Last updated on August 26th, 2023 at 02:50 pm
If you want a great lower body then squat.
If you want to really focus on lower body hypertrophy then leg press.
But, should you be doing squats and leg press on the same day?
Here’s what you need to know.
Training squats and leg press on the same day is ideal if you’re looking to build size and strength in your legs. The squat is a compound exercise that hits the quads, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, as well as various stabilizing muscles. However, the leg press will allow you to really isolate your quads. Plus, the leg press isn’t as taxing on the Central Nervous System, which means quicker recovery times.
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Squats & Leg Press – The Ideal Quad Pairing
It’s absolutely fine to train squats and leg presses on the same day, and I actually think they’re an ideal pairing if you’re looking to add size and strength to your lower body.
You may typically worry about performing both exercises in the same workout because you feel they are fairly similar movements.
However, in truth, they are actually quite different to each other, as well as both having their pros and cons.
The squat is far more of a compound exercise, in that they hit targets the quads, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, and a variety of stabilizing muscles too.
In fact, your upper back, spinae erector muscles, and core have to work pretty hard during squats.
But, when it comes to the leg press, you are able to isolate the quads to far greater effect (depending on foot placement).
Additionally, the leg press is an easier exercise, requires less technical ability, and is far less taxing on the Central Nervous System.
This simply means that it is a lot easier to recover from leg presses than squats.
Realistically, a standard leg-training day would incorporate squats, and various isolation exercises for the lower body.
So, as an example, this could involve:
- Leg Press
- Romanian Deadlift
- Hip Thrusts
- Calf Raises
Now admittedly, even though I’ve labelled these “isolation exercises” they do all hit numerous muscles at the same time.
But, once more, none of these exercises are quite as taxing on the body as squats.
With that being said, I truly believe performing squats and leg press on the same day will be fantastic for quad hypertrophy.
What if You Train Legs Twice (or More) a Week?
Something else to consider is how often you train legs.
I think most of us understand the importance of lower body training.
In fact, training your legs typically has one of the greatest knock-on effects on your physique in general.
The legs house the largest muscles in the body, so training them regularly produces a metabolic response that is perfect for building muscle and strength.
So, more often than not, many of us have now turned to training legs more than once a week.
Now, there’s a couple ways you can go about this if you are training legs twice a week (or more).
Firstly, you could have a quad-dominant workout day, as well as a hamstring-dominant workout day.
If this is the route you choose then it obviously makes sense to train squats and leg press on the same day.
However, perhaps you prefer to separate your leg workouts at either end of the week, e.g. Monday and Friday, and you prefer an all-round mix of exercises.
In this case, you may be better off separating the days on which you perform squats and leg press.
With that being said, as I’ve mentioned, leg press isn’t as taxing on the body, so it certainly won’t interfere with a second leg workout later in the week.
Basically, the choice is completely down to you.
Which Way Round For Squat and Leg Press?
So, you’ve decided to perform squats and leg press on the same day, but which way round should you be doing them?
The obvious choice would be to do your squats first and then follow them up with leg press.
As I’ve alluded to numerous times, squats are far more taxing on the body and the Central Nervous System.
Plus, squats are more of a technical exercise and you’re working many more muscles at the same time.
Therefore, it makes sense to perform the “harder” exercise first.
Now, you’ll often hear of pre-exhausting muscles before hitting a compound movement.
This is a legitimate way to train, and it can lead to some quite significant gains.
So, you may choose to pre-exhaust your quads through leg pressing and then move onto your squats.
Okay, as I’ve said, this is a legitimate way to train, but whether it’s for you very much depends on your overall training goals.
If you are more specifically training for hypertrophy then pre-exhaustion makes a great deal of sense.
However, if you are more focused on building strength and lifting as heavy a weight as possible, then you’d be far better off training squats first.
Remember, once you’ve pre-hausted your quads via leg press it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to squat as much as usual.
Personally, I prefer to perform a strength training protocol for squats first, e.g. 5×5, and then hit leg press with high volume, e.g. 3 x 15-25.
This allows me to both train for strength and for hypertrophy.
Do You Have the Time For Squats and Leg Press?
The other main factor to consider is the time element, i.e. how long do you have to workout?
If you’re limited to one leg training day a week, and you perhaps only have 30 minutes to workout, you need to look at things a little differently.
Basically, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck in the time you have available.
Personally, I would want to hit the biggest compound exercises, while ensuring I had a good all-round workout.
So, for a 30-minute leg workout this may involve Squats, Romanian Deadlifts, Hip Thrusts.
This allows me to hit the largest lower body muscle groups in as quick as time as possible.
I would also potentially save the conventional deadlift for a back or pull-based training day.
Once again, which exercise you choose to perform out of squats and leg press will depend on your training goals.
You could argue that due to increased isolation that the leg press will provide far more quad hypertrophy benefits.
But, then again, you could also argue that squats are a basic human movement pattern, and therefore something that should be done on a regular basis.
Personally, I will always be in the “squat, and then squat some more” camp, but the decision is entirely yours.
So, I hope you understand that it is absolutely fine to do squats and leg press on the same day.
In fact, if you’re looking to build size and strength in your legs, this is the ideal way to do it.
With that being said, you have to take into consideration how many times a week you’re looking to train your lower body.
Plus, then again, you may only be limited to one short leg workout a week.
Furthermore, if you are looking to train them on the same day, I would typically suggest performing squats first and then leg press.
If you’re looking to take your leg gains to a new level then you’ll want to check out pro bodybuilder Frank Rich’s workout program. Frank has created a 12-week program aimed at packing on muscle, while also burning body fat.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.