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5 Leg Press Alternatives for Leg Day

The largest muscle groups in your body are found in your legs. They provide you with balance, stability and they boost your overall athletic ability. That’s why you should never skip leg day!

If you can’t make it to the gym or they’re still closed as of lately, we’ve got you covered. Here are some sweat-inducing leg press alternative exercises to get you moving. The best part is you don’t need any heavy weights.

What is a leg press?

The leg press machine provides an effective workout for your lower body muscles, while also supporting your back.

The mechanism of the exercise involves using bent legs to push weight away until the legs are straight. On an incline leg press, the seat is at a 45° angle below a weighted sled. An individual lays on the seat with their feet on the platform and pushes upwards, then releases the sled. On a seated leg press, the seat is closer to 90°, and the angle is often adjustable. The individual sits on the seat and pushes the weighted plate forward with their leg, then returns to the starting position.

Muscles used in a leg press

To target specific muscle groups, there are various ways to use a leg press machine by changing feet positions.

The original way to use a leg press machine is by placing your feet in the middle of the platform and shoulder-width apart. This method will work all your leg muscles including:

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

If you place your feet higher up on the platform, you will get a greater glute and hamstring muscle activation. Accordingly, if you place your feet lower on the platform, you’ll get more activation of your quadricep muscles. If you have a wider feet stance, you can target your inner thigh muscles and if you narrow your stance, you can work your outer thigh muscles. Although the research concerning feet placement and specific muscle activation is minimal, they all confirm that as intensity increases, those muscles are being used more.

Leg Press Alternative At Home Exercises

1. Squats

Squats can stimulate the same muscles as a leg press because they both have similar movement. The main muscles used during a squat are your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.

First, stand with your feet hip-width apart and pointed slightly outwards. Keep your core tight while sending your hips backwards and bend your knees. Your knees should be in-line with your feet and pushed outwards the whole way down. Make sure your knees don’t go over your toes. Try to get your thighs to make a 90° angle or less with the floor while pushing your glutes down. Then use your heels to push yourself back up again. At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes.

To challenge yourself more, you could use a resistance band. Using a resistance band during a squat will activate your glute muscles rather than your quads. Once you master balancing, you can also hold a dumbbell in each hand while squatting.

2. Sumo Squats

Sumo squats have the same range of motion of a squat, but they work other muscle groups and are more difficult to execute. The muscles used for a sumo squat are the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and inner thigh muscles.

This time you start with your feet wider than your hips and pointed slightly outwards. While keeping your core tight, send your hips back and lower your glutes. Again, try to make your thighs parallel to the floor and use your heels to push yourself back up again. Squeeze your glutes when you’re done.

You can hold a dumbbell vertically with both hands and in between your legs to make this harder.

3. Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian split squats are a killer alternative to leg press exercises. You work opposite muscles on each leg at a time and there’s a heavier load on your back leg. The muscles activated are the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.

For this exercise, you begin in a split-legged stance where you place the foot of your back leg on a bench, chair or stability ball. Balance the ball of your back foot on the surface and you can move your front leg forward to a comfortable distance. Then slowly bend your knees until the knee of your front leg is at a 90° angle. Keep your core straight. Press the heel of your front foot into the ground to stand up.

For added resistance, you can hold dumbbells in each hand.

4. Lateral Lunges

The lateral lunges are another leg press alternative that still targets the glutes, hamstrings and quads. But, it also focuses on the side glutes and the outer and inner thighs.

To do a lateral lunge, stand up straight with your feet together. Take a big step with your right leg to one side. Keep your left leg straight while bending the knee of your right leg. Make sure your knee is at a 90° angle. Remember to keep your core tight and torso slightly angled forward as you bend. Then straighten your leg and bring it back inwards to stand up with feet together. Repeat the same movement with your left leg.

To increase your weight load, you can hold one dumbbell with both hands as you extend each leg.

5. Broad Jumps

Broad jump exercises use explosive movements that work the same muscles as a squat. In addition to the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, the calf muscles are activated.

You begin the movement with feet shoulder-width apart and start to lower your body into a squat position. Dig your heels into the ground and use your arms to propel yourself forward and jump. As you land on both feet, stabilize yourself by keeping your core straight and almost sitting in a squat position again.

You can use a resistance band around your thighs to increase the tension during this exercise and to ensure you’re using your legs muscles evenly.

We hope you learned some helpful tips on leg press alternative exercises. You can still build muscle mass at home without using heavy machines or weight plates. You just need to perform higher reps with each set.