Brains and Brawn… Declutter your workout strategies

Published 1:08 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

Workout strategies have changed a lot over the years. 30 years ago, when I first became interested in weightlifting, bodybuilding and strength sports were not well researched or understood.
Most people designed a workout based on current fads or what Uncle Joe did during sports practice in high school.
In our more enlightened age of strength training, there is significant data available and numerous volumes of work researching what works best. Some very popular exercises have not stood the test of time and should be replaced in your workout with exercises that are far more effective.
A great example of a dated and inefficient exercise is the leg press. I imagine for many gym bros, that sentence caused a sharp intake of breath.
They might say, “But working legs is so important!” True, I would admit, but there are a lot of better exercises to work legs.
People love leg press for two reasons. First, it is easy. You are basically sitting down to “work out.” Secondly, a person of moderate or even below average strength can use several plates on the leg press and this can make you feel good about yourself.
I once did an analysis of the work done in terms of actual pounds moved over distance and found that the leg press was approximately one-fourth as difficult as a standard squat. So, that 600 pound leg press the guy at the gym was lifting is roughly equivalent to a very modest 150 pound squat.
Another reason the leg press is a bad idea also relates to people’s tendency to use too much weight on it. It is a very common place for injuries to occur.
Look up “gym fails” on YouTube and you will see a large number of leg pressing gone bad. Lifters often load up many times their true one rep max in a legitimate lift and try it on the leg press to disastrous results. The mechanical advantage the leg press gives disguises core and joint weaknesses.
Apologies to people that love the leg press, but a far better exercise is the back squat or a modified squat. Every study shows that heavy back squats build more lean muscle than any other single exercise.
If you are skipping the squat rack and going to the leg press, well, that is like trying to shave with a butter knife while a nice sharp razor is right in front of you.
Recognize the exercises that are effective and those that are not. Your body will tell you in the results you see.
I challenge you to do five sets of 10 deep back squats with one-fourth of the weight you use on the leg press.
I will bet you will have significantly more soreness in the short term indicating much greater muscle stress, and much more muscle and strength gain in the long term.
So, when you see the leg press in the gym, hang your gym bag on it and go do a real workout in the squat rack.

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