Strength Testing with the Leg Press

assessment Feb 15, 2018

Muscle strength is the foundation of human movement and of vital importance regardless of age or activity level. Lower limb strength is especially important in providing a stable base from which to move, with the gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves playing pivotal roles. The leg press is a compound exercise designed to target each of these muscle groups and can be used in the assessment of lower limb strength.

The subject is typically seated, either horizontally or at a fixed angle, and is required to push a foot plate loaded with additional weight using their lower limbs for a given number of repetitions. Collecting such data allows clinicians to determine whether an athlete is ready to return to sport, whether an individual has the physical capacity to withstand forces greater than bodyweight such as when running, and in the assessment and efficacy of clinical intervention methods and risk of injury or re-injury.

Following adequate warm-up, leg press strength testing may begin with setting a load equivalent to approximately the individual’s one-repetition maximum, increasing the load by 2.5-5% thereafter with each successful repetition until failure is reached (Verdijk, van Loon, Meijer, & Savelberg, 2009).

Studies have reported the following:

  • Quadriceps strength deficits in ACL reconstructed limbs averaging 23%, 6-12 months post-surgery, increasing the risk of injury and re-injury due to a shift in forces transferred to joints other than the knee (Lepley, 2015)
  • Accelerated rates of patellofemoral osteoarthritis one year post-ACL reconstruction (Culvenor et al., 2016)
  • Recommendation that runners be able to leg press a minimum of 1.5 times bodyweight for 10 repetitions bilaterally, and greater than 2 times bodyweight for 10 repetitions unilaterally (Cleather, Goodwin, & Bull, 2013)
  • Recommendation that leg press differences between sides be within 5% (Cleather, Goodwin, & Bull, 2013)

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