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Analysis of Muscle Activation During Different Leg Press Exercises at Submaximum Effort Levels

Da Silva, Eduardo Marczwski; Brentano, Michel Arias; Cadore, Eduardo Lusa; De Almeida, Ana Paula Viola; Kruel, Luiz Fernando Martins

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research:
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181739445
Original Research

Da Silva, EM, Brentano, MA, Cadore, EL, De Almeida, APV, and Kruel, LFM. Analysis of muscle activation during different leg press exercises at submaximum effort levels. J Strength Cond Res 22: 1059-1065, 2008-Many studies have analyzed muscle activity during different strength exercises. Although the leg press (LP) is one of the most common exercises performed, there is little evidence of lower limb muscle activity patterns during this exercise and its variations. Thus, this study aimed to verify how mechanical changes and loads affect lower limb muscle activity during the performance of different LP exercises. Fourteen women performed 3 LP exercises: 45° LP (LP45), LP high (LPH), and LP low (LPL) at 40% and 80% of the 1 repetition maximum. The electromyographic activity of the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, gastrocnemius, and gluteus maximus was recorded. Results suggested that mechanical changes affect lower limb muscle activity and that it is related to the load used. At moderate effort levels, the rectus femoris and gastrocnemius were more active during the LP45 and LPL than during the LPH. At a high effort level, the rectus femoris and vastus lateralis (quadriceps) were more active during the LPL than the LPH. Again, the rectus femoris and gastrocnemius were more active during the LP45 and LPL than the LPH. On the other hand, gluteus maximus activity was greater during the LPH than the LPL. This study found that coordination patterns of muscle activity are different when performing LP variations at high or moderate effort levels because of mechanical changes and different loads lifted during the different LP exercises. These results suggest that if the goal is to induce greater rectus femoris and vastus lateralis (quadriceps) activation, the LPL should be performed. On the other hand, if the goal is to induce gluteus maximus activity, the LPH should be performed.

Author Information

Grupo de Pesquisa em Atividades Aquáticas e Terrestres, Laboratory of Exercise Research, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Address correspondence to Eduardo Marczwski da Silva,

© 2008 National Strength and Conditioning Association