The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

What Is The Difference Between A Leg Press and a Squat?

Is a leg press the same as a squat upside down? Both the squat and leg press bend and straighten the legs against resistance. But something special makes opposite forces on the joints.

The post Exercising With A Friend - Partner Leg Press showed a fun leg press without equipment using a friend for resistance, balance, and teamwork. Reader Nina left the comment on the post: "This could being done another way. Sit on a bench or sumthing (sp) else back-to-back with your partner. Interlock arms sitting straight with your backs pressed together. Rise up and down, and feel the pressure on your leg muscles."

What Nina describes is called a squat or half-squat. The exercise in the post is a leg press. Standing on your feet changes it to a squat.

The squat has opposite joint and muscle dynamics to the leg press. In the kind of leg press described in this post, your body is fixed, and the feet move away. In the squat, the feet are fixed and the body moves. The difference in which end is stationary creates different forces on the muscles and joints.

My students Lily and Biji demonstrate one way to do a fun partner leg press. Hold your body (and head) stable.

To do half-squats with or without a partner, it is usually better exercise and balance training without the bench. There is no need for equipment. Instead, use your own muscles to hold up body weight, rather than sitting or touching down to a bench between each raise. The squat is functional - meaning it uses your body the way muscles need for real life. The key is using the half squat for healthy daily bending instead of "bending wrong." Bending over forward unequally weights the discs of the spine. Over years of bad bending, you can accumulate enough small pushes on the discs to begin to break them down and push them outward toward the back. This is the process of disc herniation. It is not a mysterious situation or a disease process. It is simple mechanics. The resulting disc damage, slippage, herniation, is an injury that can heal, usually easily and quickly when you stop the injury process of bad bending during standing, sitting, and lifting.

Posts on functional squatting bending:

Posts explaining disc injury:

Posts on preventing injury when squatting:
Several helpful comments so check those first for questions.

To learn the squat, back-to-back squat, and partner leg press:

Your body needs to practice both kinds of leg resistance to be good at both. Have fun building functional squatting into daily life instead of dong artificial squats in a gym, then bending wrong hurting your discs the rest of your day. Have fun doing leg presses balancing friends and family that move and squirm, instead of ignoring real humans to interact only with artificial stationary gym equipment. Get real fitness with real life.

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.