Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Power from the Leg Press - Ron Fernando (1989)

Here's an interesting two-part article on the Leg Press 
by Jan Dellinger: 

For those of you power athletes out there that sniff disdainfully at certain bodybuilding exercises, this article on the Leg Press will be rather enlightening. I, like many of you, once considered doing assistance exercises as well, you know, "fun" but nothing serious. After all, Mr. Death Valley claims he can leg press a grand (one inch range of motion, by the way), but why is it that I saw him grunting up with 315 on the squat (and high at that). 

Well, future barbarians, I feel that the leg press represents a whole compendium of exercises that when performed with scientific precision and gut-wrenching intensity will add an entirely new dimension to your power training, translating into powerlifting's version of Nirvana . . . a bigger total.  

Gadzooks! Tis the Gates of Heaven!!!

The leg press, far from being the home for sissified wimps and bodybuilders, is a real godsend for quad isolation, overload work, injury rehabilitation and will not only add kilos (pounds too!) to your squat, but for you sumo-style pullers, will rocket your deadlift into the PR Stratosphere. 

Yesteryear's versions of the leg press were far from functional; indeed, they may have been downright dangerous. Lots of high schools had a vertical leg press machine, but if you didn't know what you were doing (and at 17, who the hell did?) you would quickly end up walking like Fred Sanford. As the fitness boom of the '80s expanded, equipment manufacturers battled each other for market share by offering increasingly sophisticated designs, heavier materials and more ergonomic features for user comfort. Today's leg press machine is a wonder of modern metallurgy and equipment design. 

The general rule of thumb for powerlifters should always be to: 

 - Use a leg press machine that is angled at least 45 degrees. This will take much pressure off the lower back and allow a greater quad stretch.

 - Disdain the selectorized versions with the sliding seat. The biomechanics of these devices are such that it is impossible to tell how much you are really lifting. Stick to free weight versions, and pray that your gym has enough 100's for you.

 - Use newer models whenever possible. As I said, some of the older models could be death traps for the uninitiated and should be avoided.

Incorporating the leg press into your schedule is a matter of determining where you are in your current cycle. As periodization is now an accepted fact, the leg press fits ideally in the Foundational phase but will also fit into the Speed-Strength and Overload phase. Indeed, the leg press is probably the one assistance exercise that I would not drop, even up to a week before the meet. 

In case you may be wondering who out there uses the leg press, how about Gene Bell? 

Gene, a multi-world champion and record holder swears by the leg press. He claims that using this movement with heavy weights (up to 1100 lbs.) has blasted his squat well over the 800 level (843 @ 181 in 1988) and his deadlift close to the 800 lb. level. In fact, all of the lifters that Gene has worked with have been placed on heavy leg press programs with an outstanding degree of success overall. Other lifters who regularly use the leg press include Fred Hatfield, Larry Kidney and Steve Alexander.  

What are the advantages of the leg press? 

First of all, the leg press will continually allow you to handle very heavy weights throughout your cycle without the accompanying anxiety that the squat does. There is little chance for burnout, either mentally or physically, which means that even if you are cycling the squat and still doing 8's or 10's with 70% you can go far higher on the leg press. 

I suggest that you do leg presses a minimum of once per week, perhaps on your lower intensity squat day. If you are extremely tired on your heavy squat day (or as is the case with most of us) our training partners/spotters fail to show, you can leg press up to twice a week. Try to avoid knee wraps as much as possible unless you are flirting with some really big numbers, or trying for a new PR for reps.

I have, from personal use of the leg press, added a lot more weight to my deadlift than my squat, but because of the way I position the weight sled and my feet, I am able to better simulate the initial push off the floor phase of the sumo deadlift. By using a high weight for sets of 5's I am able to achieve both deep muscular stimulation and the necessary overload. 

I often visualize the deadlift as a sort of leg press with the weight in your hands. Fred Hatfield has often viewed the leg press with favor as a way to condition the mind and body to relay and initiate the thrust through the floor during the first phase of the deadlift. 

Regarding the squat, I believe that the leg press has more benefit when done with a higher weight and closer foot position on the sled (as opposed to a shoulder width or slightly wider for the "deadlift" leg press). If you are doing power circuits or supersets, the leg press is ideal - easy to spot, but a bitch to load! 

Quite frankly, the only negative I can see is that the leg press can be a little tricky with the extremely big numbers. For those of you who are squatting or pulling in excess of 600-650, an 800-lb. leg press should be child's play. "The guys squatting and pulling 700-850 and above will be able to handle 1000-1200 with nary a sweat broken. Trouble is, with that much pig iron on one apparatus at a time, finding credible (and brave) enough spotters is a challenge, along with the logistical issue of no more 45's and 100's left in the gym.   

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