Are Single Leg Leg Presses Better Than Lunges?

one leg leg press
May 8, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “are single leg leg presses better than lunges?”. Both single leg leg presses and lunges are effective unilateral exercises that will work each leg individually.

Lunges involve more stabilisation than one leg leg presses. This article will explore this question in more detail and will be an informative read.

Are Single Leg Leg Presses Better Than Lunges?

Whether single leg leg presses are better depends on your goals. In terms of overloading the quads, single leg leg presses are better. This is because there isn’t the same balance component as lunges.

You also have unlimited room for progression in terms of adding weight. You will typically be handling around 40-45% of your normal leg press weight on the single leg leg press. It is simply a lot harder and requires time to get accustomed to it.

Lunges are a great exercise for the legs and will involve more glutes and hamstrings. They also require better balance, some people may find due to hip issues that the one leg leg press is better for them.

It is easy to strain an adductor or hip flexor on the lunge, in the same way as it is on the bulgarian split squat. The one leg leg press affords you a bit more control during the range of motion.
one leg leg press

Single Leg Leg Presses Are Great For Overload

Single leg leg presses are fantastic for overloading the muscles of each leg individually. You can concentrate fully throughout the range of motion on working the muscles hard, without having to worry about stability.

You can apply progressive overload incredibly well to single leg leg presses as there is no limit to how heavy you can go. If you are using the 45 degree plate loaded leg press, then it is also more convenient to do single leg leg presses.

This is because you will use far less weight and therefore you won’t be using all the weight plates in the gym. It will be easier to load up the required weight and you won’t inconvenience other gym members when the gym is busy.

Previously we talked about the reasons why people go so heavy on the leg press.

Personally I prefer to do single leg leg presses on a horizontal leg press machine. It is up to you which piece of leg press equipment you use for this exercise.

I find this exercise to be very tough and a lot more taxing on the legs than traditional leg presses. You will also be able to iron out any weaknesses if you have one leg that is weaker than the other.

In the video below, Lee Hayward demonstrates how to do single leg leg presses on the 45 degree leg press. He also explains how this exercise will indirectly work the core slightly more than the standard leg press variation. 

Do You Want To Improve Stability?

If you want to improve stability and this is a bigger focus for you, lunges would be the better exercise. Lunges and bulgarian split squats require a lot more work from the stabiliser muscles to maintain your balance.

You can overload the quads better with the single leg leg press. But in terms of improving your balance and stability, lunges would be a lot more beneficial. Lunges also bring slightly more muscle mass into play.

The glutes and hamstrings tend to be worked harder on the lunge than they are on the one leg leg press. The one leg leg press tends to hit the quads and hamstrings well, but the glutes are not targeted to the same degree.

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Do Lunges Stress Your Hip Flexors?

In terms of single leg leg exercises, the options are typically lunges, bulgarian split squats and one leg leg presses.

I am going to share my own experiences which will help you to inform your own judgment. In my case, I found that lunges and bulgarian split squats put too much stress on my hip flexors and adductors with heavy weight.

Heavy bulgarian split squats tend to carry the risk of putting too much stress on the adductors and hip flexors. There is a big risk of tearing an adductor. 

Whereas with the one leg leg press, I find that I have a lot more control throughout the range of motion. This exercise is safe for me and doesn’t carry the same risks of causing discomfort through the hip musculature.

Therefore, one leg leg presses are a practical and safe way of working your legs unilaterally in a challenging way. You will certainly induce good gains in size and strength, this will carry over to other movements like the standard leg press and squatting movements.


Final Thoughts

Are single leg leg presses better than lunges? Generally, this would depend on each person’s individual experiences. Everyone is built differently and responds to different exercises in a unique way.

Some people may find the one leg leg press a far safer way of training the legs unilaterally than heavy lunges. This is the case for me. I prefer one leg leg presses as I find them very challenging and they overload the muscles really well.

If you prefer lunges then you should stick with them. If you want to share your own thoughts on this topic, please leave them below.

As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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