Strength Testing with the Leg Press

assessment Feb 15, 2018

Why Perform Strength Testing?

Muscle strength is the foundation of human movement and of vital importance regardless of age or activity level. Assessing muscle strength has often been part of any health and fitness professionals assessment process, whether to identify deficiencies or imbalances that may predispose to injury or pathology or to set strength baselines for fitness professionals looking to improve conditioning through a training program.

Typically many health professionals have used manual muscle testing techniques and rating muscle strength on the Oxford Scale of 1-5 to measure muscle strength in their patients and clients.

Why Use A Leg Press For Lower Limb Strength Testing?

One of the problems with measuring strength using manual muscle testing techniques is that it has many limitations including. Cuthbert et al 2007 identified issues including:

  • Poor relevance to everyday function.
  • Non-linearity i.e. the difference between grades 3 and 4 is not necessarily the same as the difference between grades 4 and 5.
  • It may be easily effected due to fatigue
  • Intra-rater reliability.

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 in a manner that is controlled a requires little training experience from the person being assessed.

How To Perform A Single Leg Press Strength Test

The subject is typically seated, either horizontally or at a fixed angle, and is required to push a footplate loaded with additional weight through a set range of motion using their lower limbs for a given number of repetitions.

Following an 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).

What To Do With The Data?

Collecting such data allows clinicians to determine whether the client has deficiencies in strength based on known references or whether there is a relevant imbalance from side to side.

This information can then be used to determine whether an athlete is ready to return to sport, whether an individual has the physical capacity to withstand forces required in certain activities such as when running and in the assessment of whether a training plan is showing progress towards an individual's goals.

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)

Are you using Single Leg Press Strength Testing with your patients and clients?

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