Squat Or Leg Press: Which Wins?
Squats and leg press are probably the two best mass builders for legs, perhaps we can add hack squats in there as well. The main reasons why these exercises win when it comes to building size is the global trauma they are able to deliver, punching the target muscle fibers harder than anything else. Due to the leverage you are able to gain using these exercises, it is possible to become very strong on both movements which support progressive overload.
To be clear, both squats and leg press enable you to stimulate a great deal of high threshold motor unit which in turn leads to high levels of muscle fiber recruitment.
The question is, should you spend more time on the leg press or in the squat rack?
Leg Press Overview
Leg pressing is my favorite compound exercise for legs, my biomechanics really work with this movement. Whether I am going all out in the 8-12 rep range with super heavy weight, or hitting 50 repetitions as part of a DTP workout, leg pressing is a fundamental part of my leg training.
The biggest benefit over squatting is the fact there is less risk because the machine partially dictates your form. For sure, people still use bad form on the leg press and it is entirely possible to injure yourself. However, if you use controlled rep tempo, avoid locking out your knees and use the right range of motion I think it is a safer option for a lot of people. Especially for those who are not educated on movement patterns.
Lower back tightness, partially caused by poor hip flexor mobility can cause the lower back to round when leg pressing so ensure you watch this. You shouldn't lower the weight so far that your lower back begins to round, this puts your spine under excessive stress!
Squats are a more complicated exercise when compared to leg pressing, if you are able to get it right then it's an extremely effective exercise. Some people become fixated by depth on squats, to the point they round their back and put excessive amounts of strain on the knees.
Instead, my preference is to use slower negatives and just keep tension on the thighs - this requires less weight, but the impact can be just as significant! Years ago I did go very heavy, working my way up to 7 plate squats.
Some people will find as they squat their ankles lift off the ground, this is due to dorsiflexion deficit - essentially, your Achilles Tendon is very tight. The solution is to put small plates under the heels, hitting depth becomes attainable then. Longer term, work on ankle mobility so you're able to remedy this without elevating the heels.
Both exercises are great and whenever possible, I like to include them frequently in the Health Kik workout programs because there is no doubt about it, they accelerate progress. Due to the extensive impact they have on the body, they also help burn more calories and stimulate anabolic hormone production. The benefits extend beyond gains in leg size alone!