Strength, body composition, and functional outcomes in the squat versus leg press exercises

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2018 Mar;58(3):263-270. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.16.06698-6. Epub 2016 Oct 13.


Background: The purpose of this study was to compare strength, body composition, and functional outcome measures following performance of the back squat, leg press, or a combination of the two exercises.

Methods: Subjects were pair-matched based on initial strength levels and then randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: a squat-only group (SQ) that solely performed squats for the lower body; a leg press-only group (LP) that solely performed leg presses for the lower body, or a combined squat and leg press group (SQ-LP) that performed both squats and leg presses for the lower body. All other RT variables were held constant. The study period lasted 10 weeks with subjects performing 2 lower body workouts per week comprising 6 sets per session at loads corresponding to 8-12 RM with 90- to 120-second rest intervals.

Results: Results showed that SQ had greater transfer to maximal squat strength compared to the leg press. Effect sizes favored SQ and SQ-LP versus LP with respect to countermovement jump while greater effect sizes for dynamic balance were noted for SQ-LP and LP compared to SQ, although no statistical differences were noted between conditions.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that both free weights and machines can improve functional outcomes, and that the extent of transfer may be specific to the given task.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition*
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Weight Lifting
  • Young Adult