Squats have long been considered the king of all exercises. No matter how ridiculous that title sounds, they’re looked at as a staple to any single program.
They’re considered such a badass exercise for a reason. Putting the body through a full range of motion squat requires an immense amount of effort, and recruits a ton of muscle. This leads to a high pay off, and an exercise that deserves all the accolades.
But is the squat for everybody? And do you have to do squats to get big legs? And what about squat vs leg press?
Oh shit. Move over Kim K, the internet might break now that we’re asking the hard questions about the squat.
Here’s the truth:
The squat is only an absolute necessity for 1 group of people, those people being powerlifters. The only reason it’s necessary for them is due to the fact the squat is a competition lift.
Olympic lifters use squats, primarily front squats, as an assistance exercise. A ton of athletes in various sports use squat variations like front squats, Bulgarian split squats, and lunges. They all get pretty damn good results.
The squat isn’t 100% necessary to build big legs.
Need a little visual proof? One of the most successful and iconic bodybuilders of all time was famous for not using the squat, Dorian Yates. Yates was famous for his ridiculous back development, and even has a row variation named after him. He was also very well known for speaking about the squat not being for him. Yates had some monster fucking legs.
Before any of fuckboys go talking about how he was a roided up juice monkey, no shit. Of course he was. But so was everyone else, and they all squatted. Yates chose not to, and he built some impressive legs.
Yes, the squat is a kick ass exercise. The muscle recruitment it delivers in the quads, butt, and hamstrings is unmatched. But it also fatigues the upper and lower back muscles relatively quickly.
Therein lies the main issue with the squat. Fatiguing the lower back quickly means that you have to stop squatting before your legs have gotten the necessary training volume that allows you to see gains.
This is where the leg press comes into play:
The leg press can be a fantastic alternative, or addition to a program meant for leg growth. The leg press allows the upper and lower back to rest, and places all the stress and tension on the quads, butt, and hamstrings.
Of course, if someone doesn’t know what they’re doing and goes too low, or lets their lower back round too much– they’re just asking to get a herniated disk. The leg press isn’t completely risk free. But it does have a much easier learning curve, that’s for damn sure.
How to know when the squat isn’t for you:
The squat just doesn’t suit everyone. Some people don’t have the leverages that make the squat a particularly good exercise for them. Those people tend to have really long femurs, the long ass thigh bone.
This is because people with long femurs usually have to bend over far more than normal in order to hit proper depth. They can manage this for a little while, but after a certain point their lower back starts to fatigue, limiting the amount of weight, sets, and reps they can do.
The leg press is a kickass alternative for these people. It allows them to get all the training volume they could want, build massive legs, and not worry about screwing up their lower back with squats that resemble a good morning.
This doesn’t mean you get a pass to never try the squat. If you haven’t put in the time and effort to learn to squat correctly, you may be missing out. If you have put in the time though, and you realize that you just can’t keep your torso relatively upright, then it may be time to ditch the squat.
The best of both worlds:
The best possible argument about the squat vs leg press that exists is this; don’t be an exercise douche, both have their place. Incorporate both into your leg routine and enjoy the benefits.
There are many people who have enjoyed awesome leg development thanks to a program that called for them to squat, and then followed that by having them leg press. Programs like this exist for a reason. They tend to work.
The squat is rightfully called the king of all exercises (though I’m partial to the deadlift myself), but that doesn’t mean everyone has to pay penance to the king. There are plenty of people who can pay their dues the Lord of leg development, the leg press.