exercise, targeting every single muscle group while you do it, while the leg press targets mostly the quadriceps.

The deadlift is one of the most used exercises for general bodybuilding and strength since it involves a high demand upon glutes, hamstrings, erectors, and even your lats! It also uses a lot of core strength to maintain your balance and drive the weight. The leg press is more similar to the squat, and the most benefits that you can get come for the quadriceps because it’s a knee-dominant exercise.

When talking about workout routines, the most recommended exercises to maximize your lower body and enhance muscle hypertrophy are multi-joint exercises like the squat, and the – already mentioned – deadlift, since they demand much more work and strength.

A leg press is a fantastic exercise if you’re looking to put on more emphasis on your quadriceps; you can safely load up more weight, and you don’t have that many potential injuries while doing the exercise like with the deadlift. However, this exercise alone doesn’t cover an entire leg workout; it works more as a complimentary lift to put on some mass on your quads!

The two exercises themselves are not very comparable; they target different muscle groups! However, they are perfect if they are implemented together in a workout session, taking your entire legs, core, and back to their max.

Note that the deadlift, as a multi-joint exercise, can be very dangerous for your body if you do it with poor form. Many people do this exercise incorrectly, arching their backs too much, not supporting themselves using their legs, and many other reasons. Sustaining an injury while deadlifting can keep you out of the gym (and working out overall) for a long time, so be sure that you learn the proper technique before loading up your bar with more plates!

However, I personally believe that you can skip the deadlift and replace it with other exercises that have less chance of injury. Even a hex-bar deadlift will give you 80% of the benefits while skipping most of the injury risk. 

CAP Olympic Trap Bar, Shrug bar, Hex bar with Combo Neutral Grips and Black Finish

Can the Leg Press Improve Your Deadlift

It can! Leg presses serve as a great extra exercise to improve your strength, which translates into better deadlifts. Since you’re using a machine to do this exercise, you have the safety of loading up more weight without much risk of injury, as contrary to similar exercises like the squat. Therefore, you can focus on and target your muscles better.

The leg press shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for a movement like the squat, though. It can be used as a complementary exercise in your leg workouts to maximize strength. Leg presses bring up your knee and hip strength, and both of them are very important if you want to improve your squat and deadlift.

To get the best out of your leg press workout, be sure that you’re doing it with proper form; do your best to use full range of motion (ROM), and don’t fully lock your knees while extending, because this takes the load out of your muscles.

Most people can handle high volume and weight in this exercise, and there’s not much load on the back and core, so if you haven’t tried this exercise yet, now it can be a good time to start!

Is the Leg Press the Same as Doing Squats?

Like the deadlift, the squat is a multi-joint exercise, so it doesn’t offer the same benefits as the leg press. However, they are very similar.

Both exercises work your quads very hard, but also your hamstrings and glutes, so they are both ideal to include in your leg workouts. When you do a squat, you use your entire body to move and maintain balance, engaging other muscle groups like your entire core and hips, whereas with the leg press, you only move your legs, not putting much effort into the rest of your body.

A significant difference between the two exercises is accessibility. You can do a squat with a bar, dumbbells, kettlebells, and even with your body weight! This doesn’t apply to the leg press since you need a machine to do them.

The risk factor is also taken in mind. It’s hard to sustain an injury while doing a leg press since you’re doing it safely on a machine; you just have to move your legs. However, when you do a squat, many other factors take place.

For the squat, you need to use your entire body to maintain balance, and you shouldn’t move your knees far in or out since that can cause injuries when you’re working with big weights. There’s also a big risk of back injury if you tend to lean forward while doing the exercise.

Overall, both exercises are similar and are great to implement in your current workout regime, but one doesn’t replace the other. You have to make sure that you’re learning proper form and technique to avoid injuries and complications in the long run; this can help you to get the most from both exercises.

Is the Leg Press Bad for Your Back?

While it’s not bad, the leg press could put excessive strain on your back if you abuse the weight set on the machine. Like any other exercise, you have to execute it with proper form.

Putting too much weight on the machine can cause an excessive amount of resistance, making you overarch your back, hyperextending the knees, or straining your neck; all of these can have an incredibly negative impact on your spinal column.

This doesn’t mean that you should be scared of the leg press! It can be one of the safest exercises to do if you execute it correctly. The leg press can be the game-changer that allows you to increase your deadlift numbers; you just have to work safe and smart.

What I will say though, is that you need to work on your lower back separately if you’re looking at taking up leg press. Because compound workouts like squats and deadlifts work on the lower back when you replace that with a leg press, you lose that lower back workout. Weak muscles in your lower back like your gluteus medius will mean you’ll be more likely to injure yourself down the track.

While talking about leg press vs. deadlift, the clear winner in most cases is the deadlift. However, the two exercises, implemented together in a workout session, can have excellent benefits for your body if done correctly.

Extended Reading on Leg Press

If you want to read more about the leg press, check out the following:

Leg press vs squat
Leg press vs deadlift
How to do leg press at home
What does the leg press do?

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