How To Leg Press Using Your Glutes (6 Tips)

6 tips on how to leg press using your glutes

The leg press can be performed using different leg positions, feet angles, and equipment in order to maximize the recruitment of your glutes.

Here are my 6 tips on how to leg press using your glutes:

Sadly, many lifters fail to implement these tips when trying to target their glutes using the leg press. And if these tips are actually used at all, they’re rarely implemented correctly — leading to inefficient technique, poor use of training time, and less glute development.

In this article, I’ll show you how to avoid these costly mistakes and how you can maximize your glute recruitment on the leg press.

Let’s build some glutes!

Leg Press Overview

the most common type of leg press is the 45-degree leg press

What Is The Leg Press?

If you want my tips for using your glutes more in the leg press, simply scroll down to that section. However, I think it’s important for you to know how the glutes function in the leg press so you understand why my tips will work for you! So let’s start with a brief overview.

The most common type of leg press that you’ll see in a typical commercial gym is the 45-degree leg press.

This version has a solid platform that can maneuver via a 45-degree set of metal tracks on either side of the machine. Usually, weight plates are loaded on the peg sleeves, that are on either side of the machine. 

Once positioned on the seat and backrest with their feet on the platform, the lifter can allow the carriage to descend and push it back up with their legs.

That said, some gyms only have a seated leg press. With this style of machine, the load is only applied in a horizontal plane. 

If the same load is used with both styles of the leg press (say, 100 pounds), then the 45-degree leg press will be harder due to the increased vertical load having to be opposed by the lifter due to gravity.

When both options are available, I’d lean towards using the 45-degree leg press since you can continue using the same machine as you get stronger.

Muscles Used In The Leg Press

muscles used in the leg press

The muscles used in the leg press are: 

• Quadriceps

• Glutes

• Hamstrings

• Calves

Before diving into how to use your glutes during the leg press, here’s a quick summary of how these muscles work during the lift. 

Bringing the platform down towards you while you leg press puts you in a reverse-squat position: your knees and hips are bent, and your knees are pushed outwards.

To return the platform to the top, your quads straighten your knees, and your glutes (along with some of your hamstrings) straighten your hips.

The outer part of your glutes also keep your knees in line with your feet, as your calves help out your quads a bit to help straighten your knees.

Since this article is about how to leg press using your glutes, let’s touch on each of the glutes’ actions in detail.

Check out my other article where I discuss the Leg Press vs Hack Squat, and which is better for your glute muscles.


Glutes In The Leg Press: In-Depth View

3 different actions that the glutes do while you perform the leg press

There are 3 different actions that the glutes do while you perform the leg press:

  • Hip Extension
  • Hip Abduction
  • Hip External Rotation

By emphasizing one or more of these actions during the leg press, you can force your glutes to do more work than they otherwise would.

Glute Action #1: Hip Extension

The first action of the glutes is to perform hip extension.

Basically, this is the act of straightening your hip joint(s) after it’s been in a flexed (bent) position.

Glute Action #2: Hip Abduction

The second action of the glutes is handling hip abduction.

Simply put, this is when your femur (thigh bone) is moved away from your body by lifting it out to the side.

Glute Action #3: Hip External Rotation

The third action of the glutes is carrying out hip external rotation.

Essentially, this is when your femur (thigh bone) is rotated out — making your entire foot point outwards. 

How To Leg Press Using Your Glutes

1. Perform Deeper Reps

perform deeper reps to target your glutes more in the leg press

Remember how action #1 that the glutes perform is hip extension. 

If you force your glutes to complete more hip extension, you’ll be asking them to do more overall work.

By performing deeper reps and reaching greater hip flexion angles, your glutes will have to oppose the increased hip flexion by performing more hip extension.

In fact, a study by Bryanton and colleagues (2012) showed that while the glutes are recruited more with heavier weights, they also respond favourably to increased range of motion. 

How To Do It

  • Step inside the leg press machine and lay on the seat/backrest 
  • Position your feet in the centre of the platform
  • Ensure that your stance is roughly shoulder-width apart
  • Flare your toes out slightly (15-30 degrees) 
  • Sink your reps as deep as possible, as you keep your feet flat on the platform

If you can’t keep your feet on the platform while performing deep reps, then you’ll want to read my article on how to fix your heels from rising while squatting.

Important note: This study was done using the barbell back squat, but we can likely infer similar takeaways for the leg press since it’s a similar squat-pattern movement.

2. Point Your Toes Out More

point your toes out more to target your glutes more in the leg press

Recall how action #3 that the glutes are responsible for is external rotation of the hip joint.

Conducting more external rotation and progressively increasing the weight you are using is another method to target your glutes — the practical solution here for the leg press is to point your toes out more than usual. 

It’s worth noting that Selkowitz and colleagues (2016) found that the upper portion of the gluteus maximus was significantly more active than the lower portion during movements with hip abduction and/or external rotation. 

So, it’s normal to feel the burn more in the top of your glutes than the bottom fibers.

How To Do It

  • Step inside the leg press machine and lay on the seat/backrest 
  • Position your feet in the centre of the platform
  • Ensure that your stance is roughly shoulder-width apart
  • Flare your toes way out (45-60 degrees)
  • Make sure to push your knees out throughout your set

If you can’t keep your knees pointing over your toes when your feet are pointed out, then you’ll want to read my article on how to fix knee valgus while squatting.

3. Widen Your Stance

by setting your stance width wider than usual in the leg press it will significantly recruit greater amounts of gluteal muscle fibers

Remember how action #2 that the glutes carry out is hip abduction. 

Performing additional hip abduction by setting your stance width wider than usual will significantly recruit greater amounts of gluteal muscle fibers. 

Regarding stance width, here’s what a study by Paoli et al (2001) found, “… a large width is necessary for a greater activation of the gluteus maximus during back squats.” And yes, it’s true — the researchers studied back squats, not the leg press. That said, these exercises are still very similar in the muscle groups they activate.

For this reason, you can safely assume that a wider stance on the leg press will help you leg press with your glutes more than a regular stance will.

How To Do It

  • Step inside the leg press machine and lay on the seat/backrest 
  • Position your feet in the centre of the platform
  • Ensure that your stance is roughly shoulder-width apart
  • Flare your toes out slightly (15-30 degrees) 
  • Drive your knees out hard, to keep them in line with your feet

You may also be interested in checking out my article on the Leg Press vs Squats, where I discuss the differences, pros, cons, and muscles worked.

4. Place Your Feet High On Platform

set your feet high up on the platform in the leg press where your toes are just teetering on the edge and you will use more glute muscles

With hip extension being the glutes primary actions, it’s useful to prioritize this action above the others. It’s also (typically) one of the easiest things to implement immediately. 

Instead of placing your feet in the middle of the platform, set them high up on the platform — where your toes are just teetering on the edge. As you descend during your reps, this new stance will result in less forward knee travel and incorporate more hip flexion. 

How To Do It

  • Step inside the leg press machine and lay on the seat/backrest 
  • Position your feet near the top of the platform, with your toes almost at the platform’s edge
  • Ensure that your stance is roughly shoulder-width apart
  • Flare your toes out slightly (15-30 degrees) 
  • Keep your shins as straight as possible as you complete your set

There are actually 5 different foot placements for leg press that you can use to target your lower body in various ways. 

5. Perform Side Lying Leg Presses

perform side lying leg presses to target your glutes more

As the hip musculature’s primary function is hip extension, seeking out ways to increase the range of motion of the leg press is a fantastic way to use your glutes more.


A simple method to accomplish this is to perform the side lying leg press: where you lay the side of your body against the back pad and use one leg to leg press instead of two.

For this variation, you’ll almost certainly end up in deeper hip flexion, requiring more work from your glutes to extend your hip. In addition, the stability requirement of this unilateral (one side at a time) exercise will increase glute recruitment even further.

When Boudreau et al (2009) compared the step-up-and-over, the lunge, and the single leg squat, the latter resulted in the greatest activation of the gluteus maximus and the glute medius. 

Although there are some key differences between the single leg squat (typically called the “pistol squat”) and the single leg leg press, a fully unilateral exercise clearly plays a pivotal role in glute recruitment.

How To Do It

  • Step inside the leg press machine and lay your side on the seat/backrest 
  • Position a single foot in the centre of the platform, facing sideways
  • Ensure that you lift your knee slightly upwards to keep it in line with your foot
  • Flare your toes up slightly (about 15 degrees) 
  • Push through your heel, and switch sides once complete

Note on machine type: For this variation, it’s best to use a seated leg press. You’ll find it much more comfortable and natural than a 45-degree leg press.

6. Use A Glute Band

place a glute band around your knees to target your glutes more during the leg press

For this tip, you’ll place a glute band around your knees.

There are many glute band variations that you can use, but these ones are likely the most common ones that you’ll find at your average commercial gym (click here to check today’s price on Amazon).

This equipment piece makes your glutes work harder because they try to force your knees inwards (hip adduction). To counter this, and avoid leg pressing inefficiently, you have to consistently perform hip abduction by driving your knees outwards throughout the entire movement.

How To Do It

  • Step inside the leg press machine
  • Put glute band around your thighs, just above your knees
  • Position your feet in the centre of the platform
  • Flare your toes outwards slightly (15-30 degrees)
  • Throughout the movement, drive your knees outwards hard

Quick note: I personally dislike the rubber glute bands shown above, and much prefer the Hip Circle: it’s much thicker, longer-lasting, and slides on and off much easier (you can use the fabric slide to adjust its position, and flip it down when you want the grip to keep it stationary). Here’s the Amazon link for the Hip Circle.

Final Thoughts

Leg pressing with your glutes can be accomplished with just a few small adjustments to your body position, foot placement or by using some extra equipment.

You can widen your stance, or point your toes out more than usual.

You can place your feet high up on the platform, or perform the exercise with one leg only while laying on your side.

You can also put on a glute band to encourage extra hip abduction during the entire movement.

Above all, remember to always sink your reps deep in order to encourage your glutes to work to their full capacity.

There are many exercises similar to the leg press that target the glutes.  Check out my article on the 9 Best Leg Press Alternatives.  


About The Author

Kent Nilson

Kent Nilson is an online strength coach, residing in Calgary (AB). When he’s not training, coaching, or volunteering on the platform at powerlifting meets, you’ll likely find Kent drinking coffee or enjoying his next Eggs Benedict. Connect with him on Facebook or Instagram.