Homemade Leg Press Machine




Introduction: Homemade Leg Press Machine

Hello! This instructable will show how to make a Leg Press exercise machine capable of over 200lb resistance. It is fairly easy and simple to make, not to mention safe to operate.

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...

[[Video(http://youtu.be/EafB3TLPGKc) ]]

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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.

1. Drill
2. Staple gun
3. Measuring tape
4. Scissors
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.

Rubberized Matting:
     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!
   Regards -

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    18 Discussions


    4 years ago

    This is calked bad form squst. Do your homework. This is not a leg press.


    5 years ago

    Or just buy a barbell and squat...

    Rob O
    Rob O

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting. Do the wheels gouge up the walls??

    underground carpenter
    underground carpenter

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    They will. But that's not the biggest concern for me. When drywall fails from being pushed against, it develops cracks running through the gypsum core (which is only covered with 2 thick sheets of paper). Once it has been sufficiently compromised, the wheels will just punch straight through the wall. Now the drywall has to be replaced or at least majorly patched up.

    Simple solution - attach a piece of 1/2" plywood or MDF to the wall wide enough to span at least 2 of the studs - 3 is better and would give you a surface about 34" wide so you don't have to worry about running off the surface. It can be painted to blend into the wall better. It could be held in place with as little as 6-8 drywall screws (2" - 2-1/2" long). And if you are renting, when you move out you'll just have 6-8 screw holes to patch rather than the fixing the whole wall.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    This is cool, can't believe it took me a year to find it.

    A suggestion: Make the plywood 3/4" and use 1-2 inch wide pieces(4 of them) the same length as the main board and place them 2 to a side so that they form tracks for the wheels to ride inside of. If the wheels won't allow a 3/4" deep channel, then use 1/2 inch for them, but I would still use 3/4" for the back. Remember your head is basically "inside" those red pieces and would make it much less likely to slip sideways and hurt you if say a foot slips or something. And if it does start sliding sideways you can't just let it go to release the pressure of the weights as the red bars would simply slam into the tops of your shoulders.

    That said, the machine itself is pretty awesome, definitely going to be making this.

    Big J
    Big J

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I'm glad he isn't renting from me. That wall will need repairs in no time at all.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I would also be concerned about the walls. Maybe hot wheels plastic track for the little cars could be placed on the walls with two sided tape. This would keep the unit rolling straight and protect the wall from the wheels.

    Nice idea....


    6 years ago

    Just switch to front squats. You can even used high tolerance metal saw horses for a rack and load way more than 200#


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Good work!
    I would suggest skatevoard wheels because they do not tend to slip and they are also flexible so have a better grip on the wall.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Replacing the two bottom wheels with larger diameter wheels will slant the top towards the wall and keep the press naturally leaning towards the wall. In that way the machine won't fall away from the wall at the end of the exercise session. It would require incorporating a corrective angling to keep the board that one's back touches vertical.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Good work! .... initially appears a machine to make torture!
    Italiano: Bel lavoro!....a prima vista sembra una macchina per torture!
    Imperio da Firenze


    Yeah, I'm sure there many ways to make this a little better, but the idea must come first to even have something to improve (take cars, for example). This is a great idea and an awesome Instructable. Did anyone notice how the real build components are color coded to match the CAD drawings? That's the type of thinking and detail that everyone should use when posting to this site. Great Work! Ok, here are my suggestions for the improvements list: 1. Yes, put something on the wall, maybe with some tracks for the casters to follow or maybe the wall part has the casters? Or possibly use extended length, heavy duty drawer slides and build the whole thing as a one unit? 2. Extend (or make adjustable) the bottom "legs" to position the device at the correct height to start the exercise. In any case, this a wonderful solution. Hats off to you for not just giving up on lifting after your injury, but instead finding and developing a solution, then sharing it with the rest of us. Thanks.


    7 years ago on Step 10

    Nice job. might i suggest that if you arent against making a hile in your ceiling, or if you are doing this in a basement or garage, if you install a good heavy duty pulley above this machine, in the ceiling joist, you can run a cable from the top of this machine up and around the pulley then back down to the bottom back of the machine so it can stay upright against the wall when not in use.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    The idea is ok. you will need a plywood sheet to push against. the wall will fail. I recommend using wide white rubber rollers to keep from marking up the wall and floor. they don't make any wall coverings that would not fail with the pressures your pushing with. If you add legs to the bottom to prevent it from tipping when your on the floor. It would prevent it from laying on top of you if you slip or hurt yourself. The idea is sound. I like it.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Amazing creation, no doubt. It resembles a hacksquat machine in most gyms. You said you got a hernia from regular squats though, it sounds like you need to adjust your form, and maybe invest in a weightlifting belt.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    He said he got a herniated disk in his neck. Yes, changing his form would help, but I'm not sure the belt would help much (except with his form). Also, it would depend on what, if any, cushioning was used on the bar.