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The leg press is a prominent gym equipment in many commercial gyms. It can help build and strengthen lower body muscles, including the hamstrings and quadriceps in the legs and the glutes – muscles in the buttocks.
But you can still target and work the same muscles with leg press alternative exercises if you don’t have access to a machine or workout away from the commercial gym.
We will, in this article, discuss some of the best leg press alternative at home exercises that can help you target and work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
Best leg press alternative exercises for building strong legs
Not everyone has a leg press machine in their home gyms or wants to spend hours in the commercial gym. You may not even want to use one. But it is vital to include lower body exercises that target your leg in your fitness training.
Below are some of the best leg press alternative exercises that can help you target your hamstrings, quads, and glutes.
Resistance Band Leg Press
The resistance band leg press replaces the machine with a resistance band. While the resistance may not be as high as with a leg press, it is one of the best at-home leg press alternative exercises.
The exercise will work the same muscles as the leg press machine. And resistance bands are compact and portable. Thus you can carry them with you on vacation, etc., and train your lower body muscles while on the go.
Muscles worked: Hamstrings, quads, glutes, calves, lats, upper back
Steps to follow
- Lie on an exercise mat with your face up, holding the stirrups or ends of the resistance bands in each hand.
- Loop the resistance band under the arch of your both. Ensure you keep your feet together
- Pull the handles of the band and position your arms just around your shoulders
- Keeping your hips on the floor, bring your knees towards your chest, ensuring your feet are pointing straight ahead.
- With the band held firmly under your feet, and without moving your arms use your legs to push the resistance band outward and away from you until you stretch your legs fully.
- Pause briefly at the end of the movement and squeeze your quads.
- Slowly return turn to your starting position by bringing your knees towards your chest
- Repeat 8-12 reps for a set
The goblet squat is a full-body workout that targets and works muscles in your upper and lower body.
It is a leg press alternative cardiovascular exercise that works your legs, glutes, and core.
You will need a kettlebell or a dumbbell for the exercise. You may have to start with a lighter weight and increase the weight as you get more confident.
Required equipment: Kettlebell or dumbbell
Muscles worked: Hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves
Steps to follow
- Stand holding a kettlebell with both hands. Keep your feet about hip-width and angle your toes outward slightly.
- Hold the kettlebell with your palms on each side of the handles and bring the kettlebell to your chest.
- Look straight ahead.
- Tighten your core, stick out your backside, bend your knees and start squatting until your thighs and the floor are parallel. Ensure the kettlebell follows your movement up and down. Inhale as you go down and exhale as you rise
- Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement, ensuring you keep your torso upright
- Push down your heels, squeeze your glutes, and pull yourself up.
- Repeat for the desired reps.
Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
The dumbbell reverse lunge is another leg press alternative exercise with dumbbells that can help target your lower body muscles.
You will need a pair of dumbbells for the exercise.
Required equipment: Pair of Dumbbells
Muscles worked: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves
Steps to follow
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand, holding the dumbbells at your sides. Ensure you hold your chest out and keep your head high.
- Take a step with one leg and slightly bend both knees.
- Keep bending both knees until your back knee touches the floor. Ensure your legs are at 90 degrees at the bottom of the movement
- Push through your front foot and stand by extending your knees until you stretch your legs fully. Then, bring your feet back to your starting position.
- Swap leg positions and repeat to complete a set.
- Repeat for the desired number of sets
- Take a small step if your goal is to target your quads. Push through the balls of your feet to rise
- Take a much longer step if you intend to target the hamstrings and glutes. Push through the heel of your feet to rise.
Resistance Band Broad Jumps
Broad jumps are one of the best ways to develop explosive lower body power and strength.
Using a resistance band for the jumps turns the exercise into an effective lower body exercise that can help you to target your hamstrings, quads, core, calves, hip flexors, outer thighs, and lower back. Thus, it is another leg press alternative with bands exercise to include in your training.
You will need a resistance band for the exercise. A lone one will be much better than a shorter one.
The exercises require some intermediate level of fitness. Thus we suggest you start without the resistance band and then introduce them when you have some confidence.
Required equipment: Resistance band
Muscles worked: Hamstrings, quads, core, calves, hip flexors, outer thighs, and lower back
Steps to follow
- Firmly attach a resistance band at waist level to some fixed point.
- Place the resistance band around your hips, and face in the opposite direction.
- Take some steps forward to put tension in the resistance band.
- Move your hands backward, bend your knees, and jump forcefully forward as far as possible.
- Land, bending your knees, in a semi-squat position.
- Walk backward to get to your starting position while maintaining the tension in the resistance band.
Step Up with Barbell
The barbell step up is another effective leg press alternative exercise that can work your leg muscles.
You will need a barbell or dumbbell and a weight bench for the exercise. You can also use a raised platform if you don’t have a weight bench. The weight bench or raised platform should be 8-12 inches high.
Muscles worked: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, traps, adductors, abs, shoulders, upper back
Steps to follow
- Balance a barbell on your shoulders behind your neck as if doing a back squat
- Step on the weight bench with one leg.
- Push through the heel of the lower leg, lift it, and place it on top of the weight bench to stand upright on the weight bench.
- Step back down and return the foot slowly to the floor.
- Change position and repeat with the other foot to complete a set.
- Repeat for the desired number of sets.
- Start with a dumbbell, if necessary, to build your form before progressing to a barbell.
- You can also complete all the repetitions on one side with one leg before switching sides.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat involves squatting with your rear leg on a raised platform. It is an effective leg press alternative exercise for targeting your hamstrings, quads, glutes, abs, and calves.
The exercise can also help improve your coordination and balance and build your core and upper body muscles.
You need a proper form to perform the exercise correctly. Thus you may have to do a few trials before getting it right.
You will need a weight bench for the exercise.
Muscles worked: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, abs.
Steps to follow
- Stand about 2 feet away behind the weight bench
- Lift one leg and
- Place on foot on the bench behind you. Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart. If necessary, adjust your position to ensure you have enough place between you and the weight bench for you to lunge. Ensure the knee of the raised leg does not touch the heel on the floor when you lunge.
- Engage your core, roll back your shoulders, and slightly bend forward at your waist. Then bend the knee of the raised leg and lower yourself as far down as possible.
- Stop lowering just before yourself just before your knee touches the floor.
- Then push through the foot on the floor and pull yourself up until you fully stretch the leg on the floor.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Swap legs, and repeat for the other side
Weighted Wall Sit
Adding a weight to the standard wall sit makes the exercise challenging, helping you target your lower body muscles, including your quads, calves, and glutes.
Start without any weight, and add weights as you gain more confidence.
You will need a weight plate or dumbbell of appropriate weight
Hold a weight plate or a dumbbell of desirable weight. You will also need a flat wall.
Required equipment: Weight plate or dumbbell
Muscles worked: Quads, glutes, calves
Steps to follow
- Stand with your back against the wall holding the weight plate in both hands and feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Slide your back and lower your body until your thighs and the floor are parallel. Ensure your knees are in line with your toes.
- Gently place the weight plate on your thighs and hold the position for as long as possible or up to 60 seconds.
Swiss Ball Curl
The Swiss ball curl is another leg press alternative exercise that targets your hamstrings, glutes, abs, and lower back.
You will need a swiss ball for the exercises.
Required equipment: Exercise ball
Muscles worked: Hamstrings, glutes, abs, lower back
Steps to follow
- Lie on your back on the floor
- Stretch your legs and place your heels on the Swiss ball.
- Make yourself stable by placing your arms flat on the floor and in line with your shoulders.
- Raise your hips so that they are in line with your shoulders and knees.
- Using your feet, roll the ball towards your buttocks until your feet are flat on the ball and, your knees pointing at the ceiling.
- Pause for a second while squeezing your core and hamstrings.
- Reverse the movement by rolling the ball forward to your starting position to complete a set.
Box jumps are one of the most effective ways to develop explosive power and strength in your lower body. Box jump targets such lower body muscles as the quads, hamstrings, core, glutes, and calves, making them good leg press alternative exercises to include in your fitness training.
Aside from building and strengthening your lower body muscles, box jumps can improve athleticism and your ability to jump vertically.
Box jumps require balance and coordination. Thus you should start with a low box and increase the height with time.
Muscles worked: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves
Steps to follow
- Stand about a step away from the box. Keep feet at about shoulder-width
- Go into a quarter squat by slightly bending your knees and dropping down, and stretching your arms out behind you.
- Drawing power from the quarter squat, jump upward and land on the box while swinging your hands forward to balance your body.
- Bend your knees slightly and land softly on the box.
- Step back on the floor, one leg at a time.
Barbell Hip Thrusts
While the barbell hip thrust is one of the best exercises for building the glutes, it also targets your quads, hamstrings, and calves.
They are effective seated leg press alternative exercises to include in your leg workout.
Muscles worked: Glutes, hamstrings, abs
- You will need a weight bench and a barbell for the exercise.
- Sit on the floor and rest your upper back against the edge of the weight bench.
- Place the barbell on the crease of your hips. Hold onto it to keep it in place.
- Bend your knees and bring your feet close to your hips. Keep your feet at about shoulder-width
- Breathe in, push your feet into the floor, squeeze your glutes, and using your hips, raise the barbell until you extend your hips fully and your shoulders are on the bench. Ensure you keep your core tight.
- Slowly lower your hips back to your starting position
- Squeeze your glutes and repeat.
The glute bride is one of the best bodyweight leg press alternatives for strengthening and building your hamstrings, glutes, and core.
Steps to follow
- Lie on an exercise mat and place your hands by your sides.
- Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor. Ensure your feet are under your knees
- Brace your core and buttocks
- Raise your hips to form a straight line with your shoulders and knees.
- Pause for 20-30 seconds and then lower to your starting position
- Repeat 8-12 reps to complete a set
Final words from LiveLIfe
You don’t need a machine to build and strengthen your legs.
The exercises discussed here can all help build your lower body muscles. The good thing is you don’t need a gym membership or expensive gym equipment. Some require simple home gym equipment, but others don’t. That means there is something in there for everyone, irrespective of where you are in your fitness journey.
The leg press alternative exercises we have highlighted are all good enough to include in your leg workouts to help you build strength and power. We are confident they can fit into your training regimen.
To achieve the best results and prevent injury, always warm up before attempting any of the exercises.
- Wirtz N, Zinner C, Doermann U, Kleinoeder H, Mester J. Effects of loaded squat exercise with and without application of superimposed ems on physical performance. J Sports Sci Med. 2016;15(1):26-33.
- Slater LV, Hart JM. Muscle activation patterns during different squat techniques. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(3):667-676. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001323
- Goblet squat. (n.d.). acefitness.org/resources/everyone/exercise-library/362/goblet-squat
- Exercise Library: Bulgarian split squat. (n.d.). acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/exercise-library/366/bulgarian-split-squat.