10 Best Leg Press Alternatives (At Home Workout Substitutes)

The legs are the largest muscle group in the human body. They provide you with stability and balance, so making sure they are up to par is one of the easiest ways to help improve your overall athletic capabilities 

Leg presses are a staple in many bodybuilder’s leg workout routines because the movement allows you to load heavy weights for big lifts with little to no stress on your lower back. 

If you have struggled to make it to the gym lately or have decided to move your workouts to your garage gym, you might be wondering if there are any exercises you can use to replace the leg press. 

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

The leg press machine supports your back while providing an effective workout for your lower body muscles. 

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. 

Leg Press Alternatives

Muscles Used In A Leg Press 

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 method will work all of your leg muscles, including: 

  • Hamstrings 
  • Hip muscles 
  • Gastrocnemius 
  • Gluteus Maximus 
  • Quadriceps 

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. 


10 Best Leg Press Alternatives 

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. 

1. Resistance Band Leg Press 

A resistance band leg press is an excellent alternative to traditional machine leg presses and offers a great pump even without using big weights. 

  • 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: 

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

2. Wall Squat 

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. 

  • 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: 

  • Keep your back flat and comfortable against the wall. 
  • Feet shoulder-width apart with a solid base. 
  • Slowly lower your knees until they are parallel to the ground and keep your core strong. 
  • Pause for three seconds in the parallel position. 
  • Slowly raise back up to your original position and remember not to lock your knees out. 

3. Squat Jump 

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. 

  • Equipment: None. 
  • Primary Muscles: Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. 
  • Coach Tip: Try 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: 

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

4. Walking Lunges (With Dumbbells) 

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 they are excellent at prepping a lifter for harder lifts like the farmers' walk. 

  • Equipment: Set of Dumbbells. 
  • Primary Muscles: Quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. 
  • 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: 

  • Start with a steady braced position with two dumbbells on each side. 
  • 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. 
  • Brace and return to your original position when you reach the bottom of the movement and keep your core strong. 

5. Swiss Ball Curl 

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. 

  • Equipment: A 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: 

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

6. Step Up With Barbell 

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 workout that requires very little equipment that serves as a great leg press alternative, with a low impact on the body. The barbell step up is a plyometric movement that is great for people who are looking to improve their overall body strength and range of motion. 

  • Equipment: A 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: 

  • Load a barbell carefully onto your back. 
  • Position a bench or a step in front of you that is the same height as your knees. 
  • Step on to the bench with your back straight and keep your core strong. 
  • Both feet have to be on the box before you return to your original position. 
  • Lower your back down slowly before you repeat the exercise with your other leg. 

7. Bulgarian Split Squat 

An old-school exercise that helps to strengthen leg muscles, like the hamstrings and quadriceps, is the Bulgarian split squat. 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. 

The Bulgarian split squat is a very low-impact movement that takes a large amount of stress from the back of the muscles and promotes the integration of leg muscles. 

  • Equipment: Dumbbells or kettlebells. 
  • Primary Muscles: Quads, hamstrings, vastus lateralis, 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: 

  • Stand in a relaxed position and hold a pair of dumbbells at your side in front of a bench. 
  • Put one of your feet on top of the bench that is behind you. 
  • Lower yourself slowly while maintaining a strong core. 
  • Pause for one second at the bottom of the movement. 
  • Return to your original position in a controlled way. 
Best Leg Press Alternatives

8. Front Squats (Barbell) 

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. 

  • 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: 

  • Start with a regular squat, but this time you have a barbell resting on your traps. 
  • Make sure that your knees are parallel to the ground and your core is engaged, then engage your hips and slowly lower into the squat position to start the exercise. 
  • Keep your weight on the back of your feet to prevent drifting too far forward. 
  • Raise slowly back up to your original position, and try not to lock the knees. 

9. Smith Rack Squats 

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. 

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. 

  • 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: 

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

10. 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: 

  • Stand shoulder-width apart with two dumbbells in your hands. 
  • 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. 
  • Pause for one second before you push back to your original position. 
  • Repeat and alternate between your legs.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

You might have a few questions, especially when you have just started to do leg presses or you are looking for alternative leg presses to perform at home. Here we will answer some of the most commonly asked questions: 

Is a leg press alternative the same as squatting?

Leg presses and squats are both exercises that 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?
  1. 1
    Maintain a tight core and slowly push the board with your weight on your heels. 
  2. 2
    Keep your back flat against the pad and exhale while keeping your head looking straight. 
  3. 3
    Pause for one second when you are at the top of the movement and try not to lock out your knees. 
  4. 4
    Slowly control the weight back to the original position and inhale while you keep your feet flat. 

Conclusion

The best types of leg exercises are the ones that target the glutes, hamstrings, and quads while working other smaller groups of muscles at the same time. 

If you are looking to improve your range of motion, core strength, and balance, then the leg press alternative exercises listed above will all give you some level of improvement when incorporated into a proper workout routine. 

It is essential that you switch up your routine regularly. The human body gets used to stress and trauma really quickly. When this happens, your body will adapt, meaning it doesn't get as stressed by your workout anymore. This can lead to plateaus in strength and mass gain. 

A varied workout routine will help you to continue to develop strength and push past your limits. By swapping your routine, you keep that stress high, forcing your body to build muscle and stability.