The leg press is a fantastic exercise for developing the leg muscles and feeling like you’ve put a shift in on leg day, I’m sure you’d agree.
But what can you do when you find yourself without access to the almighty leg press machine?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
I’ve done due diligence and found some of the best leg press alternatives out there, so you can get your leg day fix without being reliant on the machine.
Not to mention those times when you’re at home itching to hit the legs hard and you wish you had some leg press alternatives in mind.
What’s So Good About the Leg Press?
You might be wondering why the leg press is so important in the first place. Why the leg press machine is so coveted in the gym, and why it’s worth your time finding alternative exercises when you don’t have access to one.
I’ll tell you why.
First and foremost, the (seated) leg press is one of the most exciting ways to train legs if you’re in the gym. Requiring great exertion from the glutes especially, the leg press is an entertaining method of strengthening the legs and building that muscle mass we’re all looking for.
What’s more, hitting the leg press on a regular basis will give you a great base – literally!
You will be working on your foundations, and training the muscles which help you maintain good posture, and nail those difficult weighted squats.
The leg press is also a fantastic exercise to get started with for any leg-based workout, or even before a set of deadlifts or squats.
This is because it engages not only your glutes, but also your quads and calves.
So it can help get the blood coursing through your legs and help you reach new heights with your leg day goals – even literally if you happen to be doing box jumps!
Finally, the leg press is so good because it allows you to work almost every muscle group in the legs at the same time, which can help ensure that you are working towards well-rounded, balanced legs.
If you’re interested in getting hold of your own leg press machine, check out our article on the best leg press machines out there!
Leg Press Alternative Exercises
The good news if you don’t happen to have a leg press machine nearby, is that there are many alternative exercises you can do at home with some basic equipment and some you can do with just a resistance band.
Once you’ve found some great alternative exercises to work the legs, why not check out some of the best cable crossover alternatives for the upper body?
- Resistance band leg press
- Resistance band broad jumps
- Barbell step-ups
- Single leg Weighted step-ups
- Smith rack squats
- Weighted Bulgarian split squats
- Barbell hip thrusts
- Barbell front squats
- Weighted walking lunges
- Weighted wall sit
Resistance Band Leg Press
Essentially the leg press without a machine, the resistance band leg press is an alternative exercise for the leg press that will challenge in much the same way as the machine does.
Requiring just a resistance band suited to your preference and some kind of mat, this exercise can easily be done in the gym, at home, or even in a hotel room!
The reasons you should include this resistance band leg press into your workout are numerous, and many of which are already listed above.
The resistance band variation of the leg press exercise will hit all the same areas as the seated leg press, and help you build real strength in your legs. This makes it a perfect supplementary exercise for leg day, or as a warmup to get the blood flowing.
While you may not be able to recreate the same weighted load as a leg press machine, this exercise is great for beginners and for anyone on the move needing a leg press substitute.
Plus, it provides an opportunity to work on good technique and form, something which is always important to get the most out of an exercise.
To perform the resistance band leg press, first you’ll need to lie down with your back on the mat, and knees bent.
Take your resistance band and hook it around your legs so that it’s tucked into the arches of your feet.
Now with the resistance band in your hands at your chest, slowly bring your knees into your chest, before pushing the resistance band away from your body. Make sure you squeeze your glutes to generate more power, but keep the movement as controlled as possible to increase time under tension.
Resistance Band Broad Jumps
A broad jump is essentially a huge leap forward in which you use your legs to propel you forward as far as possible.
By adding a resistance band, you can create extra tension, and make the leg muscles – especially the quads and glutes – work even harder, for even more potential gains.
This makes a great leg press alternative you can do at home because it is a plyometric movement, meaning there is a need for explosive power, and hence more focus on building leg strength and strength from the base.
If you have enough space in the garage or home gym, then this is also an exercise you can pull off in the comfort of your own home.
As you can imagine, this exercise is very challenging, which makes the results much greater. If you can practice this one on a regular basis, you will put yourself in a fantastic position to improve your squat and other essential moves in the gym.
Plus, needless to say, this is as good as it gets for pushing yourself on leg day.
This leg press alternative is easy to set up, but hard to execute. All you’ll need to do is wrap your resistance band on one end around something sturdy like a gym machine or pillar for example, and around your hips on the other.
Step forwards until you can feel some tension in the resistance band, then aim to jump as far forward as possible. To achieve a greater distance, use your arms and bend your knees before you jump.
You’ll want to land in a semi-squat to avoid any impact damage to your knees. To repeat the exercise, simply walk backwards into position and go again.
This is a very simple leg press alternative exercise, which makes use of many leg muscles, and requires a bench and barbell for optimal results.
Step-ups are really effective for re-creating a real-life movement in a way that will definitely work your quads and glutes.
Adding in the barbell adds an extra element of difficulty to the exercise, and increases the amount your legs have to work, both on the way up and back down.
As an additional benefit, you can also develop a good sense of balance with this exercise, which is useful for a variety of bodyweight exercises.
This one can also be easy to pull off at home, providing you have something to use a raised platform and a weight to use.
This exercise is another really simple one to execute.
First place the bench in front of you, then take your barbell up onto your shoulders, and step up onto the bench while driving upwards with your heel.
Step up with the other foot, before repeating the same process to come back down.
Single Leg Weighted Step-ups
The single leg weighted step up is a slight variation of the normal step up, but requires more leg strength as you stand up on the bench with a single leg.
While it can be done with a barbell, I recommend you start out doing this exercise with a couple of dumbbells, since the technique will be challenging at first.
This leg press alternative will really target your glutes and quads, and give you that leg day fix you’ve been craving.
A challenging exercise, the single leg weighted step up can be a fantastic substitute for using the leg press machine, and will strengthen your legs and balance considerably over time.
Before we get into specifics, it’s worth noting that you should practice one-legged squats before jumping into this exercise.
If you’re not used to balancing on one leg and supporting your whole body weight on it, then this exercise might be a step too far in the beginning.
Once you have the technique down off the bench, you can grab some light dumbbells to start, and perform the exercise.
The exercise is done in exactly the same way as the normal step up, except this time when you step your first leg up, you will bring the other up without touching the bench.
Smith Rack Squats
Like a reverse leg press, the smith rack squat is ideal for working the same muscles as the leg press exercise we all know and love.
All that’s required is a smith machine, and a barbell. Ideally, you’d have various weights too, so you can modify the exercise and ramp up the load when it starts to get too easy.
Focussing on the quads and glutes, the smith rack squat is a leg press alternative that will leave you feeling like you got a solid leg workout in.
One to build up to, the smith rack squat can be your main exercise for any leg day.
This exercise will pack on the muscle, and help you create solid foundations to improve your deadlift and squat. Plus, by increasing the weight, you can grow with this exercise and adjust it to your level.
To perform the smith rack squat, first place your barbell with the desired weight high up on the smith rack. You’ll want the bar to be above your shoulders.
Facing away from the rack, back up towards the barbell, and unhook the bar so it is over your shoulders.
Feet should be hip width apart, and arms the same. Then, it’s just a case of performing a regular squat.
As always, make sure you control the movement by going slowly, so as to increase time under tension.
Weighted Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarin split squats are a great alternative exercise for the leg press, requiring great balance, a pair of dumbells, and a bench.
Weighted Bulgarian split squats are so effective because they will isolate one leg, increasing the load and maximizing the potential for growth.
What’s more, this exercise is perfect for substituting the leg press if you are at home, and only have access to basic equipment.
As good a home workout exercise as any for building strength in the legs, it’s worth incorporating these split squats into your routine.
You can also increase the weight of the dumbells to make this exercise more challenging and keep it interesting.
To perform the exercise, stand in front of a bench, and place your back foot onto it.
Squat down with your standing leg until the knee of your back leg almost touches the ground, while holding dumbbells in both hands.
Stand back up and that’s one rep. Good form is key with this exercise, so make sure you are at a comfortable distance from the bench, and that you feel good squatting on just one leg.
Barbell Hip Thrusts
This leg press alternative exercise will target the glutes and hamstrings, and requires power and strength to execute well.
A bench and a barbell are the only things you will need to pull off these hip thrusts.
This exercise requires explosive power, and so will encourage intense muscle activation, particularly in the glutes.
Much like the leg press requires you to generate enough force to push the weighted platform away from your body, the hip thrusts require a concentrated effort to push the barbell away from your body.
This similar actions will bring many of the benefits of the leg press, while also providing easier to do without a machine.
The barbell hip thrust is easy enough to perform in theory, but in practice, it can prove challenging to do it with perfect form.
For this exercise you will need to sit down with your upper back leaning against a bench, and hold a barbell so that it is resting on top of your hips.
With knees bent, push up with your hips until you create a bridge with your body and squeeze your glutes as you do so.
Carefully lower yourself back down to the mat, then repeat.
Start with a lower weight with the barbell and practice the technique before you start your set, to get to grips with the slightly unnatural movement.
Weighted Walking Lunges
The weighted walking lunge is an exercise you should definitely include in your next leg day workout.
Incredibly easy to perform, and with no equipment except for a pair of dumbbells, this exercise is ideal for a home workout.
Weighted walking lunges are great for a few reasons.
First, like I just mentioned, they are easy to do so you can get up and crank out a set whenever you have a spare minute at home.
Next, the walking lunge emphasizes stability in the front leg to push back up, which is similar to the effect the leg press has on the legs.
Being functional, the walking lunge will improve your balance and help you develop both legs evenly, while encouraging activation of the glutes.
A simple exercise, the weighted walking lunge has you step forward with one leg and perform a squat, before doing the same with the other leg.
Make sure you step as far forward as feels good to get optimal results, and really sit down into the front leg so you can feel the burn as you push yourself back up.
Increase the weight of the dumbbells if you find this exercise too easy, and you’ll have a great new staple exercise for any home workout.
Weighted Wall Sit
Last up, the weighted wall sit is a great leg press alternative you can do at home that’ll get to work on your quads.
A weight plate, a wall, and steely determination are needed to pull this one off.
The weighted wall sit is one of those exercises that looks relatively straightforward and easy to do, but when you are there trying to hold yourself up with a weight and gravity pushing you down, you might think otherwise!
Working the glutes, quads and hamstrings, this exercise is fantastic for building muscular endurance.
Targeting most of the leg muscles, this is an effective exercise for increasing your capacity to hold a movement under tension.
By doing this often, you will find it much easier to perform the squat more slowly and control the movement well.
Stand with your back against the wall, weight plate in hand.
Slowly slump down the wall until your legs are at a right angle with it, and rest the plate on top of them.
Now comes the test of your will. See how long you can last before the burn becomes too much. A great way to build discipline and mental grit that’s for sure, almost like a plank for the legs!
So as you can see, there’s plenty of amazing leg press alternatives to get stuck into and reap the same benefits.
Even if you are at home and only have a few items of gym equipment, you should be able to do most of these exercises without too much of a problem.
If you are at home and are craving some pull-up alternatives then we’ve got you covered.
Alternatively, if you want a machine at home that can do it all, then check out the best all-in-one gym machines 2023 out there.
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