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John Robert Cardillo

John Robert Cardillo

John travelled the world to learn the best training and nutrition principles and trained alongside top pro bodybuilders at Gold's Gym California. He was a student of Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus and Medx Fitness machines, and the pioneer of hi-intensity training. John developed the HIT3 Training System, which transformed his physique to win countless bodybuilding competitions at just 18 years of age! He was also the first bodybuilder to utilize Faradic Electric Muscle Stimulation in his training and intermittent fasting during his competition prep. John’s SHREDDED Nutrition Diet helped him build one of the most shredded physiques of all time. His diet program incorporates fasting and nutrient timing to help athletes build lean muscle while losing body fat.

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Top Five 45 Degree Leg Press Machines By John Robert Cardillo

To build herculean thighs, it’s imperative for bodybuilders to include 45 degree leg presses in their workout routine. It’s a go-to exercise to achieve defined leg muscles. Other than conventional barbell squats, the 45 degree leg press exercise is the only way to develop muscular, sweeping thighs, which every serious bodybuilder wants to build.

After many years of involvement in various gyms, I have to conclude that the 45 degree leg press machine is the most popular leg workout machine on the planet. From hotel exercise rooms to spa-like studios to hardcore serious gyms, any gym worth its salt has at least one or more angled leg press machines in its lineup of exercise equipment. The quick pace of leg workouts is very important to stimulate thigh growth. Waiting your turn to use a 45 degree leg press machine is counterproductive. That’s why gyms need to have more than one or two of these great machines. At Bodypro Gym, where I train, they have 10 best-in-class leg press machines. No one ever has to line up to wait their turn to use one.

Squats vs. 45 Degree Leg Presses

Using the leg press machine can be a great way to intensify your leg workout routine, because it’s perfect as a compound movement. Safety is essential when performing lower body work. The 45 degree leg press machine is an excellent alternative to squats because it protects the user from the risks of using a barbell.

Squats require a barbell placed across the shoulders, which puts extreme pressure on the spine, compressing discs of the back in the process. This doesn’t occur when performing 45 degree leg presses, because there’s no pressure put on the spinal column. Squats also place a great degree of stress on the knees, which is nothing to take for granted. Many gym-goers have injured their knees performing heavy squats. Leg presses place much less stress on knees and therefore are safer, especially when using heavy poundages. Former Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates switched to 45 degree leg presses during his bodybuilding career because he developed knee problems from squats.

45 Degree Leg Press and Thigh Anatomy

When we think of how the 45 degree leg press machine works, we need to understand the targeted muscle groups that it will stimulate. In my experience, I believe that it’s a superior leg exercise to squats because it stimulates more than just the quadriceps muscles. Provided that the exercise is performed by trainees through their full range of movement (not partial quarter reps), with the knees touching the side of the chest (armpits area), it’s a complete compound exercise that also works the hamstring muscles.

It starts with the quadriceps. This group of muscles comprises four subgroups: the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis (internus). The primary benefit of this exercise is that it totally activates the rectus femoris (top of the thigh muscles) and vastus lateralis/vastus intermedius, which helps build the thighs’ outer sweep.

The secondary benefit is that it fully works the hamstring muscles from the insertion point in the back of the knee to the glute tie-in. This angle of attack and contraction on the hamstrings is totally different than typical leg curls. In fact, I always perform 45 degree leg presses at the end of my hamstrings workout to finish off hamstrings in a pre-exhaustion method before proceeding to quad-specific exercises such as leg extensions and hack squats.

The Prerequisites of a Great 45 Degree Leg Press Machine

1. The machine’s weight carriage must travel as smoothly as possible with the minimum amount of friction.

2. It must allow for the maximum distance of movement in order to provide a full-range movement to properly work the thigh muscles.

3. The foot plate must be at least 36 inches horizontally and a minimum of 30 inches vertically to allow for the user’s feet to be placed wider than shoulder width. This is important because the greater the width of the foot placement, the better that the quadriceps and hamstrings are worked.

4. It must have an adjustable seat and back pad in order to fit users of various size. The seat must be at a 90 degree angle to the back pad in order for the lower lumbar not to dangerously “curl up” as the user performs the movement. A separate adjustable head rest also is a beneficial feature that the best designed leg press machines will have.

5. The machine must have a calf block for angled calf raises, a terrific exercise that is often forgotten because most 45 degree leg press machines don’t have this important feature.

6. It must have multiple weight storage pins for convenient use.

The Top Five 45 Degree Leg Press Machines

1. York Barbell Leg Press

This is one of the oldest leg press machines ever made, and in my opinion, for its low cost and superb engineering, it’s the best angled leg press on the market. It was designed by the late Bill Irvine (owner of York Barbell), a true workout enthusiast who devoted his life to building great fitness equipment that was sold worldwide for more than 60 years. It’s perfectly engineered and by far the smoothest angled leg press machine on the market—and for many good reasons. Typical 45 degree angled leg presses have the weight loading carriage moving up and down only on one inch or 1.5 inch linear bearings. York’s machine was engineered to travel not only on linear bearings but also on two frictionless wheels that smoothly travel up and down on the square tube frame of the machine. Therefore, the load on the weight carriage that a strong bodybuilder is using isn’t just riding on the linear bearings (on a round steel shaft), which is prone to some flexion, causing extra friction. The York weight carriage has overcome the friction issue by having a secondary travel system—the wheels. This allows the weight to be distributed between the bearings and the wheels, resulting in minimal friction. The movement is smooth and controlled, gliding without ever binding. The York unit comes with a heavy, larger than usual footplate designed to fit users of all shapes and sizes. The seat is adjustable to add a greater range of motion for the user, and it contains convenient built-in weight storage. For safety, this unit has two adjustable safety stops that can easily be adjusted to the length of any user’s range of movement. This protects users in the event that they cannot complete a repetition and need to cease the exercise in the deep, low position of the movement.

2. The Arsenal Leg Press Machine

This heavy-duty leg press machine provides a great level of satisfaction to its users. It’s rated for a 2,300-pound loading capacity that should help any aspiring bodybuilder or powerlifter achieve incredible strength and leg development. It comes with an oversized footplate that helps target the thighs through different foot positions. What is truly unique about this machine is that it comes as a unilateral unit where a user can perform the exercise one leg at a time. This gives the whole leg muscle a complete different feeling for variety. Its movement is particularly smooth due to an extra set of linear bearings. The machine is also outfitted with a perfect calf block for calf raises. Its thick padded back rest provides lower lumbar support with several adjustments for users of any size. The additional weight horns are conveniently located near the loading carriage for extra weight storage.

3. Panatta Super Leg Press 45°

This leg press machine could easily have been picked as the best in class. It’s beautifully designed with traditional Italian flair, with curved steel tubing and formed steel plate for reinforcements. Its red frame reminds me of a Ferrari automobile. It’s not your typical leg press welded together with a bunch of square tubing.

Functionally, it delivers on the promise of the utmost leg press machine because of its perfect components and details. Using an ultra-wide foot platform with slip-proof material, the Panatta starts to earn its reputation as a top-quality leg press. It has a safety lever to protect the user and begins easily for the novice user when engaging the leg press. If you’re taller, this machine is for you because of its three-position adjustment of starting height levels, which also create safety limits.

The back rest has three angle adjustments and is covered with plush variable-density padding. The seat is contoured to fit your buttocks. It’s tapered in order to not interfere with your hamstrings at the completion point of the movement.

The weight carriage looks like a work of art and isn’t typical in any respect. It’s outfitted with four extra-long weight placement holders for maximum loading. It has been built with hidden linear low-friction wheels that ride on two solid 1.5-inch stainless steel rods, which will never need lubrication or discolour from corrosion.

To sum it up, this Panatta machine is a beautiful beast that deserves a spot in any serious workout gym!

4. The Atlantis 45 Degree Leg Press

This leg press is brought to market by the Quebec-based Atlantis Strength company owned by former Canadian bodybuilder Raymond Sansoucey. The company makes terrific commercial workout equipment and is a great Canadian success story. The smooth operation of the leg press is predicated on its weight-loading sled, which uses concave wheels made from dense nylon that run across stainless steel rails. The racking disengages automatically when the user leaves the machine, which is one of the safety features of this leg press. The loading weight holders are located centrally, which makes the unit more compact and limits the space needed on a gym floor. The maximum weight for this angled leg press machine is over 1,500 pounds for the hardcore workout warrior.

5. Life Fitness 45 Degree Leg Press

This leg press machine can be found in most commercial fitness clubs across North America. The machine operates smoothly because Life Fitness outfitted the weight carriage with 1.5-inch linear bearings riding on stainless steel shafts. The foot plate (31 inches wide by 24 inches) is unique in that it’s made of a nonslip granular tar-like material that holds your feet in position.

A drawback of the machine is that the seat has only two adjustment settings, which doesn’t accommodate taller users. The machine also has safety stops that don’t allow for a long enough range of motion for most users. However, because it’s available in most gyms in North America, it deserves to be reviewed in this article.

For more on John Cardillo, check out his website at johnrobertcardillo.com, his instagram at @johnrobertcardillo or right here at Muscle Insider at John Cardillo.

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