Squat or Leg Press: Which Exercise Should I Do For Leg?

Squat or Leg Press Which Exercise Should I Do For Leg

There are few things that really intrigue me like fat loss or weight loss or squat or leg press for leg growth?

I always feel confused when I am a beginner about questions like this, but when I study books like this and this, it clears my mind about the best muscle growth exercises for legs.

Choosing one between squat and leg press is something like climbing a Mountain. However, As my current goal is growing, I would go with both exercises on alternate leg day. So, it really comes down to what is your goal, your fitness level, how your program, your workout plan and so on.

In this article, I’m going to share with you my personal experience with both these exercises and how they can influence your muscle growth in the leg along with some exercise variation for both squat and leg presses.

Which is Best: Squat or Leg Press

Let’s do the ultimate comparison!

What I’m doing now is taking three random scenarios of real life that I saw in the gym most of the time.

By doing this you can better understand which exercise you should choose based on your circumstances.

Scenario #1

Name: Ethan

About His Goal: He is just starting out and wants to lose 50+ lbs before the year ends along with muscle building. 

Workout Frequency: He can do 2 to all the way to 6 days a week workout. 

As you can see here, I took two things about Ethan for the comparison of Squat and leg press.

The reason behind understanding the goal of Ethan and How many days Ethan can train, we can prioritize which exercise is best for Ethan.

One thing I want to let you know before telling you anything is It is very important that you think in terms of your Goal and what’s your fitness level because that’s what can determine the best exercise for you.

Let’s find which is best for Ethan!

Ethan is just starting out and he didn’t know about how much weight the barbell has, how to use the Leg press machine and of course the exercise form of squat and leg press.

As Ethan knows nothing about this it’s better to choose leg press for him.


The reason is Leg press is way easier to learn than the squat for the beginners.

Moreover, Ethan can focus much on the learning form rather than balancing weight and core activation like we do in the squat.

From the goal, you can see he wants to lose 50+ lbs so he is an overweight beginner, as he is overweight and has a lot of fat mass, it is easy for him to lift more weight than the squat regardless of the weight balance.

Once he understands all this we can shift him to the smith machine squat variant or back squat. 

Scenario #2

Name: Mary

About Her Goal: She has been doing workout since 10 months and her primary goal is to build glutes.

Workout Frequency: He can train 4 times a week only

Let’s find out which exercise is best for Mary based on her goal.

So In Mary’s case, I would go with both Squat and Leg Press.


The reason behind choosing those both exercises is you can do a little bit change your position and you can target glutes rather than the quads which is the main targeted muscle of squat and leg press.

Now, Mary can train 4 times a week so what I’m going to do is 

Day 1: Glute Focused Day(Either leg press or squat)

Day 2: Upper Body

Day 3: Rest

Day 4: Quad and Hamstring Focus Day

Day 5: Upper Body

Day 6: Cardio + abs if needed

For the workout plan for Mary I can tell her to do Leg press on Day 1 for Week 1 and Squat for Week 2 and vice-versa.(Difficult to understand, ask me in the comments!)

As you can again see that I prioritize Mary’s goal first before anything.

If you prioritize anything before your goal, you will end up with confusion after reading a few articles from the Internet.

Scenario #3

Name: Olivia

About Her Goal: She is in her fifties and want to tone her lower body along with reduced body fat percentage less than 20%

Workout Frequency: He can train 3 times a week only

Now It’s time for Olivia, she is a business woman and wants to tone her body(which is not possible), what I mean by that is if you want to reduce the loose skin you have to build muscles for that muscle group.

So basically Olivia wants to build muscles in her lower body.

She can train 3 times a week only so we chose two lower body days and one upper body day(she has a well-developed upper body!).

On one lower body day, she will do squat variation along with hams and glute work and on another day she will do leg press variations.

As you can see in this third example, I go with what Olivia wants not leg press or squats.

And I would suggest you do the same for choosing either of these exercises.

There are few more scenarios which can occur but I think you can make your own decision from these examples.

What Does Science Say?

Let’s see what science has to say about choosing these exercises for leg workout.

There are many studies on lge exercises and leg workout like this, this and this but here we want to compare squat and leg press. So I’m going to include that one only!

So, there is one study by Boeckh-Behrens & Buskies. 2000 compare 4 exercises at different angles to check which one is better.

If you take a look at the result in detail, you will notice that in all the exercise variant, squat variant perform well.

Infact, study shows that Hack squat is better than the leg press and squats for the leg growth.

So, squat is the winner in the competition when it comes to decision making.

Squat Variations

It is very important to incorporate various types of exercise variants for muscle hypertrophy.

So here are some of the all variant of squat

Bodyweight Variation:

  1. Bodyweight Lateral Squat(Video)
  2. Bodyweight Squat to Box(Video)
  3. Prisoner Squat(Video)
  4. Overhead Broomstick Squat(Video)

Band Variation: 

  1. Assisted Bodyweight Squat to Box(Video)
  2. Assisted Lateral Squat(Video)
  3. Band-Resisted Goblet Squat(Video)
  4. Band-Resisted Squat(Video)

Dumbbell Variations:

  1. Dumbbell 1 1/4 Full Squat(Video)
  2. Dumbbell Full Squat(Video)
  3. Goblet 1 1/4 Squat(Video)
  4. Goblet Lateral Squat(Video)
  5. Goblet Squat(Video)
  6. Goblet Squat Iso(Video)
  7. Goblet Squat to Box(Video)
  8. Goblet Squat With Pulse(Video)

Barbell Variations:

  1. Barbell Front Squat(Video)
  2. Barbell Front Squat to Box(Video)
  3. Anderson Front Squat(Video)
  4. Barbell Back Squat(Video)
  5. Barbell Box Squat(Video)
  6. Barbell Front Squat Iso(Video)
  7. Overhead Barbell Squat(Video)

I add all the variant of the squat so you can do them at gym or home for your leg workout.

Leg Press Variations

When it comes to leg press variant there are not many but here are the few ones that I know:

  1. One-leg leg press

The reason behind doing the one-leg leg press is to focus more on one specific leg or isolate the quads.

  1. Higher foot placement

If you set your foot position high on the leg press machine you’re going to target more of the glutes and hamstrings.

  1. Lower foot placement

If you set your foot position lower, then you’re going to target quads, now it’s up to you what you want to target and once decided, set your foot position accordingly.

Squat Pros and Cons

Every exercise comes with the pros and cons and squat is one of them.

In fact, Many people find it difficult to learn proper squat form as it takes a lot of time and effort.

Let’s see the benefits of Squat:

  • Best compound exercise for leg
  • You can target every muscle with back squat only
  • Improve your posture
  • Better core activation 

Drawbacks of Squat;

  • Not Beginner friendly
  • High risk of injury at any fitness level
  • Spotter needed for heavy lifts

Leg Press Pros and Cons

Like squat, leg press also has pros and cons but it has more pros than cons compared to squat.


  • Beginner friendly
  • Can focus on form as you’re doing machine exercise so no need to focus on the balance.
  • You can train glutes and hamstring by changing foot position.
  • Don’t need a spotter of course.


  • High risk of injury if you do ego lifting with leg press
  • Knee lockout can put a lot of pressure on your knees
  • Risk of lower back pain if you try to press too much weight

What’s NEXT!

Now you know that it’s all about your goal when choosing or comparing exercise.

See what is your goal before choosing your exercise and then make a workout out of it

Doubts? Thoughts? Comments? Drop them Below!

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