How Many Sets And Reps For Leg Press To Optimize Your Leg Training
By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1
The leg press is one of the best lower body knee dominant movements and many want to learn how many sets and reps of leg press they should be doing. The short answer is, it depends!
The ideal sets and reps for leg press will depend on what the rest of your workout looks like, what your current goals are, and how experienced you are in the gym.
Generally speaking, 3 - 4 sets of anywhere between 6 - 15 reps of leg press will be sufficient to build muscle and improve strength in your legs. When deciding on how long you should rest, 2 - 3 minutes will do the trick.
Let’s break down what type of leg press rep range and total sets is right for you.
- Leg press sets and reps for beginners
- Leg press sets and reps for intermediate & advanced lifters
- Frequently Asked Questions
Leg press is an awesome exercise for people of all experience levels. Compared to a squat, the leg press is much easier since you don’t need to learn how to squat properly and have proper range of motion. With leg press, you lay back and press!
When you first get started with leg pressing, don’t get cocky and start increasing the weight while decreasing your range of motion.
I’ve seen it way too many times where someone will be leg pressing hundred of pounds but they only got down half way.
Don’t be that person.
Guidelines for leg press sets and reps for beginners:
- Pick a weight that allows you to do full range of motion on each rep.
- Perform 3 sets of 8 -12 reps.
- Rest 2 minutes for full recovered.
- When picking a weight, you want to ensure it’s a weight that you can leave 2 - 3 reps in reserve. That means if you do 8 reps, you should have been able to 10 or 11. As a beginner, this is a safe way to train until you are more experienced and can increase the intensity.
If you are a beginner and want do leg press in a workout, try this dumbbell only leg workout and swap any squat movement with leg press.
Once you get comfortable with the leg press, you can start experimenting with a wider range of reps that can focus more on hypertrophy or maximal strength.
Additionally, you’ll feel more comfortable pushing the intensity with your leg press, allowing you to get closer to failure with your reps.
Guidelines for leg press sets and reps for intermediate and advanced lifters
- Perform 3 - 4 sets of 6 - 15 reps.
- Rest 2 -3 minutes between sets.
- Leave 1 - 2 reps in reserve (RIR) on each set.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can build strength and muscle in your legs doing the leg press.
Most people get stuck on the thought that they need to squat and deadlift to see results in their legs but that’s not true.
There are no exercises you HAVE to do.
If you bring the right intensity into each set and implement progressive overload, your legs will grow from leg press.
You can pair leg press with other quad based movements like leg extensions and squats, along with hinge movements like deadlifts and leg curls.
A squat requires more stabilization from your core and you work more total muscles but that does not mean it’s a better exercise than leg press.
For example, say you have back pain from squatting but can do leg press with no pain.
Guess what. Leg press is the exercise for you as you work on fixing your back pain.
They are both great exercises and can be used together in a workout or you can pick one or the other.
Try this leg workout if you have back pain. If any exercises hurt but leg press feels good, add it in there like we just talked about!
Most leg press machines start with a base weight of anywhere between 150 - 200 pounds. If you look closely on the machine, it will usually tell you the starting weight with nothing added to it.
You can lift more on leg press than squats because of the angle and the support you are getting from the machine.
Think about your traditional squat. You are going straight down and straight up with no exterior support. You are responsible for getting yourself up!
The leg press allows you to push at an angle, making it easier (or allowing you to push more weight to answer this question), and you get to push back into a bench for extra support.
If you have the right intensity, then yes, 3 sets is enough for leg press.
If you do a heavy set of leg press for 10 reps and you could have MAYBE done 11 or 12 reps, but nothing more, you are training at the right intensity.
Let’s say you did a set of 10 reps and thought to yourself “I could have probably done 20 reps”. That means you left 10 reps in reserve. With that many reps in reserve, you are not pushing the intensity enough and you won’t build any muscle.
How Many Sets And Reps For Leg Press Recap
As you’ve learned, there is a wide range of options when picking your sets and reps. If you’re a beginner, stick with moderate reps for less sets and focus on form. Once you get more advanced, add more sets, more variety with rep ranges, higher intensity, and harder variations.