Wondering what the top leg press alternatives are? - You're not alone. 

Whether you've struggled to make it to the gym lately or have decided to move your workouts to your garage gym, there are many exercises you can use to replace the leg press.

In this article, we'll give you 10 leg press alternatives that will allow you to get a serious pump on those huge, crucial muscles found in the legs. 

All of these exercises will work the same muscle group and offer many of the same benefits as a leg press machine.

You should use them as a way to give yourself a break from leg press exercises or anytime that you do not have access to a leg press machine. 

I recommend adding two of these alternatives to your workout to get the best results. 

1. Resistance Band Leg Press (Best At-Home Leg Press Alternative)

Woman Doing Resistance Band Leg Press Exercise

A resistance band leg press is an excellent alternative to traditional machine leg presses and offers a great pump even without using big weights. And it works all of the same muscles as the regular leg press (hamstrings, quads and glutes).

I LOVE this leg press alternative is that you can pretty much perform it anywhere, whether you're in your bedroom, garage, living room, or even hotel room. You can use resistance bands for so many exercises, they're highly versatile. 

Overall, the resistance band leg press is one of the greatest leg press alternative exercises around. 

  • Equipment: A good resistance band and a comfortable gym mat. 
  • Primary Muscles: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. 
  • Coach Tip: Remember to keep your core strong at all times. 
  • Sets And Repetitions: 3 sets of 10 repetitions, depending on the resistance band. 

How To Perform: 

  1. Lie on the floor or use a yoga mat, and lift your knees parallel to the ground.
  2. Curl the resistance band around the bottom of your soles with your feet straight. 
  3. Slowly press your legs up and make sure that you stop the movement before locking out. 
  4. Gently lower your legs back to the starting position and repeat the method. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

  • Keep a variety of resistance bands nearby so you can perform a resistance band drop set. You'll feel the BURN during this leg press substitute. 
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    2. Wall Squat 

    Woman Doing Wall Squats

    One of the greatest leg press alternatives is the wall squat, which is an exercise that can be performed at any place and at any time.

    The benefit of wall squats is that it keeps your body locked in a safe position while simultaneously helping you to strengthen your legs and knees. 

    It reminds me of the Spanish squat. The Spanish squat is usually performed using resistance bands, but involves you sitting in a wall squat-esque position. 

    It's an ideal leg press alternative if you don't have any equipment. 

    • Equipment: A wall. 
    • Primary Muscles: Glutes, vastus lateralis, and rectus femoris. (Quads) 
    • Coach Tips: The upward movements should be faster than going downwards. Remember not to go beyond the parallel until you have built up enough strength and flexibility. 
    • Sets And Repetitions: 3 sets of 10 repetitions. 

    How To Perform:

    1. Feet shoulder-width apart with a solid base. 
    2. Slowly lower your knees until they are parallel to the ground and keep your core strong with an upright torso. 
    3. Pause for three seconds in the parallel position. 
    4. Slowly raise back up to your original position and remember not to lock your knees out. 

    Garage Gym Pro Tip!

    • Make sure your legs aren't too far forward or too close to the wall. The ideal position is to place your heels directly below your knees.

    3. Squat Jump 

    Man Doing Squat Jumps In The Gym

    Another leg press alternative for explosive movement that improves your power and strength is the squat jump.

    The squat jump burns more calories at a faster rate compared to regular squats, making it the perfect addition if you are trying to cut your body fat. 

    The squat jump is an excellent leg press alternative, and it can be performed anywhere without the need for equipment or a machine. 

    I have often performed these alongside broad jumps. Broad jumps are a similar movement to the squat jump, apart from the fact you jump forward during each rep. 

    Both broad jumps and the squat jumps are excellent leg press alternatives, working your hamstrings, quads and glutes.

    • Equipment: None. 
    • Primary Muscles: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. 
    • Coach TipTry to limit the sound that your feet make when you land, as it helps to reduce the impact on the body. Aim to land with soft feet. 
    • Sets And Repetitions: 3 sets of 5 repetitions. 

    How To Perform:

    1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in a relaxed position. 
    2. Slowly lower yourself in a controlled way into a regular squat. 
    3. Jump up with as much power as you can. 
    4. Land gently on the balls of your feet. 

    Garage Gym Pro Tip!

    • Add a dumbbell for additional resistance and to take this exercise to the next level. 
    • Perform these after back squats for an added burn without any additional spinal loading.

    4. Dumbbell Walking Lunges (Best Leg Press Alternative Dumbbell)

    Woman Doing Dumbbell Walking Lunges

    Walking lunges improve your balance and work both sides of the body by integrating your core as a stabilizer. They are one of the most popular leg press alternatives and are a crucial element in training for strongman competitions.

    This is because walking lunges are excellent at prepping a lifter for harder lifts like the farmers' walk. 

    During this movement you use the same leg muscles as you would during the leg press, and work your body through hip and knee flexion (hip flexion occurs when you move your knee up toward your chest).

    • Equipment: Set of Dumbbells. 
    • Primary Muscles: Hamstrings, calves, quads and glutes. 
    • Coach Tip: Try to remain strong and stable when you focus the core, as this will help prevent an injury. 
    • Sets And Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 repetitions on each side. 

    How To Perform:

    1. Start with a steady braced position with two dumbbells on each side. 
    2. With your head straight, take one step forward and keep your chest out, lowering your body until the top of your lead leg is parallel to the floor. 
    3. Brace and push off your front knee as you return to your original position when you reach the bottom of the movement and keep your core strong. 

    Garage Gym Pro Tip!

    • Don't be afraid to let your knees track over your toes during this lower body movement; it won't cause you any harm. 

    5. Swiss Ball Curl 

    Man Doing Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl Exercise

    The Swiss ball leg curl is also called the 'supine hip extension,' which mainly focuses on strengthening the hamstrings and glutes. 

    The Swiss ball leg curl is one of the best exercises that targets the hip flexors and knee flexors, making it an excellent leg press alternative. 

    It's similar to leg press machines as it removes the need to use your upper body and places most of the work on your lower body muscles. 

    • EquipmentA Swiss or balance ball. 
    • Primary Muscles: Glutes, hamstrings, buttocks, calves, and ankles. 
    • Coach Tips: The movement is complex and requires great strength. It is important that you are comfortable with the action before using it in a consistent workout routine. 
    • Sets And Repetitions: 3 sets of 5 repetitions to begin. 

    How To Perform:

    1. Lie down on a mat with the heels of your feet on the Swiss ball. 
    2. Form a straight line by slowly lifting your glutes off the ground. 
    3. Roll the ball towards your buttocks and pause for 3 seconds. 
    4. Return to your original position in a controlled way.

    Garage Gym Pro Tip!

    • Use your arms to create a stable base for your body. Place them wide to begin with and reduce the width as you progress this lower body exercise.

    6. Step Up With Barbell 

    Man Doing Step Up With Barbell Exercise In The Gym

    The barbell step up is an all-around movement perfect for people with a good base level of stability and strength.  

    It is a challenging lower body exercise that requires very little equipment and serves as a great leg press alternative. And, it's a low impact lower body movement.

    The barbell step up is a plyometric exercise that is great for people who are looking to improve their overall body strength and range of motion. 

    Who needs a leg press machine when you have step ups, right?

    I enjoy performing this leg press substitute as it allows you to work the muscle groups of each side of your lower body individually. 

    Try it out, it's a good leg press alternative.

    • EquipmentA barbell or other type of weight. 
    • Primary Muscles: Quads, hamstrings, vastus lateralis, and rectus femoris. 
    • Coach Tip: Maintain a soft feeling when you return to your original position, as it will help you prevent a heavy and uncontrolled landing. 
    • Sets And Repetitions: 2 to 3 sets and 10 to 12 repetitions. 

    How To Perform:

    1. Set a barbell in a suitable rack position. 
    2. Load a barbell carefully onto your back like you would for a back squat (use a squat rack to hold the barbell). 
    3. Position a bench or a step in front of you that is the same height as your knees. 
    4. Step on to the bench with your back straight and take a deep breath to keep your core strong, maintain an upright position. 
    5. Both feet have to be on the box before you return to your original position. 
    6. Lower your back down slowly before you repeat the step ups with your other leg. 

    Garage Gym Pro Tip!

    • Get the most from this leg press substitute by ensuring you don't push off your back foot too much. All of your body weight should be going through your front leg. 
    • Don't confuse step ups with the elevated split squat which is a variation of the Bulgarian split squat.

    7. Bulgarian Split Squat 

    Man Performing A Bulgarian Split Squat

    The Bulgarian split squat is an old-school exercise that helps to strengthen the same muscles as the leg press, such as the hamstrings and quadriceps.

    With a focus on a single leg, this exercise forces your core to engage, making it an excellent all-around exercise for building a sturdy base while improving explosive power. 

    Think of it as the one leg back squat... minus the barbell on your back. 

    During this movement, your front leg has to work incredibly hard to maintain stability, making it a brilliant movement for athletes. 

    The Bulgarian split squat is a very low-impact movement that removes a large amount of stress from the back muscles and places the stress on your lower body muscles. 

    If you're looking to obliterate your lower body muscles, the Bulgarian split squat is the movement for you. It's one of my favorite leg press alternatives on this list, and is one of the toughest when compared to the other exercises.

    You can use this exercise to replace both the leg press and hack squat machine, as it works the same leg muscles. 

    Add this leg press alternative to your leg day routine, it's a great leg press substitute.

    • Equipment: Dumbbells or kettlebells. 
    • Primary Muscles: Quads, hamstrings, vastus lateralis, hip flexors, and rectus femoris. 
    • Coach Tip: At the top of the movement, do not lock out your knees. 
    • Sets And Repetitions: 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each side. 

    How To Perform:

    1. Stand in a relaxed position and hold a pair of dumbbells at your side in front of a bench. 
    2. Put one leg on top of the bench that is behind you. 
    3. Take a deep breath and brace your core.
    4. Lower yourself slowly towards your leading leg while maintaining a strong core. 
    5. Pause for one second at the bottom of the movement. 
    6. Return to your original position in a controlled manner. 
    7. Swap legs and repeat.

    Garage Gym Pro Tip!

    • Lean in to your front foot to maximize the work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes do during this split squat movement. Too much weight on the back knee will limit your muscle gains.
    • Ensure your front foot placement isn't too far forward.

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    8. Front Squats (Barbell) 

    Man Doing Front Squats With Barbells

    The front squat is often referred to as the "King of Exercises." It offers a long list of benefits for people who are willing to put the effort in. The front squat targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles, making it an excellent leg press alternative. 

    However, as this free weights movement is front loaded, it places more emphasis on the quads and provides less spinal loading than the regular barbell squat (I'm not knocking back squats).

    Performing this seated leg press substitute will give you one of the best leg workouts. I LOVE this free weights movement and always include the front squat into my routine. In my opinion other exercises don't compare to this lower body killer.

    If you're looking to work your lower body muscle groups, the front squat is a fantastic leg press substitute.  You can even use this movement to replace:

    • The hack squat machine
    • Back squat
    • Belt squat machine
    • Safety bar squat
    • Sissy squat
    • And all other squat variations
    • Equipment: Barbell, a sturdy power rack. 
    • Primary Muscles: Quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. 
    • Coach Tip: Never let your knees drift past your toes when you are lowering into a squat position. You should always be able to see your toes when performing squats. 
    • Sets And Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. 

    How To Perform:

    1. Start in a standing position.  
    2. Rest the barbell on your shoulders (running across your upper chest). 
    3. Place your toes pointed forward.
    4. Engage your core muscles. 
    5. Bend your knees (knee flexion) and slowly squat while keeping your upper body in an upright position.
    6. Keep your weight on the back of your feet to prevent drifting too far forward. 
    7. Raise slowly back up to your starting position, and try not to lock the knees. 

    Garage Gym Pro Tip!

    • Want to make this leg press substitute harder without adding weight? Perform one and a quarter reps or "pulse" reps. It's a killer. 
    • Use a squat rack to load the barbell so you don't waste too much energy getting into position. 
    • If you find the barbell uncomfortable, consider using shoulder pads.

    9. Smith Rack Squats 

    Man Doing Smith Rack Squat

    The smith machine squat is a leg press alternative that maximizes your muscle development while minimizing the potential of an injury at the same time. You will be able to focus entirely on your technique and promote your stabilization when you use the smith machine. 

    It's a great exercise for newbies, as beginners can sometimes struggle with the free weight squat. 

    The bar on the smith machine will give you the confidence to lift heavier weight as the machine moves up and down smoothly.

    It also helps by locking you into a position that is anatomically correct and prevents your knees from drifting in front of your toes. 

    This is a great way to train your barbell front squat ability as it allows you to load heavier weights with less worry about injury. 

    It's a brilliant substitute to leg pressing and has a place in most leg training regimes. 

    • Equipment: The smith machine, weights. 
    • Primary Muscles: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. 
    • Coach Tip: Try not to go below parallel until you have built up strength and confidence. 
    • Sets And Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. 

    How To Perform:

    1. Load weight onto the barbell that is comfortable for you. 
    2. Start in a sturdy braced position with your feet hip width apart inside of the rack. 
    3. Keep your core tight, head straight, and weight on your heel as you lower into a traditional squat movement. 
    4. Pause for one second at the bottom of the movement before you return to the top. 

    Garage Gym Pro Tip!

    • Adjust your stance to emphasize your quads, hamstrings, glutes, or adductors. Narrow stance targets your quads more, while a wider stance will hit your glutes more.

    10. Lateral Lunge 

    Man Doing Lateral Lunge

    A lateral lunge is a great leg press alternative. It can lead to massive improvements in core strength, leg development, stability, and balance when done correctly.

    The lateral lunge stimulates the outer sides of the quadriceps in a way quite like no other. 

    • Equipment: None (However, you can use a resistance band). 
    • Primary Muscles: Quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. 
    • Coach Tips: A great exercise for those who are looking to shape and tone their inner thighs. 
    • Sets And Repetitions: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. 

    How To Perform:

    1. Stand shoulder-width apart with two dumbbells in your hands. 
    2. Maintain a straight right leg, lunge to the left, keep your head straight and your core strong while you lower the weight between your leg. 
    3. Pause for one second before you push back to your starting position. 
    4. Repeat and alternate between your legs.

    Garage Gym Pro Tip!

    • If you struggle with this movement, perform body weight versions instead. Focus more on the quality of the reps over the weight used.

    What Is A Leg Press and Why Are They popular?

    The leg press is an exercise that involves bending your legs to push weight until your legs are nearly straight.

    The seat is positioned at a 45-degree angle below a weighted sled. The lifter sits with their feet on the platform and pushes upwards, then releases the sled to take the weight before lowering it.  

    They then bend at the knees, allowing the weight to push their legs back towards their chest. Finally, the lifter forces their legs forward, extending to return the sled to the original position. 

    The leg press machine has become popular in both home gyms and commercial gyms. Its comfortable and easy to use as it supports your back while providing an effective workout for your lower body muscles. 

    Muscles Used In A Leg Press Movement

    By simply changing feet positions, you can use the leg press to target specific groups of muscles. 

    The most common way to use a leg press machine is to place your feet in the center of the platform, shoulder-width apart. The leg press targets all of your leg muscles, including: 

    • Hamstrings[1] 
    • Hip muscles 
    • Gastrocnemius[2] 
    • Gluteus Maximus 
    • Quadriceps 

    Adjusting your foot position can adjust the leg muscle activation.

    If you move your feet higher up on the platform, it will create more hamstring muscle activation and focus more on the glutes.

    If you move your feet lower on the platform, it will activate more of your quadriceps. A wider foot stance will target your inner thigh muscles, and a narrow stance will work your outer thigh muscles. 

    Overall, leg presses give you the ability to work your entire lower body on one machine., and gives you one hell of a leg workout. 

    Common Leg Press Questions

    Is a leg press alternative the same as squatting?

    Yes, leg presses and squats heavily work the muscles in your legs. Squats, however, tend to engage all of the other major muscle groups in the human body, while leg presses only target the legs. 

    How to use the leg press?

    To use the leg press all you need to do is place your feet on the foot pad, unhook the safety bars, and perform the movement. Then reverse the steps to finish the leg press exercise. 

    Conclusion

    Don't limit yourself to just one exercise—explore other leg press alternatives for a well-rounded lower body workout.

    While the leg press is a popular exercise for targeting the lower body, there are other effective substitutes to diversify your leg training. 

    Whether you're at the gym or working out at home, these listed alternative exercises above not only work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes but also improve balance and stability. 

    References:

    1.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15947463/

    2.https://www.physio-pedia.com/Gastrocnemius

    Lee Kirwin

    Lee Kirwin

    Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.