The leg press is an incredible exercise for working on lower-body pushing motions, helping to hit your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. But, when you’re stuck at home or the gym is packed, the leg press is suddenly no longer an option.
So, we’re going to go over some of the best leg press alternatives to boost your lower body strength without needing a leg press machine.
Table of Contents
Squats are the most similar exercises to the leg press, which is why it’s our number one alternative. This exercise works on the pushing motion in the lower body just like the leg press does.
You can do this exercise with just your bodyweight, but you can hold a dumbbell, sandbag, kettlebell, medicine ball, or realistically any heavy object against your chest as you do it for greater resistance and strength building.
Don’t have any free weights to use? If dumbbells are more your thing, check out these adjustable dumbbells by Topeakmart. They easily replace 15 sets of dumbbells.
- Begin with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your back completely straight.
- If you’re using some form of weight, hold them at your side or firmly clench them in front of your chest.
- Keep your knees facing forward as you lower yourself to the floor (as if you’re going to sit in a chair).
- Once you reach a 90-degree angle, use your feet to push up off the floor and return to the standing position
When one leg is weaker than the other during the leg press, it’s not unusual for the stronger leg to overcompensate to get that weight up. The step-up is a very good way to work on each leg individually and keep your dominant leg from taking over.
All you need is some sort of bench, chair, or step and extra weight to hold if you want some more resistance. Just remember that a higher step means the exercise is more difficult.
You don’t need to step all over your couch or dining room chairs to do this one. I recommend getting your own plyo box like this one by Rage Steel. It’s great for simple step-ups, but it’s killer for all sorts of dynamic exercises like box jumps and more so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
- Find a step or some form of an elevated object (a chair or bench will work too).
- Step up onto the step with one leg and push down to straighten your leg.
- Allow your other leg to follow your first leg up so you’re standing on top of the step.
- Bring one leg down at a time and then switch legs.
The lunge works the same exact muscles as the step-up, but it’s a little less intense and a better option for beginners. Since they require you to keep your entire upper body straight, you’re also working your core a little bit too.
All you need to do lunges are some weight to hold if you want to make them a little harder. Keep in mind that there are several variations of the regular lunge (like walking lunges) that you can use to keep your home workout routine more interesting.
- Start with both legs together and whatever weight you’re using grasped in front of your body or at both sides.
- Take a decent step forward with one leg and land on your heel.
- Lower your body until your front leg is at about a 90-degree angle.
- Push up off the ground with your front leg and return it to your starting position.
- Make sure you alternate legs.
4. Squat Jump (or Box Jump)
There’s no doubt that the leg press builds lower body strength, but keeping good form also means you can’t really work on power at the same time. The squat jump is the perfect solution for combining strength and power.
To really build power, you’re going to want to hold some sort of weight when doing squat jumps. Yet, you can also do box jumps instead to focus more on height jumped than resistance.
It’s very common to hold medicine balls for box jumps since they minimize the risk of injury. The Grip Type Medicine Ball by AmazonBasics is a solid option since it’s easy to hold when you’re jumping up and down.
- Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart (grip a weight in front of your body, if you want some extra resistance).
- Lower your body as if you’re sitting in a chair so your knees are at a 90-degree angle.
- Push firmly off the ground so you end up “jumping” on your way up.
- As you land, lower yourself into another squat and repeat.
5. Bulgarian Split Squat
Bulgarian split squats are really similar to lunges, but you’ll be able to target a much larger range of motion. With your back leg supported, you can sink into the lunge/squat a little better than you can with a basic lunge.
To do the Bulgarian split squat, you’ll need a bench (or chair) to balance your foot on and some weight if you want to work on strength.
- Use a bench (or a chair or couch) and rest the toes of one of your feet on it.
- Take a large step forward so your back leg is now at a 90-degree angle as it rests.
- With your front leg, lower your body so that your knee is at a 90-degree angle.
- Push up off the floor to return to the starting position.
- Make sure you work both legs.
6. Reverse Lunge
It’s really common to lose form during a regular forward lunge. With the reverse lunge, since your front leg is going to be stable throughout the movement, you’re much more likely to keep your balance and follow through with proper form.
The only extra equipment you might need is some weight, though this is optional.
- Start with both feet together and holding a weight against your chest or at both sides (optional).
- Take a large step back with one leg and plant your toes on the ground.
- Bend your front knee to about a 90-degree angle.
- Extend your front leg as you bring your rear leg back to the starting position.
7. Wall Sit
The wall sit is great for working all of the muscles that the leg press and squat work, but it is a stationary exercise. That means, at a certain point, you’ll be working on endurance much more than strength or muscle growth.
You only need access to a stable wall and maybe a stopwatch if you want to keep track of your progress. You can also hold a weight out in front of you (like a medicine ball) to add a little more resistance.
- Find a sturdy wall and plant your back against it.
- Slowly slide down the wall, bringing your legs outward at the same time until you’re in a seated position (about 90-degrees at the knees).
- Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold this position.
Leg Press Alternatives Conclusion
Being stuck at home is no excuse to skip leg day, even if you don’t have your own leg press machine at home. So, stick to your regular leg routine and swap in some of the exercises above when it comes time to do the leg press!
So now that you have your quad exercises taken care of, what about your hamstrings? The leg curl is typically the “go-to” machine for building strong hamstrings, but you can check out the 7 Best Alternatives to Leg Curls Without Machines if you can’t make it to the gym.