A leg press machine is an excellent tool for building muscle and strengthening the legs. Leg presses involve pushing your feet against a certain amount of resistance weight on a leg press machine — the more the weight, the more challenging the movement. This heavy-duty piece of fitness equipment isn’t cheap, so unless you’ve got a high-end home gym set-up, you’ll find this at a fitness center near you.
The good news is that you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg to reap the benefits of a leg press at home, and you don’t have to head to the gym either. You can do the following four leg press alternatives easily from the comfort of your home, at the park or in your backyard. They”ll help you get similar (or even better!) results — no machine needed.
Leg press benefits
Let’s start things off and discuss what muscles you can expect to strengthen when you use a leg press. Leg presses specifically focus on working your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
There are a range of leg press benefits that make it a favorite exercise among fitness fans out there. The machine is excellent for people who may be recovering from an injury and need to execute movements in a careful, controlled manner minimizing any overextension or incorrect form – often the case with barbell exercises. This great muscle builder allows you to progressively add more weight to make the movement more difficult over time.
However, where the leg press machine excels in usability, it falls short in its ability to stabilize your legs, as the machine doesn’t work smaller, supporting muscles in the leg (more on that later). Not to worry, you can build-up these smaller muscles with another set of leg exercises you can do anywhere.
Leg press alternatives you can practice anywhere
Squats are a favorite all-around exercise for a reason. They’re not only fantastic for working the entire leg – including smaller muscles like the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, lateral hamstring, and gastrocnemius – but they also work your core, which is never a bad thing. The video clip below shows a weighted squat which is perfect for more the more advanced.
- Stand straight with your shoulders directly above your hips. Keep your feet hip-width apart, and your toes slightly turned out.
- Drop your hips back and down (as if sitting on an invisible chair), keeping your knees behind your toes and your hip and ankles in line. Make sure your knees don’t collapse inward.
- Keep lowering your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Pause and hold this position for a moment.
- Drive weight into your heels to stand back up to your starting position.
Sometimes known as standing long jumps, this exercise develops explosive strength and improves your fast-twitch muscle reactions. Categorized as a plyometric movement, it’s perfect for activities that require an intense burst of energy like sprinting. Broad jumps make great leg press alternatives as you can do them anywhere, anytime and save you that pricey gym membership, but you’ll need a bit more space for this one (try doing them outside).
Broad jumps especially exercise your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, abductors and calves. Why not level-up make your workout even more challenging by wearing ankle weights when executing the movement.
- Start in a squat position.
- Jump up and forward in the air, exploding forward as far as you can.
- Land lightly on your feet and controlled in a squat position, ensuring that your knees do not extend past
- your toes or collapse inwards.
You can’t go wrong with lunges, and just like squats, you can do them anywhere you have enough space. An effective leg press alternative, there are numerous types of lunges you can perform, including classic forward lunges, curtsy lunges or walking lunges to name just a few.
You can perform most lunge variations at home, working your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Feeling fighting fit? Then wear a weighty backpack or hold a kettlebell/dumbells when lunging and feel the burn!
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward with one leg, keeping your hips square and bend at the knee to drop forward.
- Lower yourself in a controlled manner until your rear knee nearly touches the floor, with your front knee directly above your ankle.
- Drive through the heel of your front foot, pushing off the back foot to return to your starting position.
Our glutes (aka our butts) are not only one of the largest group of muscles, but often the weakest as a result of prolonged sitting. You can activate and train your glutes with this leg press alternative — the glute bridge. This exercise primarily works your entire backside including your glutes, lower back, and hamstrings. Glute bridges are ideal in injury prevention and pack a serious punch.
This one is exceptionally well suited for people who don’t have a lot of room to exercise – you only need enough space to lay on your back.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
- Activate your glutes and press your weight into your heels raise your hips.
- With your upper back rooted to the floor, lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your hips and knees, squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
- Lower your hips back down and return to the starting position.
Need a quick leg workout?
Now that you know the benefits of a leg press machine and your home variations, you can start incorporating leg press alternatives into your regular exercise routine. Try our 15-minute workout and get some serious leg action you can squeeze into any busy schedule.
You can do this workout from just about anywhere – your hotel, your dorm room, your living space or your bedroom. All you need is a little bit of space to move around! Do three rounds of the following exercises:
- Jumping jacks (or jump rope) – 60 seconds
- Squats – 3o seconds
- Broad jumps – 30 seconds
- Plank (hold) – 30 seconds
- Forward lunges (right-left equals one) – 30 seconds
- Glute bridges – 30 seconds
- Ab crunches – 30 seconds
- Rest – 60 seconds
Get a leg up with more 8fit Pro workouts!
If our leg press alternatives have piqued your interest, then why not sign up for the 8fit Pro app for even more effective exercises. You’ll discover workouts tailored specifically to your goals and target specific muscle groups. Whether you want to build more muscle stronger, up your general fitness or shed any weight, 8fit Pro is just the ticket. Plus, you’ll get access to over 700 healthy recipes and curated meal plans just for you.