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exercises

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13 Leg Press Alternatives You Can Do At Home

13 Leg Press Alternatives You Can Do At Home
Leg Press Alternatives

If it’s leg day and you need to get your workout done without leaving home, you can still get your lower body to work with these leg press alternatives.

You can use some basic pieces of home gym equipment, but there are also super effective leg press alternatives that require no extra equipment at all!

I’m going to show you some leg press alternatives that you can do anywhere— you don’t even need to have access to a gym. Include them as part of an EPIC at home workout, targeting ALL of the same muscle groups! 

Before we start, let’s take a look at what the leg press is, how it works and what its benefits are.

What is the leg press?

The leg press is a popular piece of gym equipment and one that I use often in my BBG Stronger program. It’s really simple, but important that you learn how to use it correctly.

Basically, it involves you sitting with your back against a backrest and pushing weight away from your body using your legs, then returning them back to a bent position. Your feet are firmly placed on a platform in front of you.

You’ll find a couple of different types of leg press machines at the gym— the horizontal leg press, also known as the seated leg press, involves you sitting in an upright position. There’s also the 45-degree leg press which has a seat that reclines at an angle. Here, your legs press upwards against the platform in a diagonal action.

To maximise the benefits of the leg press and avoid injury, you should always pay close attention to your form. If you’re doing a leg workout from my BBG Stronger program, I show you how to do it with step-by-step instructions when you tap the exercise during the workout.

What muscles does the leg press work?

When done properly, the leg press is a fantastic way to work your quads, but depending on how you position your feet, it can also help to build other key muscles in your legs. 

The higher you walk your feet up the platform, the more you’ll work your hamstrings and glutes. Walk them down, and you’ll target your quads!

Leg press benefits

The leg press has a lot of advantages, but as with any exercise it also has its risks and limitations. This means that you should choose the lower body exercises that will help you to best reach your fitness goals!

If you want to build strength and explosive power in your legs, then the leg press or a variation is a great exercise to add to your routine. The leg press has a shorter range of motion than a squat, meaning your quads work harder and you can get a more intense workout with fewer reps.

By changing where your feet are positioned on the foot plate, you can emphasise different muscles in your legs, which means that you can vary your lower body pump!

Other benefits of the leg press can include:

  • It’s safe for the spine because you’re in a seated position
  • It can accomodate a lot of weight without you needing a spotter
  • Targets the largest muscles in the body to burn maximum energy
  • Strengthens your leg muscles for increased lower body resilience 

Bodyweight leg press alternatives

All you need to do these substitute exercises is the weight of your own body and enough space to move. You will probably find that you need to do more reps of these exercises to feel the same fatigue.

If the bodyweight alternatives are too easy, add some weight or incorporate a resistance band.

Broad jump

This explosive plyometric exercise requires a lot of power from your legs, and works your quads, hamstrings and glutes. 

Jumping exercises are a great way to increase lower body strength, and activate and recruit more muscle fibres during your workout to encourage those lower body gains! 

Just remember to land with soft knees so that you don’t cause yourself any injury.

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Swing your arms backward and, at the same time, 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 between a 45- to 90-degree angle to your hips. This is called squat position.
  3. Exhale. Swing your arms to propel your body upwards and forwards, once again, landing in squat position. Ensure that you maintain ‘soft’ knees as you land to prevent injury. Repeat.

Bodyweight squat

The leg press and squat essentially use the same muscles in your legs— the quads, hamstrings and glutes. Because most of your body moves when performing a squat, it engages other muscle groups like your hips and abs as well. 

Squats can be performed in many different ways, like including weights and adding a jump. I’ll show you examples of these further down.

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. 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- to 90- degree angle to your hips.
  3. Exhale. Push through your heels and extend your legs to return to the starting position. Repeat.

Jump squat

You’ll probably see this exercise used in lots of fitness programs. It’s effective because it uses other muscles like your core, not JUST your legs— simply by adding a vertical jump. 

You can also add resistance to make the exercise more challenging by using ankle weights or light dumbbells. I don’t recommend you attempt this until you’ve perfected your squat technique first.

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. 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- to 90-degree angle to your hips. This is your starting position.
  2. Push through your heels and propel your body upwards into the air, extending both your knees and your hips.
  3. Bend your hips and knees to land and return to the starting position, ensuring that you maintain ‘soft’ knees to prevent injury. Repeat.

Lateral lunge

This is such an underrated exercise! The side lunge strengthens the same muscle groups that a regular lunge does, like the glutes hamstrings and quads— but from a different angle.

It’s great because it actually targets the sides of the glutes, which is where a lot of your hip stabilising muscles are. 

The lateral lunge targets both the outer and inner thighs — which can be difficult to work during everyday activities, but can really help to improve your balance. 

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Keeping your right foot on the floor, release your left foot and take a big step to your left. As you plant your foot on the floor, bend your left knee, ensuring that your right leg remains straight.
  3. Exhale. Extend your left knee and transfer your weight onto your right foot. Step your left foot inwards to return to the starting position.
  4. Inhale. Keeping your left foot on the floor, release your right foot and take a big step to your right. As you plant your foot on the floor, bend your right knee, ensuring that your left leg remains straight.
  5. Exhale. Extend your right knee and transfer your weight onto your left foot. Step your right foot inwards to return to the starting position.
    Continue alternating between left and right.

Side-lying single leg press with recovery band 

With a recovery band to provide variable resistance, this exercise will work your glutes, quads and hamstrings on both sides. By isolating one side at a time, you strengthen the weak areas to create more balance and proportion between both legs. 

When you perform eccentric hamstring training like this, where you lengthen and contract your muscles, you’ll notice that your hamstrings will benefit more in other exercises when they are in the stretched position— like at the bottom of a squat or deadlift.

  1. With a recovery band looped around one foot, lie on your side lengthways along a yoga mat, with your legs stacked on top of one another. Firmly hold each end of the band at chest height. Ensure that the recovery band is in good condition and securely anchored around the middle of your foot to avoid injury. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale and brace your core as you bend your knee towards your chest, stopping just above hip height. Exhale and keeping your foot flexed, push the band away from your chest to return to the starting position. You should feel tension in your glutes and quadriceps as you do this. 
    Repeat.

Leg press alternatives with dumbbells

Grab a pair of dumbbells to add some extra weight to these at-home substitutes for the leg press. You will also need to use a chair, bench or step for some of these exercises.

Alternating lunge

Alternating lunges require you to use your whole body, not just your legs. But the added weight means that you need to engage your core more, as you distribute your weight evenly across both legs. 

Make sure to keep your knee in line with your toes each time you lunge so that you aren’t placing any unwanted stress on your knees and ankles.

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Carefully take a big step forwards with your left foot. As you plant your left foot on the floor, bend both knees to approximately 90-degrees, ensuring that your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. When done correctly, your front knee will be aligned with your ankle and your back knee will be hovering just off the floor.
  3. Exhale. Extend both knees and transfer your weight completely onto your right foot. Step your left foot backward to return to the starting position.
  4. Inhale. Carefully take a big step forwards with your right foot. As you plant your right foot on the floor, bend both knees to approximately 90-degrees, ensuring that your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. When done correctly, your front knee will be aligned with your ankle and your back knee will be hovering just off the floor.
  5. Exhale. Extend both knees and transfer your weight completely onto your left foot. Step your right foot backward to return to the starting position.
    Continue alternating between left and right.

Bulgarian split squat

When you place your back foot on an elevated surface like a chair or bench, this puts a greater emphasis on the glute of your grounded leg. To maximise glute activation, focus on keeping your front knee behind your toes.

  1. With a bench placed horizontally behind you and holding a dumbbell in each hand, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Carefully step your right foot backwards, allowing the ball of your foot to rest on top of the bench. Carefully shuffle your left foot forward, if needed.
    Extend your arms by your sides to hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip (palms facing inwards). This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Bend both knees to approximately 90-degrees, ensuring that your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. When done correctly, your front knee will be aligned with your ankle.
  3. Exhale. Push through the heel of your left foot and toe of your right foot to extend both legs and return to the starting position.
    Complete an equal number of repetitions on each side.

Goblet squat

Challenge your glutes, core and balance by adding extra weight to the bodyweight squat! 

  1. Holding a dumbbell with both hands directly in front of your chest, plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees point toward your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor, ensuring that your back remains between a 45- to 90-degree angle to your hips.
  3. Exhale. Push through your heels and extend your knees to return to the starting position.
    Repeat.

Step-up

You rely on your glutes a lot when you step up onto a bench, making the step-up a good exercise to build lower body strength and power. If you’re a beginner, start by doing this exercise with no weight, as it requires a lot of balance.

  1. 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.
  2. Firmly plant your ENTIRE left foot on the bench making sure your knees are not more forward than your toes.
  3. 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 quadriceps.
  4. As you straighten your left leg, release your right leg and step up on to the bench. Reverse this pattern back to the floor, starting with your left leg. Repeat, starting with your right foot on the bench. Continue alternating between left and right.

Leg press alternatives with barbell

Now, I know that not everyone has a barbell lying around at home. But if you do, these exercises will be 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 (22lb) barbell for any of these exercises if you want, and gradually add weights as you build your strength!

Barbell squat

As you start to incorporate more weight into your squat, it still works the posterior chain (muscles on the backside of the body), but becomes more of a full body exercise. 

To avoid injury, focus on keeping your core tight and chest up for stability as you rest the barbell on your upper back. When you are confident with your technique, you can increase the weight!

  1. Safely place a barbell on your shoulders. Plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. 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- to 90-degree angle to your hips.
  3. Exhale. Push through the heels of your feet and extend your legs to return to the starting position. Repeat.

Front squat with barbell

By placing the barbell in front of you, this shifts the weight forward, giving you a more upright posture. It also shifts some of the work from the glutes to the quads!

Position the bar in a ‘front rack’ position, where your fingertips are under the bar. Drive your elbows up so that your upper arms are parallel to the ground and the barbell rests on the front of your shoulders— this is the position you’ll remain in the whole time.

  1. Safely place a barbell on your collar bone.
    Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees point toward your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your elbows remain elevated and your back remains as upright as possible.
  3. Exhale. Extend both knees to return to the starting position. Repeat.

Sumo squat with barbell

Here’s another one for the inner thighs ladies! The main difference between a regular barbell squat, and sumo squat with a barbell, is your stance. 

In a regular squat, your feet are shoulder width apart, whereas in a sumo squat, your feet are in a wider stance, with your toes turned out to about a 45 degree angle.

Your inner thighs (adductors) are recruited in this exercise and your balance is challenged from the added weight from the barbell in a less stable stance than you might be used to!

  1. Safely place a barbell on your shoulders. 
    Plant both feet on the floor further than hip-width apart. Point both feet slightly outward. This is your starting position.
  2. 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- to 90-degree angle to your hips.
  3. Exhale. Push through your heels and extend your legs to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat.

Reverse lunge with barbell

The reverse lunge targets your quads, glutes and hamstrings. Using a barbell for resistance, you can challenge your upper body and core strength by keeping good posture throughout.

Fun fact: If you take a short step backwards, you’ll target your quads more, but a larger step forward targets your glutes! 

  1. Safely place a barbell on your shoulders. 
    Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Carefully take a big step backwards with your right foot. As you plant your right foot on the floor, bend both knees to approximately 90-degrees, ensuring that your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. When done correctly, your front knee will be aligned with your ankle and your back knee will be hovering just off the floor.
  3. Exhale. Extend both knees and transfer your weight completely onto your left foot. Step your right foot forward to return to the starting position.
  4. Inhale. Carefully take a big step backwards with your left foot. As you plant your left foot on the floor, bend both knees to approximately 90-degrees, ensuring that your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. When done correctly, your front knee will be aligned with your ankle and your back knee will be hovering just off the floor.
  5. Exhale. Extend both knees and transfer your weight completely onto your right foot. Step your left foot forward to return to the starting position. Complete alternating between right and left.

Strengthen your legs with these leg press alternatives

These at-home alternatives to the leg press allow you to get your leg workout done from home! 

I’ve introduced bodyweight exercises first in this article for the beginners who might want to gradually work their way up to using the leg press machine at the gym. 

Always warm up before you get started, and stretch afterwards. 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 the 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 you want to share for getting the most out of your leg day? Tell me in the comments below!

* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.

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