Leg Press Alternatives You Can Do At Home
If you’ve ever walked into a busy gym on leg day, you’ll know that there's one machine that's almost everyone's go-to piece of equipment for heavy leg work.
The leg press lets you work most of the key muscles in your legs - your glutes, quads and hamstrings - giving you all the benefits of heavy barbell squats, and then some, without being quite as intimidating as loading up a bar for squatting.
But not everyone has access to a leg press machine - especially if you're trying to get your leg workout in at home! So I’m going to show you some leg press alternatives that you can do as part of an at home workout — to target the same muscle groups as this amazing machine so you can still build strong legs from the comfort of your own home.
Best leg press alternatives for at home
The leg press is a key exercise for training legs in the gym. It helps to build muscle, targeting the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and hips. These leg press alternative exercises can be done at-home with little or no equipment. I'm going to show you some substitutes you can do with your own bodyweight, a pair of dumbbells or a barbell if you're lucky enough to have one of those at home!
As the leg press is performed in a fixed position, it doesn’t require you to stabilise your core as much, while you are focussing on building strength in the target muscle groups.
The benefit of these leg press alternatives is that they require you to activate your core muscles more, to stabilise your body during the exercise.
While the weight you will use in these alternative exercises may be lower than what you’d use on the leg press, the advantage is that you will strengthen the critical small, supportive muscles of your hips, knees and ankles.
When you have to engage your core muscles for balance during an exercise, you can develop holistic lower-body strength and improve joint and muscle stability.
Bodyweight leg press alternatives
All you need to do these substitutes is the weight of your own body and enough space to move. Because one of the advantages of the leg press is that you can load it up with a lot of weight, you will probably find that you need to do more reps of these exercises.
If the bodyweight alternatives are still too easy, try adding some weight or incorporating a resistance band.
- Plant both feet on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
- Inhale and move into a squat position: Swing your arms backwards while bending at the knees and hips. Ensure your knees stay in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your back remains between a 45-90 degree angle to your hips.
- Exhale. Swing your arms to propel your body upwards and forwards to land in a squat position. Maintain "soft knees" as you land to prevent injury.
Dumbbell leg press alternatives
Grab a pair of dumbbells to add some extra weight to your at-home substitutes for the leg press. You will also need to use a chair, bench or step for some of these exercises.
Step-up with dumbbells & bench
I love this exercise because it can be suitable for all fitness levels! Make it easier with a lower step, or challenge yourself by increasing the step height and adding weight!
As you become more confident, you can increase the speed you step at.
- Start by placing the bench horizontally in front of you. Holding one dumbbell in each hand, plant both feet on the floor, slightly further than shoulder-width apart.
- Firmly plant your entire left foot on the bench, making sure your knees are not more forward than your toes.
- Push through your left heel to extend your left leg. Avoid pushing through your toes to prevent placing additional pressure on your shins, knees, and quads.
- As you straighten your left leg, lift your right leg and step up onto the bench. Reverse this pattern back to the floor, starting with your left leg.
- Repeat, ensuring you complete an even number of repetitions on each side.
Wall squat with fitball & dumbbells
This is an alternative for leg press that you can do at home! You’ll just need a fitball and a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells.
To make it easier, try the exercise without weight.
- With your back on fitball against the wall and holding a dumbbell in each hand, plant both feet on the floor, hip-width apart. This is your starting position.
- Inhale. Looking straight ahead and keeping your back pressed into the fitball, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor.
- Exhale. Push through your heels and extend your legs to return to the starting position.
Now, I know that not everyone has a barbell lying around at home. But if you do, these are the alternative exercises that will be the most similar to using a leg press machine. Don't forget that barbell exercises don't have to be super heavy either! You can use a 10kg or 22lb barbell for any of these exercises if you want!
Squat with barbell
This exercise works your core, quads, hamstrings and lower legs. It’s important to use correct form, so start with a light weight and follow the exercise instructions carefully.
When you are confident with your technique, increase the weight!
- Safely place a barbell on your shoulders and plant both feet on the floor, slightly further than shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
- Inhale. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your back remains within a 45-90-degree angle to your hips.
- Exhale. Push through the heels of your feet and extend your legs to return to the starting position.
Strengthen your legs with these leg press alternatives!
These alternative exercises to the leg press mean you can get your leg workout done— even when you can’t get to the gym!
As you would with any other workout, make sure to warm up before you get started. A proper warm up can help to prevent injury and gets blood flowing to the muscle groups you are about to train.
I hope these exercise alternatives for leg press give you some helpful options to get your workouts done!
For those ladies looking for more leg exercises, try these at-home glute strengthening exercises next!
Do you have a tip for getting your workout done when the gym is busy? Tell me in the comments below!
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.