Does the leg press machine burn calories?

The leg press machine is a popular exercise machine found in most gyms. It involves pushing a weight away from your body using your legs. This exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Many people utilize the leg press machine to build lower body strength and muscle mass. But does using the leg press machine actually burn a significant number of calories?

Quick answer

Yes, the leg press machine does burn calories. However, the exact number of calories burned will vary based on the weight used, number of reps/sets performed, and your body weight.

How many calories does the leg press machine burn?

The number of calories burned while using the leg press machine will depend on a few key factors:

  • Your body weight – Heavier individuals generally burn more calories than lighter individuals
  • The amount of weight being pressed – Using heavier weight burns more calories
  • Number of repetitions and sets – More reps and sets burn more calories
  • Intensity – Pressing the weight faster and more explosively burns more calories

Based on research, here are some general estimates for calories burned using the leg press machine:

Your Weight Calories Burned (3 sets x 10 reps)
120 lbs 58
150 lbs 72
180 lbs 87
210 lbs 101

As you can see, the more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn performing the same leg press workout. Additionally, using heavier weight, completing more reps/sets, and pressing explosively will all boost calories burned.

How does the leg press burn calories?

The leg press burns calories by utilizing large muscle groups in the lower body. Pushing the weight engages the quads, hamstrings and glutes. The bigger the muscle that is worked, the more calories that are burned. These large muscles need energy to contract and push the weight. This energy comes from burning calories.

Additionally, the leg press requires stabilization from the core and upper body. Staying tight and balanced on the machine engages several additional muscle groups, resulting in more calories burned.

The leg press is considered a compound exercise, meaning it works multiple muscle groups at once. Compound exercises tend to burn more calories than isolation exercises that only work one muscle at a time.

Benefits of the leg press for calorie burn

Here are some of the top benefits of using the leg press machine for burning calories:

  • Works major lower body muscles – Hits the large quads, hamstrings and glutes that require lots of energy (calories) to move the weight.
  • Can use heavy weight safely – More weight means more resistance and more calories burned.
  • Easy to perform high reps – Rep ranges of 8-20 reps are ideal for calorie burn and can be performed safely compared to squats.
  • Incorporates compound movement – Using multiple large muscle groups equals greater calorie burn.
  • Engages core and upper body secondarily – Stabilizing yourself on the machine burns extra calories.
  • Lower impact than free weights – Allows you to perform more reps with heavier weight than squats or lunges.

Maximizing calorie burn on the leg press

Here are some tips to get the most out of your leg press workout for burning calories:

  • Use heavier weights – Go as heavy as you can while maintaining proper form. This provides more resistance to burn extra calories.
  • Perform fast, explosive reps – Pushing the weight quickly engages fast twitch muscle fibers which use more energy.
  • Do higher rep ranges – 10-20 reps per set is ideal for calorie burn. Short rest periods between sets burns extra calories too.
  • Use a full range of motion – Go for a deep stretch at the bottom and full lockout at the top to work the muscles through their entire range.
  • Add in drop sets – Immediately reduce the weight after your work sets and crank out additional reps to torch calories.
  • Work larger muscle groups first – Do leg press before smaller isolation exercises so you have more energy.

Sample leg press workout for calorie burn

Here is a sample leg press workout that focuses on maximizing calorie burn:

Workout A

  • Leg Press – 4 sets x 15-20 reps
  • Bodyweight Walking Lunges – 3 sets x 20 reps each leg
  • Seated Leg Curls – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Calf Press On Leg Press Machine – 5 sets x 15 reps

Workout B

  • Leg Press – 5 sets x 8-12 reps (increasing weight each set)
  • Dumbbell Step Ups – 4 sets x 12-15 reps each leg
  • Leg Extensions – 3 sets x 15-20 reps
  • Seated Calf Raises – 5 sets x 12 reps

This sample workout uses a variety of rep ranges from higher reps for intensity and metabolic burn to lower reps with heavier weights for maximum resistance. The mix of compound leg press along with isolation exercises will torch calories.

Leg press calorie burn vs. other exercises

How does calorie burn from the leg press compare to other common lower body exercises? Here is a general comparison:

Exercise Calories Burned (30 minutes)
Leg Press 120-150
Squats 135-165
Lunges 140-170
Deadlifts 155-185

As you can see, leg press calorie expenditure is relatively comparable to squats and lunges. Deadlifts tend to burn the most calories, likely because they work the upper body significantly too.

That said, the leg press has the advantage that you can go heavier and perform more reps versus squats and lunges. So if you push yourself, you could potentially burn just as many or more calories than these exercises.

Does lighter weight with more reps burn more calories?

A common question is whether lighter weight and higher reps burns more calories than heavy weight and lower reps. Research has looked into this question. Here’s what the science says:

  • Moderate weight and moderate reps (10-15 reps) burns more calories than very light or very heavy weights.
  • Your 1 rep max lifted for 5 reps burns about 10% more calories than 70% of 1 rep max lifted for 15 reps.
  • In trained lifters, heavy weight and lower reps (5-8) burns slightly more calories than moderate weight and moderate reps (10-15).

The takeaway is that for maximum calorie burn, the best approach is a mix of heavy compound exercises with moderate weight and reps. Straight high rep workouts with light weights don’t maximize caloric expenditure.

Leg press alternatives

While the leg press is excellent for burning calories, it’s not absolutely mandatory. Here are some solid alternatives you can use:

  • Barbell back squat – Traditional squats are metabolically demanding and work the same muscles.
  • Dumbbell lunges – Dumbbell lunges target the same lower body muscles with high calorie burn.
  • Leg press machine alternatives – Hack squat, pendulum squat, and belt squat machines mimic leg press.
  • Deadlifts – Conventional or sumo deadlifts work the posterior chain hard for high calorie burn.
  • Kettlebell swings – Explosive hip extension movement that burns calories intensively.

Any exercise that works the major lower body muscles through a large range of motion under heavy loads will provide similar calorie burning effects as the leg press. Mix up your exercises for variety.

Nutrition tips to maximize calorie burn

To get the most fat burning and calorie burning benefits from leg press workouts, you need proper nutrition. Here are some top nutrition tips:

  • Eat in a calorie deficit – To see fat loss results, you need to burn more calories than you consume.
  • Get adequate protein – Protein helps maintain and build metabolic muscle which burns more calories at rest.
  • Consume pre-workout carbs – Carbs provide energy for intense leg press workouts that burn lots of calories.
  • Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water before, during and after workouts to perform at your best.
  • Avoid excess alcohol – Alcohol provides empty calories and can impair workout performance and recovery.

Nutrition and training go hand-in-hand. Make sure your diet supports your calorie burning goals from leg press workouts for maximum results.


The leg press machine provides an excellent way to burn calories by working all the major lower body muscle groups. The amount of calories burned will depend on your body weight, amount of weight pushed, number of reps/sets, and intensity.

To burn the most calories on the leg press focus on using heavy weights, performing fast reps, and incorporating high rep sets. Combine the leg press with other compound lower body exercises and pay close attention to your nutrition habits. This full workout and diet regimen will help you torch the most calories and fat from your leg days.

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