Leg Press Vs. Leg Extension: What’s The Difference

The machines in the gym are one of the ways to help you strengthen your legs and build muscles in your lower limbs. However, if you never went to a gym before or you hate exercising, then you will have a hard time deciding which one to use.

Of course, we all want to have beautifully shaped legs, and both leg press and leg extension can perform an excellent job. But, the main question still remains, leg press vs. leg extension: what’s the difference?


While each one of them has its benefits, they still carry certain limitations and risks. The right exercise for you may have more to do with what do you want to achieve with your workout. Now, we will try to provide you more information about these machines and help you decide which one is best for your needs.

But, first, let’s talk about muscles!

The science behind muscles

Hips, hamstrings, and quadriceps perform most of the work done your legs. However, neither leg press nor leg extension target any of them. Quadriceps is the muscle located on the front of your thigh, and it helps you strengthen your leg. On the other hand, hamstrings have two purposes, extending your torso, and flexing your knee.

Flexion and extension don’t happen during either exercise, considering your knee flexes as it bends. Also, hamstrings keep your need joints protected when they flex.

The leg press

Leg press doesn’t allow you plenty of variations, but there are a couple of things you can do to mix things up. Instead of using both legs at the same time, you could use one leg at a time to ensure each leg gets a necessary workout. But, pay attention to your level of fitness because there is a difference between right and left leg, considering they can’t handle the same amount of load.

The leg press

To boost the extension, you can place your feet higher on the footpad. This will additionally contract your glutes and hamstrings while reducing knee ranges during the workout. On the other hand, if you put your feet lower on the footpad, then you will increase your knees’ range of motions.

While you are doing leg press, make sure to adjust your backrest in order to get more comfortable and perform exercises correctly.

Lex extension

With a leg extension machine, you are working your quadriceps while sitting. In this case, your ankles are braced against a pad, and you strengthen your muscles against the resistance. This machine tries to activate your quadriceps, but it isn’t as successful as leg press when it comes to quadriceps activation.

The leg extension is often utilized in rehab. However, when legs are fully extended, the higher tension may occur, which can lead to injury, since you are stressing knees’ ligaments too much.

Terminal knee extension

Terminal knee extension offers you an opportunity to avoid a traditional leg press. Even though it doesn’t target your hamstrings as leg press would do, it certainly does a better job than a leg extension. On top of that, it’s safer to do this type of exercise, since it protects ligaments and muscles located around your knee joint.

Terminal knee extension

When using terminal knee extension, one end of the extension is usually attached to reliable support, while the other end goes around the back of your knee. If you want to create enough tension, then the band should be stretched at its maximum capacity. You then straighten your leg by bending your knee, while keeping one foot placed on the ground firmly.