Squat vs. Leg Press for Big Legs and Glutes

Many lifters strive for big legs and well-defined glutes. Having big, strong legs is very important because they are responsible for carrying your entire weight. Not only that, but big legs and shapely glutes are aesthetically pleasing. There are definitely exercises to help you achieve that look: the squat and, to a lesser extent, the leg press.

In order to properly perform the squat (check out our guide on the best squat racks), you need to engage many different muscle groups. Although it’s primarily a lower body exercise, it’s a compound, multi-joint move which will also help train your core. Squats are great for the quads, glutes, hamstrings and hips. Although squatting primarily uses the glutes and quads, the other muscles that contribute to the move include: spinal erectors, hamstrings, transverse abdominus, soleus, gastrocnemius, abductors and adductors. Soleus and gastrocnemius are both found in the back of the lower leg, while abductors and adductors function as leg stabilizers. Although stabilizers don’t directly impact leg size, strengthening them will allow you to put more load on your other leg muscles, such as the quads. Being able to progressively overload your quads and glutes will definitely have an effect on their size and shape, not to mention strength. Transverse abdominus and spinal erectors are muscles found in your core and even though they don’t directly impact the size of your legs or shape of your glutes, they definitely affect your ability to squat heavier. The heavier you squat, the more hypertrophy you will experience in both your legs and glutes. Hypertrophy is often the main goal for many lifters.

Although the leg press is often used as an alternative to the squat, there are definitely some differences between the two exercises. The leg press primarily works the following muscles: glutes, hamstrings and quads. To a lesser extent, doing leg press can also help you increase your calf strength. However, it does not contribute to core strength because you are supported by the machine. This exercise is often used to evaluate lower body strength rather than develop it. Since your core is not getting a workout when performing the leg press, you are not increasing your ability to lift more weight during other exercises that may be more helpful in developing your leg size and glute definition. Not only that, but you are also not engaging your leg stabilizers because the machine does the stabilizing for you. Although you can increase the weight that you are lifting when you are doing a leg press, doing so can potentially cause serious injuries if you lock your knees during the lift. Leg press also creates the illusion of being able to lift heavier because you no longer have to use any of your stabilizer muscles during the lift.

In conclusion, the squat is definitely a better exercise for people who would like to increase their leg size and improve their glute definition. Because it works the stabilizer muscles, it positively impacts your ability to lift heavier down the road. We all know that the heavier you lift and the more muscles you use, the more benefits you will get from a specific exercise.