Alternatives to leg presses

For building muscle, which you sooner or later need more of to be stronger, you need to either lift very heavy weights and come close to failure or do as many reps as needed with light weights to reach absolute failure.

Failure with heavy weights is easier than failure with light weights. After 15-20 reps your mind and lungs start to hurt, while the goal is to make the muscles hurt. If you give up before the muscles give up, you haven’t accomplished your goal with that set.

So, rep interval is of less interest - what’s important is going to failure with fairly heavy weights (1-50 reps maybe). It’s all about different methods of overloading your muscles.

Podcast 190 went into deep detail about strength training. Two things that Coach Chad said that stood out to me were:

High tempo exercises cultivate sprint power. Use weights that you can move quickly. Explosions of lighter weight (weight you can move 70-80 times in 1 minute).

Muscle size correlates to time under tension
Minimize time under tension (heavier weights w/ lower reps)

When I first started strength training I started on machines and my reps were high. I bulked up fast. As cyclists we don’t necessarily want this. So I have backed off the reps from 20 to 7-10 while simultaneously switching to free weights. Without mechanical advantage my weight dropped significantly.

Interesting I have not heard this before. Makes sense though. Would you recommend floor to the top of the pedal stroke or crank length x2 to calculate the height?

I learned this from one of our club’s elite P/1 racers (who is also a coach): The height of the box will be from the power position of your pedal stroke (your quad will be approximately parallel to the ground when on the box). For me (I’m 5’7") and I know that height doesn’t dictate femur length, it’s about 16inches so I use an 18in box and step up from a 2in platform.

When you start doing box step ups, you may want to learn on a 12in box; 1st with no weight, then adding weight. Form is critical. Stay completely upright and look forward. I also add (a strength coach taught me this): after you step up with the foot doing the work, then raise the other knee as if you are marching keeping form in tact - it will force you to drive your working foot into the box, not get lazy and maximize the effort. The routine I like is doing ladders: starting out with lighter weights and increase over 3 or 4 sets of 12-15 on each leg. It works!

Yeh, form first. A little more than 15 years ago I started with a strength coach - a lady who was a very knowledgeable multidisciplinary athlete (hiking, rock climbing, cycling) - and spent a lot of time on form and light weights before progressing. Full body work, mostly free weights, little in the use of machines.

This is one area I think Coach Chad should consider modifying his recommendation of heavy weights, fewer reps for gains. It may be a good recommendation for young fit folks who have a background in strength training, but not for either those new to strength training or older folks. I’m 61 and regularly setting PRs on many strength routines rivaling many young folks using 10-12 reps on most routines and some 15. Could I push more weight on fewer reps? Sure. But at what risk?

I have to say initially it was a bit hard to keep my own ego in check when it came to deciding to do exercises with lower weights for the next workout. Especially when you are surrounded by beefcakes who look like they came straight from a protein shake commercial. :sweat_smile:

Thank you for explaining. To clarify this bit:

Another way of putting it would be to ensure there is a 90° bend in your knees. If the box is too high than your knee angle would be acute, which is a problem. Correct?

I’m going to take a closer look at this next session. Thanks again :smiley:

Yes, exactly! There are 2 reasons for restricting the height to 90° bend:

  1. Minimize risk of injury to the knee (similar to discussion of deep squats, a.k.a. “deep knee bends” - you can google and read the controversy)
  2. Power: once you learn proper form (again, super critical to get right first - i do all them at the gym in front of a mirror), then you will be able to drive much more power into the platform (i.e. carry heavier weight) than if your knee angle was acute.
1 Like

I tried some pistol squats yesterday, and it isn’t easy. I didn’t realize that my weak knee was that much less stable than my good knee (even though the weak knee is attached to the strong leg). I didn’t go down nearly as far as Coach Chad and I was mostly concentrating on keeping my balance rather than strength. I’ll try some of other variations you guys suggested next time I am in the gym.