Fit man using the leg press
Fitness

10 Excellent Leg Press Alternatives (To Do At Home)

Finding leg press alternatives is no easy task. With so many exercises and movements out there, it’s tough to choose which exercise is most effective.

Here, we look at ten exercises, including the Bulgarian Squat, Walking Lunges, and Swiss Ball Leg Curl, all of which are an excellent alternative to leg press.

What muscles does the Leg Press work?

The leg press offers stability, balance, core strength, and improved overall health and well being while focusing on primary leg muscle groups such as quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

You will learn how to correctly master each movement’s fundamentals with easy to understand step-by-step instructions.

We make a list of equipment needed, and I give you “coaches tips” to take your leg press technique to the next level.

10 Excellent Leg Press Alternatives

1. Resistance Band Leg Press

Resistance bands are an excellent leg press alternative, and the workout offers a great pump even without the big weights.

This is an exercise I implemented in the training routine of numerous women’s professional Tennis players and is an easy exercise to perform anywhere with minimal to no equipment.

Equipment:

Resistance Band and mat

Primary Muscles:

Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, and Calves

How to perform:

  • On the floor or preferably a yoga mat, lie face up, lift your knees parallel to the ground.
  • With your feet straight, curl the band around the bottom of your soles.
  • Slowly press your legs up, making sure to stop the movement before locking out.
  • In a controlled manner, lower your legs back to the starting point and repeat.

Coaches Tip:

Although a leg exercise, remember to keep your core strong at all times.

Sets and Reps:

A beginner should be able to complete 3 sets of 10 reps, depending on band resistance.

2. Wall Squat

Another excellent leg press alternative, the Wall Squat, is an exercise that can be performed anywhere, making it a popular choice for those looking to strengthen their legs and knees.

The wall’s benefit is that it keeps the body locked in a safe position and assists with the technical aspects of the squat, which can be quite complex.

Equipment:

Wall

Primary Muscles:

Glutes, Vastus Lateralis, and Rectus Femoris

How to perform:

  • Keep your back as flat as comfortably possible on the wall.
  • With a solid base, feet shoulder-width apart and 30-60cm from the wall.
  • Slowly lower until knees parallel to the ground, remembering to keep your core strong.
  • Pause for a count of 3 in the parallel position, again keep the core strong.
  • Slowly come back up to the starting position, being sure not to lock your knees out.

Coaches Tip:

The upward tempo should be faster than the downward movement; Do not go beyond parallel until you have built up enough strength.

Sets and Reps:

3 sets of 10 will definitely get the blood pumping.

3. Squat Jump

The Jump Squat is an explosive movement that improves your power, core strength, and gives you the ability to burn calories faster than regular squats.

A fantastic leg press alternative, it can be performed anywhere without the need for machines or equipment.

All people will benefit from the Jump Squat, particularly those who play explosive sports like tennis, football, and track and field.

Equipment:

None

Primary Muscles:

Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, and Calves

How to perform:

  • Feet shoulder-width apart in a nice relaxed athletic position.
  • Slowly lower yourself as with a regular squat, again, always in a controlled fashion.
  • With as much power as you can muster, explode up off the floor.
  • Land softly on the balls of your feet.

Coaches Tip:

Try to limit the sound your feet make when landing; this helps reduce the impact on the body.

Sets and Reps:

3 sets of 5 reps

4. Walking lunges (Dumbbell Version)

Walking Lunges are one of the most popular movements out there that offer numerous benefits.

Lunges improve your balance; they work both sides of the body and integrate the use of your core as a stabilizer. It’s a great leg press alternative that promotes hip flexibility and provides toning of the primary muscles involved.

Because of the effort needed to perform lunges, they have been linked to boosting immunity and functionality.

Equipment:

Dumbell

Primary Muscles:

Quads, Glutes, Calves, and Hamstrings

How to perform:

  • Start with two dumbbells extended to the side.
  • Be sure to have an excellent athletic ready position.
  • With your head straight, take a comfortably sized step forward, keeping your chest out and core engaged.
  • When at the bottom of the movement, return to the start position keeping the core strong and head straight.

Coaches Tip:

By focusing on the core, you remain strong and stable, which helps prevent injury

Sets and Reps:

3 sets of 8 reps each side

5. Swiss Ball Curl

The Swiss Ball Leg Curl is also known as a “supine hip extension,” which primarily focuses on strengthening the glutes and hamstrings.

Although many exercises target the hip flexors, the Swiss Ball Leg Curl is an excellent leg press alternative. It explicitly targets the hip flexors and the knee flexors, bringing our heels closer to our buttocks.

Equipment:

Swiss or Balance Ball

Primary Muscles:

Glutes, Hamstrings, Buttocks, Calves, and Ankles

How to perform:

  • On a mat, lie down with the heels of your feet on the swiss ball.
  • Slowly lift your glutes (bum) off the ground to form a straight line.
  • Now roll the ball towards your buttocks and pause for a 3-second count.
  • Return to the start position, again, always in a controlled movement.

Coaches Tip:

This movement is quite complex and requires good strength, so make sure you are comfortable with the action before implementing it consistently into your routine.

Sets and Reps:

3 sets of 5 reps to start

6. Step Up With Barbell

The Barbell Step Up is an excellent all-around movement perfect for all athletic ability people and provides a challenging workout with minimal equipment needed.

It’s an incredibly versatile exercise and serves as an excellent leg press alternative due to its low impact on the body and the cardio benefits that come with it.

The Barbell Step Up is a plyometric movement making it great for those looking to improve range of motion and overall body strength.

Due to this exercise’s alternating motion, it builds the stabilizing muscles, which improves our overall body balance.

Equipment:

Barbell or some type of weight  (although not necessary)

Primary Muscles:

Quads, Hamstrings, Vastus Lateralis, and Rectus Femoris

How to perform:

  • Carefully load a barbell onto your back.
  • Place a bench or step in front of you, approximately the height of your knees.
  • Step on to the bench keeping your back straight and your core tight.
  • Make sure both feet are on the box before returning to the starting position.
  • Slowly lower back down before repeating with the alternate leg.

Coaches Tip:

When returning to the starting position, keep a feeling of softness; this will help prevent a heavy uncontrolled landing.

Sets and Reps:

2-3 sets and 10-12 reps

7. Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat is an old school exercise that strengthens the leg muscles, including hamstrings and quadriceps.

Due to the single-leg motion, it forces your core to engage, making it an excellent all-round exercise that promotes overall health and strength, not just in the legs.

An extremely low impact movement, the Bulgarian Split Squat takes a large amount of stress from the back muscles and promotes leg muscle integration.

For those returning from injury or wanting to start lightly, the Bulgarian Split Squat is an excellent leg press alternative.

Equipment:

Dumbbells or kettlebells

Primary Muscles:

Quads, Hamstrings, Vastus Lateralis, and Rectus Femoris

How to perform:

  • Stand relaxed and holding a pair of dumbbells to your side in front of the bench.
  • Put either one of your feet on the top bench behind you.
  • Slowly lower yourself as far as you feel comfortable while maintaining a strong core.
  • Pause for a 1-second count at the bottom of the movement.
  • Return to the top as always in a controlled fashion.

Coaches Tip:

Do not lock out the knees at the top of the movement.

Sets and Reps:

2 sets of 10 reps each leg

8. Front Squats (Barbell)

The Font Squat offers tremendous all-round benefits for those willing to give it a try.

An underrated movement, the Front Squat, targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles offering another variation on traditional squats and a fantastic leg press alternative.

Both front and traditional squats work the leg muscles; however, the front squat eases the lower back’s pressure as the spine does not compress as it usually would with a traditional squat.

Equipment:

Barbell

Primary Muscles:

Quads, Glutes, Calves, and Hamstrings

How to perform:

  • Starting as a regular squat with the only difference being the bar is resting on your collarbones, not your shoulders.
  • To start the movement, make sure the core is engaged, drive with your hips, and lower into the squat position, ideally knees parallel to the ground.
  • Be sure to keep the weight on the backs of the feet to help prevent drifting too far forward.
  • Slowly raise back up to the starting position, again being careful not to lock the knees.

Coaches Tip:

When lowering into the squat position, never let your knees drift in front of your toes; you should be able to see your toes at all times.

Sets and Reps:

3 sets of 8-12 reps

9. Smith Rack Squats

The Smith Machine Squat maximizes your muscle development while at the same time minimizing injury.

The Smith machine allows you to focus entirely on your technique, which helps promote stabilization and lets you squat with maximum confidence knowing the machine is there to assist.

The bar on the smith machine moves smoothly up and down; this movement gives you the confidence to lift heavier weight, promoting muscle development.

The machine also helps by locking you into an anatomically correct position, preventing your knees from drifting in front of your toes and placing massive amounts of stress on the knee flexors.

Equipment:

Smith Machine, Weights

Primary Muscles:

Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, and Calves

How to perform:

  • Load a comfortable amount of weight onto the barbell.
  • Standing inside the rack, start with an athletic position, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower into the squat position, head straight, weight on the heels, and core tight.
  • Pause for a 1-second count at the bottom of the movement before returning to the top.

Coaches Tip:

Squats are a great exercise but for those starting out its best, not to go below parallel until you’ve built up enough strength and, more importantly, confidence.

Sets and Reps:

3 sets of 8-12 reps

10. Lateral Lunge

Lateral Lunges are an excellent leg press alternative and offer the participant improvements in the areas of stability, balance, core strength, and leg development.

The lateral lunge provides stimulus to the outer sides of the quadriceps and activates the muscles in a way that regular lunges do not.

Equipment:

None (a resistance band can be used, however)

Primary Muscles:

Quads, Glutes, Calves, and Hamstrings

How to perform:

  • Standing shoulder-width apart, hold two dumbbells in your hands with a nice soft grip.
  • Maintaining a straight right leg, lunge out to the left side, keeping your head straight and core strong while the weight is lowered between your legs.
  • Be sure to pause for a 1-second count before pushing off back to the start position.
  • Repeat and alternate legs.

Coaches Tip:

An excellent exercise for women looking to shape and tone the inner thighs.

Sets and Reps:

3 sets of 12 – 15 reps

Conclusion

The best leg workouts consist of compound exercises that emphasize the glutes, hamstrings, and quads while at the same time working other smaller muscle groups, as with a traditional squat.

If you are looking to improve your range of motion, core strength, and balance, then the exercises above will get you well and truly on your way to strong, healthy legs.

I recommend incorporating each exercise into your routine regularly, as variation builds overall strength and helps eliminate weak muscle groups.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Do You Do A Leg Press Alternative At Home?

1. On the floor or preferably a yoga mat, lie face up, lift your knees parallel to the ground.
2. With your feet straight, curl the band around the bottom of your soles.
3. Slowly press your legs up, making sure to stop the movement before locking out.
4. In a controlled manner, lower your legs back to the starting point and repeat.


How To Use The Leg Press?

1. Keep your core tight and slowly push away from the board with your weight on your heels.
2. Exhale and keep your back flat against the pad and keep your head looking straight
3. When at the top of the movement, pause for a 1-second count and be sure never to lock out your knees.
4. Inhale and slowly control the weight back to the start position, making sure to keep your feet flat.

Brenton Barker

Brenton holds a Degree in Sports Coaching from the University of Delaware and was the former Head Advisor for the Japanese Government's Sports Science Institute. He has held Managerial and Head Coaching roles with Australia's National Governing Body, Tennis Australia, and served on the Dunlop International Sports Advisory Board for eight years. Brenton currently consults with several professional athletes and clients in the areas of Self-Accountability, Health, and Goal Orientation.

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