Benefits of Leg Press: Build Muscle + Reduce Injury

The Benefits of Leg Press: Build Muscle, Reduce Injury-Risk & Fight Aging

The Benefits of Leg Press: Build Muscle, Reduce Injury-Risk & Fight Aging

If you could spend 1-2 minutes doing something that had the power to drastically reshape your body, would you do it?

We’re talking about the Leg Press.

Out of all of the exercises you do, the leg press may be the most important. If the leg press is not part of your routine, this article will make the case for why you should include it in your routine and how you can execute it.

Jump to Topic:
The Value of Doing the Leg Press
How to Set up the Leg Press Machine
How to Do the Leg Press
Injury Considerations
Choosing the Right Leg Press
Summary

Why You Should Do the Leg Press

The value of the leg press comes from the areas of the body that it targets. The leg press primarily targets the quads (front thighs) and gluteus maximus (butt), the two largest and strongest muscles in the human body. These two muscle groups are important for physical appearance and critical for physical functioning. The secondary muscle groups include hamstrings and calves.

As a whole, here are the benefits of regularly performing the leg press (Rhodes et al., 2000; Zampieri et al., 2015):

  1. Increases gluteal and quadriceps strength.
  2. Improves physical appearance of the thighs and butt by improving the size of both muscles. The thighs and hips become more shapely, which you could notice from front and side views.
  3. Strengthens the bones of hips and lower back.
  4. Improves functional ability. Daily activities (standing, climbing stairs, walking, etc.) become easier as the thighs and hips become stronger.
  5. Enhances balance. Balance is enhanced as the thighs and hips gain strength.

If you’re interested in performing the leg press on your own, keep reading.

Learn How Susan tripled her leg strength after total knee replacement with machines like the Leg Press.

How to Setup the Leg Press Machine

Fitness companies make leg press models that differ greatly. One leg press variation is that some are “selectorized” and some are plate-loaded. For selectorized machines, you select a weight by inserting the pin in the weight stack. For plate-loaded leg presses, you add the weight plate onto the arms of the machine. Our recommendation is to use a selectorized machine (we’ll come back to this later).

Image of a The Perfect Workout trainer setting up a Nautilus leg press next to an image of a plated leg press

Following these steps should help you with getting setup on any selectorized machine:

  1. Select the seat position. The goal is to get your torso as close to the footplate as possible without being very uncomfortable. Being more “crammed in” will give you a bigger range of movement, which is shown to improve strength and muscle gains (Pinto et al., 2012). Try a few seat positions. Move the seat and sit down to see how it feels. You should ultimately feel a little cramped in the seat, with your knees and chest only a few inches apart from each other. If your hips slide forward, you’re too close.
  2. Adjust the seat back. If the back of the seat reclines, then adjust that setting next. Similar to the seat, you will ideally be a little crammed. If you have a larger gut or a history of lower back pain, reclining the seat 1-3 notches may make the starting position much more comfortable.
  3. Find your foot position. Put your feet on the footplate. They should be about hip width apart. You should be able to see your toes just over your knees.
  4. Place your hands at the sides of the seat. There are typically handles near the sides of the seat. Avoid using a death grip on the handles as this could unnecessarily increase your blood pressure. Instead, let your arms hang and keep your fingers relaxed.

Read about how member Michelle P. was able to target, tighten, and lift her glutes with the Leg Press.

Image of a man being trained on a leg press by a female trainer

How to Do the Leg Press

Once you’ve set up the machine using the steps previously outlined, you are in the correct starting position and ready to work! Here are the steps for executing the exercise safely and effectively:

  • Select a proper weight. Ideally, if you were assessing the difficulty on a 1-10 scale (with 10 being impossible), the difficulty should start in the 6-8 range. Pick a random weight and try a repetition. Adjust the weight until you land in the desired difficulty range.
  • Push through your heels. The majority of your effort goes through your heels. As you begin the leg press, build pressure through your heels until the weight starts to move. Keep the focus through your heels as you push out and on the return. Your heels should never leave the footplate.
  • Move slowly. Keep the weight moving, but move as slowly as you can without stopping. Use the slow pace when lifting AND lowering the weight. The slow and consistent pace reduces the force of the leg press on your joints, making the exercise very safe.
  • Push…MOST of the way. You should push the weight until your knees are slightly bent. When you reach that point, reverse direction and bring the weight down slowly. Avoiding a fully straightened knee is important for safety purposes. Straightening the knees could expose the knee to hyperextending, which could cause an injury.
  • Do all that you can do. Continue performing slow reps until you can no longer lift the weight. Hitting that physical wall is a sign that you’ve fully (and safely) stimulated the muscle to grow larger and stronger. This point of physical fatigue is known as “muscle failure.”

Perform one set, to muscle failure, twice per week on nonconsecutive days. Ideally, you’ll complete around 3-6 slow repetitions before reaching muscle failure. If you completed six or more repetitions, increase the weight by 2.5-5 lbs in the next workout.

image of a trainer guiding a female with a leg brace through a leg press exercise

Injury Considerations

If you suffer from knee or lower back pain, you can still perform the leg press. Some adjustments may be needed, though.

Use a trial and correction approach. Try the previously mentioned setup. If you feel pain while using that seat position, then make adjustments.

If you have a knee injury or pain that is aggravated by the leg press, try one or more of the following strategies:

  • Rotate your feet outwards. Instead of having your toes pointing up, have them point outwards (think “10 and 2” on a clock).
  • Move your feet a little higher on the footplate. This will shorten your range of motion but reduce the stress on your knee.
  • If neither of the above works, move your seat back 1-2 notches.

If pre-existing lower back pain is irritated by the leg press, try the following adjustments:

  • If the seat back can move, recline it by 1-3 notches.
  • ‘If reclining the seat does not help, move the seat back by one setting. If that doesn’t create relief, move the seat an additional notch backwards.

Choosing the Right Leg Press Machine

Even though quality can differ greatly, selectorized leg presses are generally the best way to go. Nautilus, Life Fitness, Matrix, Cybex, and Technogym are a few of the companies that produce quality leg press machines which are often found in public gyms. If you have multiple options, choose the leg press that you find most comfortable.

As mentioned before, avoid the plate-loaded leg press machine. This machine typically features the trainee sitting close to the ground and pushing the weight up at an angle. It’s effective for producing results but can be stressful on the lower back. When lowering the weight, the hips often rise, which switches the force of the weight from the hips to the lower back. Put simply, it’s easier to strain or injure the lower back on a plate-loaded leg press.

Learn about another impactful lower body exercise – the Leg Curl!

Muscles used on the leg press machine

Summary

The leg press is the most important exercise in a workout. Regularly training with the leg press leads to strength and muscle gains in the largest muscles of the body. The leg press also improves mobility and overall physical function.

When using the leg press, choose a challenging weight and start in a cramped but not very uncomfortable position. Push until your knees are slightly bent (and no further!). Keep the focus on your heels, not your toes, throughout every rep. Continue until your hips and thighs are COMPLETELY fatigued, and increase the resistance periodically.

There are many quality models of the leg press. Pick one where you can pin the weight stack. If you have knee or lower back pain, you can still use the leg press. A few positional adjustments should allow you to train without pain!

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a FREE workout with us.

We know strength training is important, but nutrition is also a huge piece of your wellbeing. If you'd like help learning how to implement these new habits alongside your workouts, schedule a Nutrition Intro session today! Email [email protected] to get started.

  • Pinto, R.S., Gomes, N., Radaelli, R., Botton, C.E., Brown, L.E. & Bottaro, M.J. (2012). Effect of range of motion on muscle strength and thickness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(8), 2140-2145.
  • Rhodes, E. C., Martin, A. D., Taunton, J. E., Donnelly, M., Warren, J., & Elliot, J. (2000). Effects of one year of resistance training on the relation between muscular strength and bone density in elderly women. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(1), 18-22.
  • Zampieri, S., Mosole, S., Löfler, S., Fruhmann, H., Burggraf, S., Cvečka, J., … & Kern, H. (2015). Physical exercise in aging: nine weeks of leg press or electrical stimulation training in 70 years old sedentary elderly people. European Journal of Translational Myology, 25(4), 237.

Body Type Workout: How Somatotypes Affect Your Results

Body Type Workout.
The Influence of Somatotypes on Your Results

Body Type Workout.
The Influence of Somatotypes on Your Results

Image of a male trainer directing a Member on the Compound Row

We all know that one person who eats whatever they want and never gains a pound. Their body looks the same as it did in high school.

And then there’s some of us who seem to gain weight a little too easily.

When it comes to our ability to gain fat or muscle, the truth is we aren’t on an even playing field.

Anyone starting an effective strength training program will gain some muscle tissue, but the amount of muscle we can gain is largely determined by our genetics. One of those genetic factors is our body type.

Jump to Topic:
What is a Body Type?
The Different Body Types
Exercising for Your Body Type

What is a Body Type?

A body type, or somatotype, is a classification for the different body compositions we genetically have. These body types refer to the amounts of fat and muscle cells we have in our bodies.

Our fat and muscle cell quantities are important because they rarely change much during adulthood. Past the age of 18, people likely do not lose fat cells and may gain more of them in extreme cases.

On the other hand, we can lose muscle cells with age if we’re not strength training, but gaining them is uncommon.

To put it simply, our muscle and fat cell totals help to determine our maximum potential for change. Within those limits, the changes we see are just increases or decreases in cell size.

It's important to note that these body types are generalizations of how our bodies are currently functioning. You can ebb and flow from one body type to another and even fall into more than one category.

The Different Body Types:

There are three basic body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.
Image from Precision Nutrition

Ectomorph

Ectomorphic bodies have naturally thin frames and long limbs. Hips and shoulders tend to be narrow and muscle size is small compared to bone length. Those who have the ectomorph body type have few fat and muscle cells.

The person we mentioned before, who never gains weight, he’s an ectomorph. He does gain muscle when sticking with strength training, but he will never look like a bodybuilder or anything close to it.

Image from Precision Nutrition

Mesomorph

Those with mesomorph bodies have few fat cells with many muscle cells. These body types are typically athletic with higher muscle mass and minimal fat.

For mesomorphic body types, strength training produces a greater gain in muscle for them than it does with ectomorphs. Mesomorphs also tend to have a little more fat than ectomorphs, but less than endomorphs. They are the people who generally can gain or lose 20 pounds with diet and strength training.

Image from Precision Nutrition

Endomorph

The endomorph has few muscle cells with many fat cells. These body types tend to be stockier, with larger hips, midsection and overall bone structures. The endomorph carries more fat throughout the body than other body types. This body type is often referred to as “apple shaped.”

For endomorphs, strength training produces some gain in muscle but they tend to gain fat fast and take a longer time to lose it.

The importance of knowing that somatotypes exist can be helpful in a number of ways. For example, knowing about somatotypes is further support for the idea that you should only compare you to yourself and not to others (who may have a different somatotype than you).

Exercising For Your Body Type

One helpful way of looking at your body type is to think of it as a body composition. Because compositions can be changed.

The way your body is composed can change with changes to your lifestyle, including diet and exercise.

Ectomorphs: It is wise to focus on techniques for building muscle mass and maximal strength, while reducing the amount of time spent on cardiovascular training. Twice a week slow-motion resistance training with heavy weights while achieving muscle success (temporary muscle failure) in under 90 seconds to maximize muscle and bone strength is ideal. If you are an ectomorph and you want to gain muscle mass, you should eat a high-calorie diet. You burn energy very quickly, so you will need plenty of calories.

Mesomorph: Mesomorphs have it easier than the rest of us. They metabolize food more efficiently, build muscle faster, and can take on any fitness goal without much initial work. However, diet and exercise should be tailored to specific goals. If you’re a mesomorph with a goal of weight loss, strength training and eating a high protein diet to maintain muscle while eating in a slight deficit will help you lose weight. If you’re looking to gain weight, then strength training while eating in a surplus will produce gains.

Endomorph: Because this body type has a naturally slow metabolism and can gain fat faster than other body types, it's important to prioritize high-intensity strength training with minimal rest between exercises (for metabolic benefits) and a high protein diet to maintain calorie-burning muscle mass. Endomorphs also want to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and find ways to include lots of physical activity in their daily life.

We know strength training is important, but nutrition is also a huge piece of your wellbeing. If you'd like help building these new healthy habits, schedule a Nutrition Intro session today! Email [email protected]com to get started 

Image of a female member being coached by a trainer on the triceps machine

You Can Change Your Body, No Matter the Type

Remember, body types are a generalization and not a box to live in. We have the power to change our bodies at any moment with diet, exercise and recreational activities. But the potential your somatotype provides is irrelevant without consistently training as hard as you can. You can only learn where your ceiling is by working towards it. Also, no matter what your genetics indicate for your physique, keep in mind that your actions (i.e. how you eat and exercise) are the biggest factors in improving your health and well-being.

So let’s recap…

Ectomorphs are generally quite lean with smaller frames. These body types have a harder time gaining fat and muscle. Heavy resistance training and high calorie diets are encouraged for ectomorphs who wish to gain body mass.

Mesomorphs have what many may consider an “ideal” body type. They have more muscle than fat and can lose and gain body mass with less effort than other body types. A balance of strength training and other physical activities tailored to their goals is ideal for the mesomorph.

Endomorphs generally carry more fat and have stockier frames. This body type has a harder time losing weight than others. It’s recommended to prioritize high intensity strength training, high protein diet and maintaining an active lifestyle for the endomorph.

Training at The Perfect Workout will help you achieve your ideal physique, and by increasing the amount of muscle tissue that you’re able to add, you will become healthier and feel better.

To work with a trainer to customize exercise for your body type (or begin strength training altogether!), start by booking a FREE introductory workout.

  • Bernard, TJ. (2003). Biography of William Sheldon, American psychologist. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed online at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Sheldon
  • Ryan-Stewart, H., Faulkner, J., & Jobson, S. (2018). The influence of somatotype on anaerobic performance. PloS one, 13(5), e0197761. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0197761
  • Tóth, T., Michalíková, M., Bednarčíková, L., Živčák, J., & Kneppo, P. (2014). Somatotypes in sport. Acta Mechanica et Automatica, 8(1).

Strength Training for Parkinson’s

Strength training for Parkinson's disease: Slowing the Progression

Strength Training for Parkinson's Disease Brain Anatomy

Due to high-profile cases in recent decades, the US is very aware of Parkinson’s disease.

Celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Ozzy Osborne, and late icons Muhammad Ali and Johnny Cash are a few of the famous names who were/are inflicted with the disease.

In the US, 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed annually.

While Parkinson’s is not terminal, symptoms can significantly affect the individual’s quality of life.

Research has shown exercise, strength training, in particular, can improve symptoms and slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Keep reading…

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a central nervous system condition that causes tremors and affects bodily movements.

Dopamine levels diminish as a result of nerve cell destruction in the brain, resulting in a slew of symptoms.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s

This disease manifests by disrupting physical abilities:

  • Causing tremors
  • Postural instability
  • Slow, rigid movement

Those diagnosed with Parkinson’s often suffer from:

  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Strength loss
  • Accelerated muscle atrophy

Muscle atrophy already accelerates after the age of 25, where individuals without Parkinson’s can expect to lose anywhere from a pound to a pound and a half of lean muscle every year on average, so you can imagine how adding Parkinson’s to the mix is particularly troublesome.

Brain imaging showing a loss in serotonin function as Parkinson's disease progresses. Red/yellow areas show that serotonin function reduces before movement symptoms develop. [Neurodegeneration Imaging Group, King's College London.]

Strength Training as a Treatment

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s. With that in mind, science has focused on ways to improve the quality of life for those with the disease.

Among the proven treatment options is something we know well: strength training.

Strength training reverses some of the physical effects of Parkinson’s and can possibly match the physical ability of Parkinson’s sufferers to that of those without the disease.

Physiological Improvements

Physical improvements for Parkinson’s patients are demonstrated by a few studies, most notably research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In a four-month study, 15 patients exercised in a full-body strength training workout three days per week.

The routine featured some of the familiar exercises we do at The Perfect Workout, including the leg press, chest press, and lat pull-down. The researchers measured a number of physiological and functional areas at the start and end of the study.

The strength training program was successful in reversing a number of areas generally affected by Parkinson’s.

The participants improved their strength by at least one-third in all major muscle groups. Muscle size increased, including a 36% improvement for fast-twitch muscle fibers (the fibers most responsible for performing challenging tasks).

The trainees were able to walk an additional 140 feet in a six-minute walk test, indicating better endurance, walking speed, and walking ability. Imagine being able to walk another 140 feet during a grocery trip or vacation with family!

Balance on one leg improved by 34%, meaning the people with Parkinson’s were able to stand longer on one leg and were less likely to experience a fall.

The most profound result was from the standing test.

The standing test in this study showed how many muscle fibers were needed for the Parkinson’s sufferers to stand from a seated position. At the start of the study, standing required a near-maximum effort (90% of muscle fibers). Imagine that: needing nearly all of your strength to stand from a chair.

At the end of the study, only 60% of muscle fibers were used to perform a stand. In other words, standing became much easier.

In fact, those with Parkinson’s disease used the same amount of effort to stand after the training program as people the same age who did not have Parkinson’s!

Balance Exercises

The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends doing exercises to improve balance. Some simple at-home exercises include:

  • Walking heel to toe
  • Side leg raises
  • Wall pushups
  • Marching in place

Resistance exercises can also help to improve strength and balance overall.

A 2014 study noticed an increase in balance (and a lower rate of falling) during 12 weeks of strength training when compared to the months prior to training.

In another study, researchers from the Netherlands and Belgium assessed 28 studies using strength training or various types of activity to see what practices are effective for reducing falls and fall risk factors.

Twenty of those studies focused on strength training. The research shows strength exercises also led to improvements in walking speed, static balance, and balance while moving.

Parkinson’s at The Perfect Workout

Many of our members have been able to improve their conditions at The Perfect Workout, including Parkinson’s.

One of our members, Sandie from McGaheysville, VA has early-onset Parkinson's. She has days where she experiences more stiffness in her joints than others. Her trainer Melissa works with her as a team to assess how her body feels on each exercise.

“We're able to adapt each workout based on her energy level or her level of feeling, stiff joints or not. And she knows that no matter what by the end of the workout, she feels much stronger and she feels that that has helped her with some of her symptoms.”

To learn more about exercise’s role in slowing Parkinson’s disease progression, enjoy this presentation from Daniel M. Corcos, PhD, professor of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Northwestern University. Dr. Corcos answers many of the questions about how to combat Parkinson's disease through progressive resistance exercise and endurance exercise.

Strength Training for Parkinson’s … It Helps.

As a whole, strength training improves muscle strength, muscle tissue, endurance, walking ability, balance, and the effort needed to perform daily activities for those with Parkinson’s.

With this in mind, strength training is an excellent option to help stop or reverse the physical and functional effects of Parkinson’s disease.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Cadore, E. L., Casas-Herrero, A., Zambom-Ferraresi, F., Idoate, F., Millor, N., Gómez, M.,…& Izquierdo, M. (2014). Multicomponent exercises including muscle power training enhance muscle mass, power output, and functional outcomes in institutionalized frail nonagenarians. Age, 36(2), 773-785.
  2. De Kam, D., Smulders, E., Weerdesteyn, V., & Smits-Engelsman, B.C. (2009). Exercise interventions to reduce fall-related fractures and their risk factors in individuals with low bone density: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Osteoporosis International, 20, 2111-2125.
  3. Kelly, N. A., Ford, M. P., Standaert, D. G., Watts, R. L., Bickel, C. S., Moellering, D. R., … & Bamman, M. M. (2014). Novel, high intensity exercise prescription improves muscle mass, mitochondrial function, and physical capacity in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(5), 582-592.
  4. Volpi, Elena et al. “Muscle tissue changes with aging.” Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care vol. 7,4 (2004): 405-10. doi:10.1097/01.mco.0000134362.76653.b2

Hip Strength And Mobility

Hip Strength And Mobility - What You Should Know

Female strength training for hip strength and mobility

The hip bone’s connected to the… everything!

Maybe not anatomically, but the hip joint is the largest weight-bearing joint in the human body, and it is a hub for functional movement.

Having strong hip joints and surrounding muscles helps maintain mobility and our ability to perform basic activities of daily living.

Thankfully, maintaining hip strength and mobility can be achieved through a few exercises performed on a regular basis. To learn more, scroll down.

The Importance of the Hip Joint

Healthy hips are fundamental to many day-to-day activities. The hip joint is where the head of the thigh bone (femur) meets an indented space on the pelvis. Hips support our body weight when standing. They are also critical to the processes of walking, climbing stairs, running, sitting, standing, and bending over.

The hips are so important that our strongest muscles — the quadriceps and glutes — are located around and help move the hip joint. Unfortunately, the hip joint is an area that’s highly susceptible to the “wear and tear” of life and aging.

Hips are also the most common site of osteoporosis and fractures with advancing age. Every year, 350,000 hip fractures happen in the United States (Hopkins Medicine). When hip fractures occur, they lead to a loss of independence and, in some cases, a loss of life.

Threats to Hip Health

Osteoporosis, a condition of low bone density, is a “silent” disease. You don’t feel it. You don’t see it. However, people start losing bone strength in their 30s, and that rate of loss picks up after age 50. As a result, bones become weak and susceptible to breaking with an event like falling.

Because the hip joint bears the most weight, it can be heavily impacted by osteoporosis. The thinner “neck” of the femur is the biggest risk for bone density loss and subsequent fractures.

Not only is this the most common site of fractures, but it’s also the most severe place to have a fracture. About one in five older adults die within a year of having a hip fracture, and a large portion of those who survive lose mobility and independence (Schnell et al., 2010).

Osteoporosis isn’t the only concern for hip health. The hip joint is one of the most common sites for arthritis. It’s especially common for people who have experienced years of more-than-normal force on the joint. These individuals typically have a background in athletics, dance, distance running, or people who have been obese.

With arthritis, people lose hip mobility, the joint feels tight, stiff, and painful, and about a third of people with hip arthritis get a joint replacement (Quintana, Arostegui, & Escobar, 2008).

Hip Strength & Mobility

Suffering from hip osteoporosis or arthritis as we age isn’t inevitable. Hip health can be maintained or even improved by focusing on two factors: hip strength and hip mobility.

Enhancing hip strength and a full range of motion can reduce the risk of suffering from hip pain, hip injury, or losing independence (Carneiro et al., 2015; Snyder et al., 2009).

The question then becomes, “How can we enhance hip strength and range of motion?” Strength training.

Multiple studies show strength training 2-3 times a week can enhance hip muscle strength, bone density, and range of motion (Carneiro et al., 2015; Rhoades et al., 2000; Snyder et al., 2009). (Though our slow-motion strength training method can accomplish those things in just 20 minutes, twice a week.)

These studies used a variety of approaches, ranging from using a few lower body exercises to full-body routines. Only a few exercises, though, are needed to improve hip health.

Resistance Exercises for Hip
Strength & Mobility

Leg Press

The leg press is not only the most important exercise in a workout, targeting the largest muscle groups, but it’s also critical for hip health. The leg press and its exercise variations below strengthen the largest muscle that supports the hip joint: the gluteus maximus.

In this exercise, you slowly push through your heels, keeping your buttocks down in the seat, pushing each repetition to the point just shy of locking out your knees. You then resist the weight all the way down to the bottom of the range of motion, barely touching the weight stack, and slowly beginning again. Repeat until you achieve “muscle success”.

It also improves bone density in the hip and surrounding areas (Rhoades et al., 2000). The leg press also increases range of motion for several key movements that involve the hip joint (Rhoades et al., 2000).

Read about John Abel, who’s improved his hip health at The Perfect Workout.

Hip Abduction

Hip abduction, commonly referred to as the “outer thigh exercise,” or “ABD,” strengthens muscles that are vital for basic activities such as walking: the gluteus medius and minimus.

Performing hip abduction helps strengthen those muscles plus increases lateral hip mobility (Snyder et al., 2009). Between the leg press and hip abduction, hip mobility improves in all directions.

At-Home Exercises for Hip Strength & Mobility

The leg press and hip abduction are ideal for achieving the goals of adding hip strength and range of motion. There are home exercises, though, which can mimic those movements.

Chair Stands

To perform this exercise, you sit in a squat position and stand from a chair. The challenge is to have as low of a chair as possible and to use slow movement.

Position yourself to sit on the edge of the chair. Keep your chest up and look forward. As you slowly stand, push through your heels and the middle of your feet. As you lower yourself with bent knees, only briefly allow your butt to contact the chair before slowly starting upwards.

Repeat until you achieve muscle success. This exercise targets the same muscle groups as the leg press does: the gluteus maximus and quadriceps.

Standing Hip Abduction with Resistance Bands

Mimicking the muscles that are used in the machine exercise that has the same name, the standing hip abduction involves standing and holding onto a counter or chair.

Place a resistance band around the outside of both ankles. Train one leg at a time. Keep the other leg on the ground and use that for balance. The moving leg moves out to the side as far as possible, then slowly moves back toward the standing leg. Once the moving leg’s foot taps the ground, it should slowly move outwards to the side again.

Repeat until you achieve Muscle Success, then switch to train the other leg.

Hip Health Summarized

A healthy hip joint is critical. It’s the center of basic activities, such as standing, sitting, and walking. Therefore, we must keep the joint healthy.

Aging and the wear and tear of life’s activities lead to skeletal concerns, which increase the risk of hip pain, swelling, loss of movement, and fractures. To protect your hip joint, you can strength train with exercises involving the area.

These hip exercises help improve muscle strength, bone strength, and mobility. The specific exercises that are most important for hip health are the leg press and hip abduction. At-home replacements are using resistance bands during standing hip abduction and performing chair stands.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Carneiro, N. H., Ribeiro, A. S., Nascimento, M. A., Gobbo, L. A., Schoenfeld, B. J., Júnior, A. A., … & Cyrino, E. S. (2015). Effects of different resistance training frequencies on flexibility in older women. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 10, 531.
  • Quintana, J.M., Arostegui, I., & Escobar, A. (2008). Prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis and the appropriateness of joint replacement in an older population. JAMA Internal Medicine, 168(14), 1576-1584.
  • Rhodes, E., Martin, A., Taunton, J., Donnelly, M., Warren, J., & Elliot, J. (2000). Effects of one year of resistance training on the relation between muscular strength and bone density in elderly women. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(1), 18-22.
  • Schnell, S., Friedman, S.M., Mendelon, D.A., Bingham, K.W., & Kates, S.L. (2010). The 1-year mortality of patients treated in a hip fracture program for elders. Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation, 1(1), 6-14.
  • Snyder, K. R., Earl, J. E., O’Connor, K. M., & Ebersole, K. T. (2009). Resistance training is accompanied by increases in hip strength and changes in lower extremity biomechanics during running. Clinical Biomechanics, 24(1), 26-34.

Benefits of Ab Crunches: More Than Just A Six Pack

for more than just a six pack: get to know the ab crunch

Personal Training Carlsbad CA

The Ab Crunch is a client favorite when it comes to exercises.

Sometimes it’s because of a misconception about what it can do for belly fat.

Other times, it’s because clients know how it can help their mobility goals.

Let’s dig into what the Ab Crunch can do for you…

Muscles Used

The rectus abdominis, or “abs,” are the muscles many of us would like to display in a bathing suit. Besides the aesthetics, they’re an important muscle group for function.

The Ab Crunch machine trains the abs as well as another pair of important muscles. However, performing this exercise requires attention to detail. There’s a small difference between proper execution and lower back strain with the ab crunch. We’ll discuss all of those details later in the article.

The rectus abdominis starts at the bottom of the sternum (chest bone) and the front of the ribs. It runs down to the top of your pubic bone (part of the pelvic girdle), which is just above your genitals.

The main function of this muscle is to pull your spine into a ‘C’ shape, bringing your chest and midsection closer together.

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Of course, the abs are most known because of the “six pack.” A “six pack” has that appearance because of connective tissue.

As the abs flow from the ribs to the pelvic girdle, there are three segments of connective tissue in the middle. This where the “six pack” gets its upper, middle, and lower portions.

Also, a sheet of connective tissue (linea alba) runs vertically, splitting the abs in half and causing it to look like there are six muscles instead of three.

Secondary muscles in the ab crunch are the external and internal obliques. The obliques are located in the area that many refer to as their “love handles.” (We’re covering all of the fun stuff today.) 😉

How It Works

Regularly performing the ab crunch to the exhaustion point of “muscle success” will strengthen your abs and obliques and possibly make them more aesthetically noticeable. However, I have to warn you: Seeing your midsection muscles is largely a result of low body fat levels.

The less fat between your skin and your abdominal muscles, the easier it is to see definition in your abs.

And losing body fat is mainly a result of positive dietary changes. Wanting to see your abs may beckon a change to your diet more than the use of the ab crunch machine.

Believe it or not, the rectus abdominis does not exist only to make you look good in a bathing suit. It is also functionally significant. The abs are critical muscles for respiration and childbirth.

In addition, they are major stabilization muscles.

Every exercise or sports movement focuses on a small group of joints. For example, throwing a baseball mainly involves the elbow and shoulder joints. For this to occur with optimal efficiency and effectiveness, muscles in various parts of the body (like your abdominals!) contract to hold other parts of your body relatively still.

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Performing the exercise looks like this: 

I mentioned previously that the abs work to pull your chest and midsection closer together, causing your spine to curl into a ‘C’ shape.

The proper range of motion for the ab crunch is small compared to most exercises. The exercise may include only four or five inches of movement in each direction. It’s common to exceed this amount, and that’s where some problems occur.

To avoid overextension problems that can lead to discomfort or targeting the wrong areas, follow these simple steps:

  1. In the ab crunch, as you “curl” downward, your lower back should press into the lower pad. (Your upper back should also stay firmly pressed into the upper pad.)
  2. If your lower back is about to peel off the pad, this is a cue that you’re at the end of the range of motion and need to reverse direction and begin returning to the starting position.
  3. When the lower back is removed from the pad, the midsection and thighs are now moving closer together. This motion is a hip-based movement called “hip flexion.”
  4. Hip flexion uses other muscle groups, and these muscle groups exert some force on the lower back. Examples of exercises that use hip flexion are sit-ups and leg lifts. While the abs assist in these exercises, the hip flexors are the dominant muscles.

In summary, “curl” down on the ab crunch machine no further than the point where you feel your lower back will start leaving the back pad.

Using the ab crunch will strengthen your abs and obliques, muscles that not only help you look good on the beach (with proper nutrition) but also with critical life functions.

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Maximize Your Ab Crunch in 2 Minutes or Less

In order to get the most out of your 1-2 minutes on the Ab Crunch, your coach will guide you through these four things:

  1. Full Range of Motion (and no further!): Full range of motion helps avoid shortcutting the targeted muscles. Think “ribs to hips” and “belly button to spine” to squeeze your abdominal muscles properly.
  2. Relax Your Feet and Hands: Avoid letting your hands or feet take over carrying the weight to “muscle through” the movement. You want the primary contraction to live in your abdominals. The goal isn’t to get as far as you can. It’s to let the targeted muscles reach muscle success.
  3. Neck Relaxed: Try to keep the neck as static and relaxed as you can to keep the tension in your abdominal muscles and not in your neck.
  4. Muscle Success: How could we leave this out?! Achieve muscle success and thoroughly fatigue your abdominal muscles to help build your strength.

Strengthen your abdominal muscles and work toward visible abs with a 20-minute workout.

How to Build Strong, Defined Thighs

how to build strong, defined thighs

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Want firmer thighs and a lifted booty? The Leg Curl is an exercise you don’t want to skip. If you’ve been training with us, you know our 20-minute workouts target the entire body including one of the biggest muscles- the hamstrings. If having a strong, firm thighs and a lifted backside is something you’re striving for… keep reading.

The Muscles Used

The hamstrings are large muscles that make up the back of your thighs and are the primary movers worked in the Leg Curl. In addition to the hamstrings, this power exercise also targets the calves. These main muscles targeted by the Leg Curl are largely responsible for the appearance of your thighs and lower legs and train the muscles that are responsible for running speed. To learn how to target the hamstrings along with your buttocks, read our article on the Leg Press.

How it Works

The hamstrings contract to provide knee flexion, which is the technical name for the movement performed during the Leg Curl.

Each hamstring is a group of four muscles that start on your pelvis (around the bottom of your buttocks), cover the backs of your thighs and attach to the lower leg, just below your knee.

The hamstrings have two major functions: to flex your knee, and pull your thigh backward (hip extension). Performing the exercise looks like this:

  1. The Leg Curl (seated in particular) begins with you seated and legs stretched out in front of you in between two pads.
  2. Your feet are flexed with toes pointing straight up to engage the muscles in the back of the leg and upper body is upright and relaxed.
  3. As you begin to move the weight, you’re trying to pull your heels close to your buttocks, keeping your toes pointed up throughout the entire range of motion.
  4. Once you have reached your full range of motion- you’ve brought your heels back as far as they can go, you want to squeeze your hamstrings in the contracted position for approximately 3 seconds and slowly resist the weight back to the beginning position.

Like all exercises, you avoid resting in between repetitions and slowly push yourself to reach Muscle Success.

Why Do It?

Building the muscle fibers in the hamstrings can provide a firm appearance to the backs of the thighs, and can also create an ovular shape. This can be seen if you look at the back of someone’s thighs from a side view.

The Leg Curl is a very efficient exercise, in that the calves (gastrocnemius) assist the hamstrings in flexing the knees. Many women wear high-heeled shoes because the elevated heels force the calves to contract, making the leg look more defined and shapely. Using the Leg Curl can create that same muscularity in the lower legs without needing the shoes.

Hamstrings in Day-to-Day Function

The hamstrings are a major muscle group responsible for pulling the leg down after the knee rises.

The foot drives into the ground and propels you forward. The acceleration comes from the leg and foot being pulled down as fast as possible. The faster the foot can move downward, the greater the acceleration.

For any athlete who sprints, such as those playing baseball, softball, and football, the Leg Curl trains a muscle that is critical to maximizing acceleration. You don’t need to be an athlete or play competitive sports to benefit from this exercise. Performing the Leg Curl regularly will help to improve leg strength and overall mobility for anyone.

Maximizing Your Leg Curl in 2 Minutes or Less

In order to get the most out of your 1-2 minutes on the Leg Curl, your coach will help you achieve these three things:

  1. Full Range of Motion: A full range of motion helps to give a thorough workout to the targeted muscles. Think “heels to butt” and give those hammies a big squeeze as you strive for each repetition.
  2. Flex Your Feet: A fuller range of motion can be accomplished when the ankles are dorsi flexed, meaning the tops of your feet are pulled towards your shins. If your toes are pointed down as you flex your knees, your calves will be multitasking with two responsibilities, and they will do poorly in each. Keep your toes up to make sure your calves can do their best in flexing your knees.
  3. Muscle Success: You knew it was coming! Achieving muscle success by fully fatiguing the hamstrings will help you build the strength you’re looking for.


Whether you desire firm, rounded thighs or to run faster during your favorite sport, the Leg Curl is a quick & efficient way to achieving strong and sexy stems. Strengthen your legs and define your entire body with a 20-minute workout.