While the leg press is a safe exercise, it can hurt your lower back if not done correctly.
In this article, I explain why this exercise can be problematic for your lower back, how to reduce lower back pain when doing leg press, and more!
Leg Press Lower Back Pain (5 Causes)
There are 5 common reasons why you suffer lower back pain from leg press:
- Lifting Your Lower Back Off The Bench
- Too Big A Range Of Motion
- Weak Core Muscles
- Too High Feet Position
- Lifting Too Heavy
Let’s explore these in more detail.
Lifting Your Lower Back Off The Bench
One of the most common causes of lower back pain from leg press is lifting your lower back off the bench.
When you do this, the intervertebral disks are compressed by the force of the weight which can lead to pinched nerve roots down your lower spine.
This can result in severe lower back pain.
Too Big A Range Of Motion
Many people use a large range of motion when doing leg press to put as much tension on their quads as possible.
But by doing so, your buttocks and lower back are forced to lift up to allow your pelvis to rotate.
This flattens the lumbar spine, which is naturally curved, resulting in a sore lower back.
Weak Core Muscles
Your lower back and core muscles tend to work together to help stabilize your spine and posture in pretty much every compound exercise, like leg press.
But if one of these muscles are weak, then the other must take more of the load.
So, if you do leg press with weak core muscles, then more pressure is placed on your lower back, which can cause pain if too much pressure is exerted.
Too High Feet Position
I often see people do the leg press with their feet placed high on the machine.
But by having a high foot position, your pelvis becomes a lot more involved in the exercise than it naturally should, which can make your lower back vulnerable.
Any time your lower back is put under pressure of a heavy weight when it’s vulnerable can result in soreness.
Lifting Too Heavy
Since leg press is seen as a less risky alternative to squats, many people think it’s a good idea to ramp up the weight.
But this can be a recipe for disaster.
The more weight you lift, the more likely it is for your form and technique to go out the window.
And when your form isn’t right, your lower back becomes vulnerable.
This, combined with lifting a heavy weight can put immense pressure on your lower spine, resulting in tremendous pain.
How To Fix Lower Back Pain From Leg Press
Keep Your Lower Back Against The Bench
As you now know, arching your lower back during bench press is one of the worst things you can do.
You want to keep your lower back against the bench and as straight as possible throughout the full range of motion of the exercise.
Start of with a light weight to get a feel for it, then slowly increase the weight whilst maintaining correct posture.
Reduce The Range Of Motion
Another useful way of aligning your lower back with the leg press machine is to limit your range of motion.
On the eccentric part of the rep, your thighs should be perpendicular (i.e., at 90 degrees) to the floor before flexing your quads back to the top of the movement.
This ensures that your legs still benefit from the exercise without putting too much pressure on your pelvis and lower spine.
Brace Your Core Muscles
As covered earlier, your core and lower back work together to maintain posture.
By bracing your core muscles, they’ll be able to handle more of the load, taking some of the weight off your lower back.
Wear A Lifting Belt
This is a simple hack to keep more pressure on your core and away from your lower back!
Lower Your Feet Position
By lowering your feet position, your knees become more involved in the exercise, rather than your pelvis.
This will also help keep the tension in your quadriceps.
Lower The Weight
Forget about ego lifting.
Aim for a weight where you can do at least 12 repetitions with perfect form, then slowly increase it from there.
Less weight means less opportunity to damage your lower spine.
Can You Do Leg Press If You Have Lower Back Pain?
This depends on how severe your lower back pain is and why you have lower back pain in the first place.
If the pain is mild and is caused by fatigue from exercising, then you should be able to do leg press as long as you lift a sensible weight with the correct technique.
Whereas, if the pain is severe and is caused by injury, then you should rest up and wait for it to fully recover before attempting any exercise that can further aggravate the injury.
If you’re unsure, then speak to your medical professional who will advise the best course of action for your symptoms.
Are Leg Presses Bad For Lower Back?
Leg presses aren’t necessarily bad for your lower back, but they can put your lower back in a vulnerable position if you don’t do them correctly.
This is why it’s super important to use the correct technique and a weight that’s suitable to your current fitness levels.
It can be frustrating when the leg press hurts your lower back. Thankfully, there are many easy solutions:
- Keep your lower back against the bench
- Reduce the range of motion
- Brace your muscles
- Wear a lifting belt
- Lower your feet position
- Lower the weight
Thanks for reading!
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.