I know for a fact that many people wonder what their squat to leg press ratio should be.
I guess you want to get an idea of how well you’re performing both exercises in comparison to each other.
Plus, I would hazard a guess that there could be a large disparity between your squat and leg press.
So, I’d like to give you an idea of how much you should be potentially squatting and leg pressing.
Squat to Leg Press Ratio
Most people will general leg press 2-3 times what they can squat. However, there is no specific ratio that you should be aiming for. Firstly, they are two different exercises, even though they work many of the same muscles. Squats are usually limited by your core strength, rather than your legs. Plus, leg press provides additional leverage which makes the movement much easier. So, you should be able to leg press double your squat, if not more.
1. Should You Be Comparing Squat & Leg Press?
So, as I’ve mentioned, you should be able to leg press 2-3 times as much weight as you squat.
However, in truth, you shouldn’t really compare the exercises to each other.
Yes, I agree that both movements work the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
But, this is where the similarities end.
The squat is a compound exercise, which also works many stabilising muscles.
Whereas, the leg press is more of an isolation exercise, which mainly targets the quads.
Admittedly, you can focus more on your hamstrings and glutes with the leg press, although this will largely depend on foot placement.
With that being said, squats are actually limited by your core strength, as opposed to your legs.
We all look at squats as a fantastic leg exercise, but if you’re not experiencing leg growth this typically points to a weak core.
When I talk about your core, the main limiting factor in squats will actually be your lower back.
Therefore, if you don’t have adequate core strength (especially your lower back), it’s harder to maintain a neutral spine, which means you won’t be squatting as much weight as you potentially could.
However, when it comes to the leg press, as long as you perform the exercise correctly, your lower back is taken out of the equation.
In effect, the leg press is an indication of pure leg strength, as it is more of an isolation exercise.
And this explains why you can generally leg press so much more than you can squat.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t squat if you want to increase leg strength and size.
I mean, we all know what a fantastic lower body exercise squats are, and how well they can improve size and strength in your legs.
However, while your core strength tries to “catch up” with your leg strength you’ll never squat as much as you would hope.
This also provides an explanation if you find that you’re able to leg press much more than double your squat.
Your legs are strong, but your core is weak.
2. You’re Squatting More Than You Think
Okay, are you ready for something that you’ve never considered before?
As the above subheading states, “You’re Squatting More Than You Think.”
During a barbell squat you are actually also lifting your own body weight, as well as a loaded bar.
So, as an example, a 180lbs person with a 225lbs barbell across their back is actually squatting 405lbs.
And NO, before you get all excited, you can’t claim that you squat 405lbs.
However, your body weight is involved in the movement, and this is especially true when you power yourself out of the hole at the bottom.
Think about this way, those who are new to exercise can build both muscle and strength by performing just bodyweight squats.
Plus, even as an experienced lifter, if you were to do 100 reps of bodyweight squats in one set, are you really going to tell me that you didn’t feel a thing?
So, even though you can’t add your own body weight to that of the bar, and then claim that’s how much you squat.
You must remember that you are actually squatting your own weight as well.
When you look at it this way there isn’t such a massive difference between how much you can squat and leg press.
3. You’re Leg Pressing Less Than You Think
Just to make things a little more interesting, you’re not actually leg pressing as much as you think either.
Now, I don’t want to over complicate matters, but this does involve some basic physics and mathematics.
More specifically, when using the 45 degree leg press you have to factor in the cosine rule formula for angles.
However, I’m not here to give you a trigonometry lesson, but let’s just say that you’re not actually leg pressing all of that weight on the machine.
Additionally, you’re not lifting your own body weight during leg presses either.
So, using the cosine rule (don’t worry, I won’t add long lists of formulae here), having around 350lbs on the leg press machine will be more-or-less equivalent to our 225lbs squat.
However, once more, you’re probably leg pressing much more than this if you’re able to squat 225lbs.
But, this again comes down to the leverage applied by the leg press machine, plus your core and especially lower back not being involved in the leg press.
So, in effect, leg press is the “easier” exercise, so even when we factor in things like body weight, core and stabilising muscle, leverage, etc. you should still be leg pressing more weight than you squat.
4. The Different Types of Leg Press
You’ve probably noticed at least a couple of leg press machines in your gym.
However, there are typically three different leg press machines in total.
And the amount of weight you’ll be able to press with each machine can differ significantly.
I’ve focused on the 45 degree leg press machine for the purposes of this article, as this will usually be the most weight that you’ll press
The horizontal or seated leg press machine is fairly common in the gym environment.
However, this uses a system of pulleys and cables, plus you’ll probably be limited in how much weight you can use.
In fact, I know the seated leg press machine in my gym doesn’t go above 150kg, whereas I regularly use the 45 degree machine for at least double that weight.
Finally, there is the vertical leg press machine, which is the most difficult of all three.
In effect, you’re lying down with your feet in the air and also working against the forces of gravity.
So, if I really want to go into the squat to leg press ratio, it would be different for each of these machines.
Personally, I believe the leg press machines are great, and an awesome way to increase leg size and strength.
And this is especially true if your squat is being limited by a weak core.
I do believe there is a place for performing both squats and leg presses.
But, I don’t think you should overly worry about a “squat to leg press ratio”, as they’re not really comparable movements.
How to Use the Leg Press & Seated Leg Press
So, as you can see, there is no “ideal” squat to leg press ratio.
However, most of us are able to leg press 2-3 times the weight we can squat.
With that being said, you could almost consider squatting as more of a core exercise than the legs, as it is your core that is the limiting factor in how much weight you use.
There is no such issue with the leg press, as your stabilising muscles are taken out of the equation.
So, leg press is a test of pure leg strength.
Additionally, you’re also lifting your own body weight during squats.
But, the leg press machine provides additional leverage to make the movement easier than squats.
Plus, you don’t have to factor in your own body weight either.
So, you should always be able to leg press more than you can squat.
If you’re looking to take your leg development to new levels then I have just the thing for you. In fact, this is a workout program that can alter your entire physique. Interested? Then check out my Massthetic Muscle Review.
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.