Introduction: Homemade Leg Press Machine
After getting a herniated disk in my neck from doing the traditional barbell-behind-the-neck squats, I needed something that would allow me to continue working my legs while not putting any strain on my neck. After searching the net, I found nothing that I could make that would fit the bill. So, after much thought, I designed this machine in AutoCAD, then put it together one weekend in the space of around 4 hours for a total cost of $36.11 (compared with $270 for the dangerous looking Body Solid vertical leg press machine, skipping straight to the $1000-$1500 range for anything better).
The machine is designed off of a creeper (flat board on wheels used to work under cars) that is used in a vertical position to allow you to slide up and down a wall, with slots for up to 4 of the 45lb plates (180lb plus weight of machine (32lb) = 212lb). The attached PDF's give dimensioned drawings of the Leg Press machine, as well as multiple 3D views.
See video below or go to http://youtu.be/EafB3TLPGKc for a demonstration of how the machine works!
Ready? Click Step 1 to see what you need to get started...
Step 1: Parts / Tools List
Below is a list of everything you will need to make this project.
A. Unless otherwise noted, all item numbers are from Lowe's. Just got to www.lowes.com and enter the item number in the search bar to see exactly what I am talking about.
B. The cost estimate of $36.11 does not include the extras (rubber backing, cushioned head rest); I already had that stuff lying about, and did not have to purchase it. It is your choice if you want to add it.
1. 8-foot 10"x2" board, cut into 2 3.5' sections (with a little left over) (Item #77891, $7.12)
2. A 96" long 2"x4" board, cut by your friendly Lowe's representative into the following pieces:
(Item #7001, $3.32)
a. 4" piece (x2)
b. 10" piece (x2)
c. 6.24" piece (x2)
d. 5.5" piece (x2)
e. 10.5" piece (x2)
3. 1/2" ID 24" section of pipe (Item #24005, $7.13)
4. 2 1/2" pipe clamps (Item #301380, $1.93/pack)
5. 2 4" angle brackets (Item #19165, $2.87 each)
6. 1" dowel (Item #19425, $4.35)
7. 3" screws, approx. 38 (Item #112363; buy from local store where you can buy just what you need by weight)
8. 1.25" screws, approx. 28 (Item #227168; same as above)
9. Spray paint - optional (Item #'s 99337, 99369, & 96394; $3.98 each)
10. Rubber sheet,1/4 in thick,24x30 in (From www.zorotools.com, $18.06)
11. Orange cloth (from Walmart, Item #16422458, $5.97/2yd)
12. Foam padding (from Walmart, Item #19397511, $6.97)
Note: I used a different padding because I already had it, but this will work fine.
2. Staple gun
3. Measuring tape
5. 12" drill bit extension
6. Various drill bits, including a 1-1/8" spade bit
7. Gorilla Glue
8. Utility knife
While building this Leg Press machine, you will be using several things that could be potentially dangerous. For chemicals (spray paint, Gorilla glue), make sure to only use them where there is plenty of ventilation and no open flames around. For the tools (drill, staple gun, utility knife), make sure you have read the owners manual for your specific tool and know how to use it, and wear the appropriate protective clothing (safety glasses, gloves). For safety in using the finished machine, see the last step.
Step 2: Painting
This step is optional. When I designed this project in CAD (see photos in following steps) I made the different parts different colors for clarity. When I got finished, I liked the way it looked, and decided to just spray-paint the real thing to match. Find a good place outside and spray the 2 large boards yellow, then everything else green (except for the two 10" boards, which are red).
For an added touch, I stuck a bunch of the screws lightly into the ground and sprayed the heads red, to give the finished product a professional touch.
Step 3: Lower Weight Support
This step will attach the legs/support for the lower weights to the "front" yellow board.
NOTE: For this entire project, I always drill pilot holes for every screw I use. It helps keep the wood from splitting, and helps the screws go in straight. I know this adds a lot of time to the project, but do not skip doing it! It makes a big difference.
1. Take the 2 10.5" wooden pieces and line them up 7" from the bottom of one of the yellow boards. Go ahead and stick one of the 6.25" boards between them, so you do not make them too close together.
2. Drill your pilot holes, then screw the 2 10.5" pieces into place (see photos) using the 3" screws. It helps to have one of the green pieces of wood propping up the other end of the yellow board so it is level.
3. Now make sure your 6.25" piece is 3" in from the bottom, and screw it in in the same way with 3" screws. This is your base.
4. Now drill a 3/4" in hole in each side (see photos). Measure it so that bottom of the hole is level with the 6.25" piece, and make it as far towards the yellow board as your pipe clamps will allow.
5. Slide your 24" piece of pipe through the holes, and clamp it down to the 6.25" piece of wood (see photos) using the 1.25" screws.
Step 4: Upper Weight Support
Now to attach the upper support.
1. Set the two 5.5" boards 1' - 11.5" from the bottom of the yellow board, with a 6.25" piece between them.
2. After drilling pilot holes, screw all 3 pieces to the yellow board. Right before you screw them in, confirm that your largest weight plate will fit between the upper and lower supports.
NOTE: I used 2 screws each to fasten the green boards down for the upper support, and 3 screws each for the lower mount. The reason for this is so that when we attach the other yellow board in the next step, I can use 3 screws each to fasten the green boards down for the upper support and 2 screws each for the lower mount. This will prevent any screws from meeting each other in the wood which might split the board.
Step 5: Installing 2nd Yellow Board
Now to complete the sandwich:
1. After drilling pilot holes, screw the second yellow board to all green boards. Be sure to follow the number of screws convention mentioned in the previous step.
2. This is as good a time as any to go ahead and wrap the pipe in red electrical tape (or whatever color you choose).
Step 6: Drill Peg Holes
Now time to drill the holes for the wooden pegs to go into.
NOTE: The position of the holes are based on the fact that my weight plates are 16" and 13.5" in diameter for the 45lb and 35lb plates, respectively. If your plates are different sizes, you will need to change the hole locations accordingly.
1. Mark the location for the first hole 5.5" straight down from the top of the board and dead center (4 1/8" from each side). Before you start drilling, go ahead and mark where the second hole is going to be - 1.5" farther down, from center to center (this means that when you actually drill the holes, there will only be about 3/8" between their edges).
2. Go ahead and mark where the bottom holes are going to be - the first hole is 1'-2.5" up from the bottom of the yellow board, with the second hole 1.5" below that one.
3. Now to drill the 1 1/8" holes. Once through the top board, it is difficult to tell if you are going straight down to the second board, so make it easy by putting in a plate and going for the center of the hole in the plate.
IMPORTANT: Have the machine propped up against something as you are drilling, with a second person watching the back as you drill. The second that he sees the tip of your spade bit coming through the other side, have him yell "stop." Now you have a partial-thickness hole to stop the peg from falling out the backside, and you can use a small Allen wrench in the hole in the back to pop the peg out when you change plates.
4. Now that you have the holes drilled, set your 1" dowel in a hole and mark where it comes out. Use a hacksaw to cut this much from the dowel, and you have your weight peg. Repeat to get a total of 2 pegs.
Step 7: Add Shoulder Supports
Now to add the shoulder supports. Reminder - this was dimensioned for me (I am 5'8"), so you may need them slightly lower or higher depending.
1. Get the 2 4" green boards and the 2 10" red boards. Fasten them together with the angle brackets using the short screws as shown in the photo above (remember your pilot holes!)
2. Fasten them to the sides of the machine with 2 of the 3" screws per board.
Step 8: Add Wheels
This step is very straight forward - screw on the wheels as shown using the short screws, making sure to drill pilot holes first. (are you tired of hearing me say that yet?)
You are now technically finished!!! The leg press machine will now work to give you a massive workout. However, why stop now? Just a few more touches in the next step will give it a much more professional look, and make it more comfortable to use.
Step 9: Finishing Touches
In this step we will add some rubber padding and cushions to make it much more comfortable to use.
1. Cut a piece of matting to fit your machine, from the bottom of the yellow board up to just
under the top holes, and just a quarter inch from the sides.
2. Using a staple gun set on high, staple all around the matting. What I did was first staple
the corners, then stapled in the middle of each side, and then stapled in the middle
between the corner and middle staple. By cutting the distance in half each time instead
of just going from one corner all the way to the other, I kept all the staples evenly spaced and
nice looking. See photo above for what I mean.
3. Using a razor, cut out the mat at the two bottom holes, then slip some Gorilla Glue under
the edges to keep it secure.
Head & Shoulder Pads:
1. Cut 2 matching pieces of foam each to fit the area that you are padding.
2. Cut a piece of cloth 1.5" larger on all sides than the pieces of foam.
3. Fold the cloth around the foam nice and snug.
4. Hold the entire package against the board, and just staple through the entire thing all the
way around. That's it! No sewing whatsoever!
Step 10: How to Use
It is easiest to watch the video in the first step on how to use the machine. But if you prefer, below are the steps written out.
Slide the weight plates of your choice either into the top or into the side of the leg press machine. Insert the wooden peg into the appropriate holes to secure the plates.
You have the option of either using the handles or the shoulder rests. With the machine leaning up against a sturdy wall, squat down and place your back against it. Grabbing the handles, and with your feet a fair ways from the wall, push up and gently bring the lower wheels in contact with the wall. Now you can bring your feet in closer for a more intense workout.
Once you have completed your reps, take hold of the bottom of the machine and pull it out from the wall as you go down on the last rep. This will keep the machine from falling forward after you get up. Use a small allen wrench in the holes in the back to knock out the wooden pegs to change weights for the next set.
There are two keys to safety in using this machine:
1. Keep perfect form. Never put on so much weight that you cannot keep perfect posture. This will keep you from losing control of the machine, and also protect your body and joints over time.
2. Keep the machine in good repair. If something is broken or worn out, replace it. You want to replace something way before it ever gives out while you are using it, and potentially cause you to lose control of the machine.
I hope you have enjoyed this Instructable - even more, I hope you get a chance to build the Leg Press machine and see for yourself how easy it is!