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Bad Leg Press Breaks Leg

It had to happen sooner or later. Someone got injured doing a leg press with a load that was way too heavy for him to use. Minor injuries do happen from lifting weights, but this one looked very serious. As near as I can tell, he snapped either his femur or tibia.

The video is no longer up. I bet he was not too happy that it went viral. In any event, I will explain what he did, and what should be done with proper technique.

It looks like he has approximately 1,200 lbs loaded on the machine, which is a lot but it is not unreasonable…if someone is strong enough to lift it with proper form. Clearly he is not.

To get stronger, one does need to lift progressively heavier weights. In truth, everybody has the capability of lifting more weight than they believe they could. Most of us do underestimate how strong we truly can be, and what happened to this guy will make many people apprehensive to train with the proper intensity they need for good results.

So how can you tell how much weight should he be using for maximum stimulation without causing injury?

First of all, he should be using a weight that he can do for a full range of motion without having to use his hands on his knees. Moreover, he should be using a load that he can lift with a smooth and controlled tempo for at least 5 to 6 reps before he reaches fatigue and/or failure.

The fact that he did a very short-range of motion (meaning he barely worked his quadriceps and most likely did not engage his glutes at all) on the first rep spoke volumes about the load simply being too much.

The second glaring issue was the need he had to keep his hands on his knees to do the lift. Trainees underestimate how much help the upper body gives the legs when they do this. This poor guy used his hands so much that his legs really could not lift the weights he had on the machine at all. It was very evident when he wanted to rack the weights after he was done with the set.

We do tell our clients…and all good fitness professionals do as well, to not lock out your knees on the leg press. It can lead to injury, and it looks like that happened in this video, but that is not the reason why his leg folded. His leg buckled because his hands were holding his knee in place, and if you watch the video closely, you can see that his leg buckled as soon as he let go. That is yet another sign that the load was waaay to heavy.

So how much weight should he use for the leg press? By looking at his physical development, I would say that he could safely handle a load in the 700 to 850 lb range, full range of motion with a controlled tempo for the appropriate rep range. That would still be an impressive amount of weight to lift…and he would get stronger without injury.

In contrast to his performance, below is a video of a leg press I did a few years ago. I did it with 1,020 lbs.

You will notice that I never put my hands on my knees…until the final rep to help myself through the fatigue. Furthermore, I did a full range of motion with a smooth and very controlled tempo, and yes, I never locked my knees during the whole set. I was thoroughly cooked at the end of the set, and I never got injured from doing a heavy leg press in my 30 plus years of lifting.

In summation, lifting heavy weights is necessary to get stronger for both men and women, but proper form, as evidenced from the first video, is very important to prevent injury. Using a load that can be done with no help and with a smooth and controlled tempo for a full range of motion for a minimum of 6 to 8 reps before fatigue is a time proven way to go.

Regards,

Gregg Hoffman

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