What’s great about a vertical leg press machine is how you can get a killer quad workout in such a small area. For example, our top pick, the Titan Fitness Vertical Leg Press only has a 48″ by 38″ footprint.
But with the different features, builds, and price points, which overhead machine is right for you? Well, we did the research and found the top models so you don’t have to.
Keep reading because you’re about to discover the 3 best vertical leg press machines we found to add to your home gym.
What to Look for with Upright Leg Press Machines
Before we get into the machine picks, it’s important for you to understand how I came up with these choices for vertical leg press machines that you should buy. Here’s how I broke it down.
If you’re going to literally have weight pushing your body into the ground from overhead, you need to make sure your equipment is built well. I tried to focus on machines built with very solid steel frames that are durable for long-term use. So even if you do a lot of pressing, you can feel safe sitting underneath all that weight over and over again while looking upward.
This might sound dumb, but who wants to spend a lot of time upside down having heavy weight pressed on them if it’s uncomfortable? Not me.
These sorts of machines tend to have cushioned back pads and head rests, but they’re not always built in the correct ergonomic placement that makes them comfortable. Make sure that the machine you pick is built for comfort with adequate lumbar support.
I can’t just gloss over this point. Machines like this are not typically considered “cheap”. That’s why you need to make sure the price matches the benefits delivered.
Some of these 90 degree leg press machines are rickety and unstable and cost an arm and a leg to add to your home gym. We want to ensure that the equipment you get isn’t a big metal pig with lipstick.
3 Best Vertical Leg Press Machines Reviewed
Titan Fitness Vertical Leg Press
When it comes to isolating your lower body with a solid piece of equipment, you can’t go wrong with the Titan Fitness Vertical Leg Press. Because of its solid steel design and dual post construction, you know that this machine was built to be used repeatedly as you increase the size of your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
The adjustable footplate makes comfort a top priority since it’s easy to accommodate your height. Plus, there are nice hand grips to stabilize you as you press the weight upward.
Even though this is a great machine, it can be a little complicated to assemble so give yourself some time to put it together. Additionally, it only comes in one color. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it stinks if you thought you were going to match your leg press to your pink toilet.
- Heavy-duty construction
- Adjustable for height
- Comfortable hand grips
- Can be complicated to assemble
- One color option
Body-Solid Powerline PVLP156X Vertical Leg Press
If you’re looking for a leg press machine that’s gaining popularity due to its high-quality, then the Body-Solid Powerline PVLP156X Vertical Leg Press is a good choice. Its powder-coated finish and 400lb weight capacity make this a strong piece of equipment even though it sits in a small space.
It has 3 pin lock settings near the base so you can adjust the starting position to match your limb lengths. And when you’re lying upside down, your back and head will be fully supported thanks to back and head pads.
Like many of these kinds of machines, assembly is slow. It’s been reported to take up to 2.5 hours to put together (yikes). Also, it’s a little squeaky when you’re working out, but that’s no big deal if you have your headphones on and your music cranked.
- Can hold lots of weight overhead
- Adjustable to height
- Comfortable head and back support
- No hand grips
- Take a long time to assemble
- Can be squeaky during use
Valor Fitness CC-10 Home Gym Vertical Leg Press Machine
For fitness enthusiasts that are looking for an upward leg press machine that could rival commercial equipment, the Valor Fitness CC-10 Home Gym Vertical Leg Press Machine could be a reliable option. It’s constructed using 2” x 2” solid steel and can hold up to 500lbs on the weight pins making it last quite a long time as you get stronger.
There are 4 pin locks near the base so you can adjust the reach to accommodate your long (or short) legs and the comfortable hand grips provide a little more leverage as you press out each rep. Without those, you’d have to just hold onto the steel poles, which isn’t that great.
One drawback is the footplate is very thin so there could be a tendency to lose your footing if you’re not careful. Just make sure to wear actual cross training shoes with reliable grip to avoid an accident. As with most of these machines, assembly is long and somewhat complicated.
- For both beginner and intermediates since it holds 500lbs
- Accommodates short and tall people
- Comfortable hand grips
- Very thin footplate
- Assembly is long and complicated
And the Best Overhead Leg Press is…
I gotta be honest. With these machines being so similar in build, features, and customer reviews, it was difficult to pick a winner. However, I did the “tough” work and narrowed it down.
- Heavy duty construction
- Adjustable for height
- Comfortable hand grips
For the top vertical leg press machine, I chose the Titan Fitness Vertical Leg Press. It has a heavy duty construction, comfortable hand grips, a reasonably small footprint, and adjustable pin locks that make it a really high quality product. I don’t think you can go wrong, but don’t take my word for it. With an investment of this size, it’s best to do your own research and compare reviews from real customers to get the full picture.
7 Undeniable Vertical Leg Press Benefits
1. The Vertical Leg Press Targets Specific Muscles
The leg press is all about the quads, with additional benefit in the glutes and hamstrings. The vertical leg press can isolate the quads and make them use as much force as possible. By forcing the quads to bear the load of the weight as you lie upside down, it helps you tax the muscles of your thighs, breaking them down and building them up stronger than before.
The fixed movement of the overhead vertical leg press doesn’t require the stabilizing muscles, which are usually the weak link that limits the amount of weight that you can move during a squat. So, you can lift heavy in the safest possible way to maximize muscle growth. You can also adjust the weight you are lifting very quickly.
2. You Can Change the Focus to the Glutes
Changing the position of your feet on the vertical leg press will isolate different muscles, as different stances target specific muscle groups more intensely. A narrow stance requires strong use of the quadriceps while a wider stance will put more emphasis on the inner thigh muscles.
Vertical leg presses also have the potential to strongly work the glutes. There is significantly more leg and hip flexion on the vertical leg press machine versus a standard squat since you’re pressing upward.
According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the greater the depth, or flexion, of a squat, the greater the activation of the glutes so this is one of the vertical leg press benefits to pay attention to.
3. They’re Great for Beginners
Movement in a fixed pattern on resistance machines like the vertical leg press are great for beginners. This exercise helps you master the correct movement pattern in a safe way before moving on to more advanced moves like barbell or dumbbell leg lifts.
4. Leg Presses Can Help You Lose Fat
Many people who are new to weightlifting don’t just want to build muscle, they also want to trim the fat. Vertical leg presses are an effective fat-loss tool because you can load up the weight just under your 10-rep max, and then do leg press Tabatas.
Tabatas are doing as many reps as possible in 20 seconds, then taking a 10-second break.
You repeat this eight times, and you can push yourself without worrying about form because the machine is on a set path.
5. They Give You Extra Support
The 90-degree leg press is the perfect guide to proper leg and back positioning while working your quads. Most leg press machines have a padded backrest which promote proper posture while supporting your back at the same time.
This greatly reduces your chance of injury because you are less likely to be in the wrong position (even if it is upside down). And, it makes it ideal for someone who is recovering from an injury or who suffers from back problems.
During a barbell squat, your back must support the entire load you’re lifting. Even during an angled leg press, some people have the tendency to engage their back muscles. The horizontal position of your back during a vertical leg press allows you to keep your back almost completely relaxed during the exercise.
6. Working Around Injury
When you use a vertical leg press, your back is sitting against the floor and your legs are straight up in the air. Your body is bent at a 90-degree angle in the midsection, and your legs are pressed up against a plate. The weight is on top, and when you press the weight upward, you straighten the knees.
If you are injured in the neck, shoulders, or back, you can still do the vertical leg press because your upper body isn’t holding any weight and there is no stress. You can also work one leg at a time and reduce the amount of pressure on your upper body even more, while still working your leg muscles.
This can’t happen with a back squat because all of the weight is resting on the shoulders, back, and neck.
To work your legs hard on the vertical leg press, you should be loading up the weight and aiming for a high-rep count. Working your lower body with a machine like the vertical leg press gives you a lot more room to fail simply because it’s safer. Pushing to failure on a leg press machine means you can increase the weight without feeling like you are in danger.
When you hit muscle failure, you have hit the point where your muscles can’t contract anymore. If you are doing squats with free weights, you either need a spotter or you will have to ditch the weight in the middle of your rep. On the leg press, there is a safety catch to stop the machine.
A vertical leg press machine can be used without a spotter, and this allows you the freedom to work out alone at home or avoid having to ask someone to help you out at the gym. You can use the vertical leg press machine to lift as heavy as you want, and you are able to re-rack the weight yourself.
Vertical Leg Press Form Tips
- Even though most vertical leg press machines should have safety pins to prevent the weight from crushing you, it’s advised to perform this exercise with a spotter near by.
- Always be mindful of your lower back and focus on keeping it pressed to the back pad so it doesn’t lift up during the movement.
- Focusing on driving the weight up with your midfoot so you evenly distribute the weight across your foot.
- Never load the machine up with a weight that you’re not 100% sure you can lift.
- Even though this appears to be a simple exercise, make sure to warm up your legs, lower back, and hips with some dynamic stretches and mobility work first.
How Do You Do the Vertical Leg Press?
- Set the stop position on the vertical leg press so when you’re lying in place, your knees touch your ribcage.
- Lie down on the back pad and place your feet centered on the footplate at about shoulder width.
- Grab onto the hand grips and flex your abs.
- After taking a deep breath, drive the weight up with your legs as you exhale.
- To prevent injury, don’t lock your knees at the top.
- Allow the bar to come back down in a slow and controlled manner to the starting position.
Vertical Leg Press vs Horizontal Leg Press (Is It Better?)
There are three main differences between the vertical and horizontal leg press you should consider before buying either. First, the vertical leg press requires less space to store. So if you have a tight room for your equipment, vertical is a better option.
Second, it’s easier to get in and out of a horizontal leg press since you’re sitting somewhat upright and there are typically more handles and supports you can grab to shift your weight. If you’re not as mobile or able to orient yourself easily into the lying position with your feet in the air, horizontal is something to consider.
Finally, the vertical leg press is harder than the horizontal leg press because the weight is positioned overhead, with you sort-of upside down, directly fighting against gravity instead of at a 45 degree (or less) angle. This means you don’t need to use as much weight to stimulate your quads to the same extent as you would on a horizontal leg press.
Vertical Leg Press vs the Squat
If you don’t have access to a vertical leg press (or any leg press for that matter), barbell squats are considered the obvious alternative, but what’s the difference?
First, the vertical leg press doesn’t require as much technical form know-how and practice to perform as the squat. If you want to do a leg press, you just lie down on the machine and go! But if you want to squat, you need to make sure you understand the mechanics, the correct bar path as your body moves from one position to the other, and a number of mental queues that will help you perform the exercise more effectively.
Second, upside down leg presses are typically less dangerous than barbell squats. Yes, you run the chance of injuring your knees by locking out at the top if the weight is too heavy, but because squats require so much technical knowledge, there are multiple points in which it’s easy to cause injury to your legs as well as your lower back.
Third, the vertical leg press doesn’t work as many muscles as the squat. Yes, they both work the major leg muscles like quads, hamstrings, and glutes, but the squat is often regarded as a full-body exercise since it does a decent job of working your abs and lower back too.
Vertical Leg Press on the Smith Machine
If your gym doesn’t have a vertical leg press, you can get the same benefits using a smith machine. They both work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, and the setup and movement are basically the same since the smith machine operates on a track. Plus, you can perform a single leg version if you want to isolate each quad.
Here’s how to do it.
- Lock the smith machine bar on the safeties about 2-3 feet off the ground or appropriate to your height.
- Load the bar with the weight you intend to use.
- Lie underneath the bar, lift up your legs, and place the middle of your feet on the bar. This is your starting position.
- Activate your quads and press the bar upward until your legs are extended, but not locked.
- Pause briefly at the top.
- Bend your knees and slowly return the weight to the starting position.
Vertical Leg Press Alternatives
If you don’t have access to a vertical leg press machine, a seated leg press machine will do. But if either of these machines are out of reach, here are a few alternatives that work the same muscle groups.
- Leg press with resistance bands
- Weighted step-ups
- Weighted lunges
- Smith machine squats
- Bulgarian split squats
- Hip thrusts
Is Vertical Leg Press Bad For Your Back?
Vertical leg press is not bad for your back, as long as it’s done correctly. Most people hurt their back because they lower the weight too far and allow their lower back to rise up from the pad creating an unnatural pelvis rotation. Don’t lower the weight so far down and there’s no problem.