Is there a big difference between squats and leg presses in terms of the engaged muscles ? Which one of the two exercises is a better choice for complete leg development ? Actually you need to do both of them because even though they almost engage the same big muscle groups, the involvement of those muscles in both exercises is very different, which in turn, makes the muscle development very different.
The Squat – the grandfather of all exercise
The barbell squat also known as the king of exercises, engages all the big leg muscles working together at the same time, more than every other exercise. The quadriceps, gluteus maximus and the hamstrings are the main muscles doing the work when squatting, while the pelvic and the other muscles of the body act as stabilizers and assistants to them. This is why many experts say that squats are a full body movement, despite the movement being done by the lower part of the body.
The stabilizing muscles are small and often unnoticeable, but they support and protect us from unwanted and unnatural movements. When doing squats, abs and spinal erectors should contract isometrically to keep the chest in an upright condition. At the same time pelvic muscles work to support the movement of quads, hams and glutes and to ensure that only the wanted movements will be performed..
The range of motion is also a lot greater in squats than leg presses, which creates much greater muscle activity. In a part the range of motion is what separates squats from presses.