The Leg Press is a hotly debated exercise. Some love it because it can challenge your lower-body strength with a crazy amount of weight. Others see it as a lower-back injury waiting to happen, or just don't see the point.
For this article, I'm not going to argue one way or the other. Rather, I'm going to talk about the Swiss Ball Leg Press, which I find to be a better alternative than the Leg Press for athletes, especially if you have trouble squatting, have minor lower-body issues or are recovering from a knee injury.
The Swiss Ball Leg Press has been my go-to exercise because due to the unfixed nature of the stability ball, it reinforces the proper proprioceptive feedback throughout the lower body while enhancing raw strength and bottom range motion and power.
More importantly, as Dean Somerset outlined, "The leg press is a fantastic tool for grooving the triple extension pattern using one's own body weight," and that is what we have in this exercise. To perform the exercise, the athlete uses his or her own body weight with some instability.
Swiss Ball Leg Press
- Lie on your back with your hips pressed into the floor and your rib cage down. Bend your hips and knees as if setting up for a Leg Press and have a partner place a Swiss ball on your feet. Your partner stands on the opposite side of the ball and provides resistance.
- Straighten your hips and knees to press the ball away from you. Your partner should provide enough resistance so that the movement is difficult but not so much that you're grinding out reps.
- If you do not have a partner, you can elevate the stability ball on the wall; however, the tension will be different because there is no feedback from your partner holding the stability ball.
Watch how to perform the Swiss Ball Leg Press in the video player above. Once you have that mastered, you can also try the single-leg variation.
Again, we can argue back and forth, but I believe performing this variation can save your knees and spine, especially after or within a heavy day of Squats and/or Deadlifts. The Swiss ball variation removes the tension placed on the knees by the traditional Leg Press movement. Instead, the tension is applied by your training partner.
More important, for those who are not technically savvy with the big lifts and/or who lack lower-body strength and power, this is a great variation to perform before beginning to squat heavy. In addition, it might help improve your Squat and Deadlift—and increase your muscle mass.
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