Leg press alternative: 5 Exercises if you don’t have access to a machine

In this post, we are going to list the best alternatives for the leg press exercise. Ever thought of dominating your legs?

Ever heard of a machine that gives you great leg gains? Let me introduce you to the leg press. The leg press is a very effective exercise that is popular among anyone who goes to a gym.

Commercial gyms often have more than one leg press machine, if that tells you something. Leg press machine is performed seated and your legs are the only muscles that move. It has many variations ranging from vertically to horizontally to seated leg press. Some leg press machines can be converted to a hack squat machine too.

Usually, you will see people on social media posting videos while doing the leg press with a tremendous amount of weight and you wonder why it is loaded so much.

Because not everyone has access to commercial gyms in this pandemic or does not have the required space for the machine, as it is big and heavy. We are going to list the best leg press alternatives that give you the same result as the leg press.

What muscles do leg presses really work?

Leg press is as it indicates, a leg exercise. Leg press exercise is from the best and the most popular exercise among bodybuilders, powerlifters, and normal gym trainees. It is easy to do and quite effective when it comes to muscle strength or muscle gain.

The leg press exercise works mainly the quadriceps muscles, which are the front muscles in your legs. Along with the abductors, adductors, hamstrings, and glutes, it is by far from the best exercises you can do for your legs. It also works your calf muscles which give you that aesthetic look on the beach.

Leg press is considered a semi-compound exercise because it involves nearly half of your body which is your lower body. Also, leg press can be loaded with super-high weights because it has assistance from the machine as well as being a compound movement.

As you see, doing the leg press with 500 pounds is not necessarily 500 pounds on your legs. If you tried these 500 pounds in the seated leg press, you would be dead.

Typically, the horizontal leg press is the most used and the most loaded variation of the leg press. The seated leg press is the least loaded, as it somehow isolates your quadriceps and is a stack-resistant exercise not weight-resistance.

Is the leg press that important? And for whom?

Leg press is considered by many gym pros and experts an essential exercise when it comes to the legs. Along with the squats and lunges, leg press can help you build big and strong legs for better shape, better performance, and better health.

As a leg press a compound movement, doing 3 sets of it will smash 3 sets of leg extensions, as it recruits more muscles and needs higher force. Also, it has the ability to be a great progressive overload exercise.

As we know, progressive overload is the main driver for hypertrophy. If you did not increase your training intensity or volume, how will your muscles grow? It has nothing more to adapt to.

Simply put, our muscles grow when we let them adapt to a new weight or a greater training volume. The leg press has the ability to do that very effectively.

As a bodybuilder or someone that wants to gain muscles generally, leg press can be very useful to you. You can use this exercise as the main exercise in your leg workout by doing anything between 3 to 6 sets of 10 to 12 reps each. It will be a very good exercise for your leg hypertrophy and will definitely build you massive quads.

What if I am powerlifter? Powerlifters use the leg press exercise as an accessory movement to their squat. As you need to build more muscles so you can be stronger on the lift.

Leg press can offer a great stimulus and a great help to your squat performance. However, do not let the leg press dictates your squat training volume. Also, the closer you are for a competition, the lesser the need of the leg press.

Best Leg Press Alternative Exercise

1. Resistance Bands Leg Press

The resistance bands leg press is an exercise that targets your muscles with the same mechanism as the leg press. It works up nearly half of your body and is so effective when it comes to building leg gains.

Why it’s good

The resistance bands leg press has many benefits to count. It is very useful to build your leg muscles and it will save you a lot of space because you will be able to do the leg press but in a small, compact way.

The resistance bands are a great choice because they offer the same resistance as any machine or as any weight plates or stacks but in a more compact and size-manageable way.

The reason why I love the resistance bands leg press is that you can do it everywhere. As it is easy to take the resistance bands with you anywhere you are going.

However, as the resistance bands cannot offer the same resistance as the machine, Beginners would be better off this exercise. Intermediate and advanced trainees may find this exercise a little bit easy and light for them.


To do this exercise, you will need a resistance band with the intensity that suits you either high or low and a training mat A.K.A yoga mat. To start off, lie with your back on the ground and bend your knees.

Put the resistance bands in the arch of your feet and make sure it is stable and tucked in. Grab the other ends with your hands and hold them close to your chest. To start the movement, bend your knees down to your chest, then start off by pushing your knees against the band until it is fully straight. Bent your knees back to your chest and repeat.

2. Weighted Wall Sit

The weighted wall sit is from the exercises that challenge you very hard to maintain your position.

It is similar to the leg press as it targets the quadriceps very effectively. It is a popular exercise among bodybuilders and weightlifters as well as anyone who has ever been to a gym.

Why it’s good

When you first look at the weighted wall sit, you might think it is easy and very static that it won’t do much for you.

However, when you try it, you would feel the pain. The weighted wall sit is an exercise that targets both your muscle size and muscle endurance. Because typically when it’s done, the normal set averages between 30 seconds up to 5 minutes sitting and not moving, it challenges your endurance so hard.


To do the weighted wall sit, you will need an empty wall and a weight plate. You can use any weight instead of a plate, a bag for example can be a good and an affordable option as a weight resistance.

To start off, Grab the weight on your hands and stand against wall. Walk your feet out as you would do a squat and slowly lower your body until your hamstrings touch your calves or simply by letting your legs make a 90-degree angle. Rest the weight on your quadriceps and hold on until you feel the burn and reach near failure.

Beginners might start off with no weights and progress slowly to weighted wall sits.

3. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squats

The dumbbell bulgarian split squat is an exercise that is simple but yet quite effective. It is used as a main exercise for the quads and glutes, as same as the leg press. It also needs minimal equipment which is available nearly in everyone’s house.

Why it’s good

The dumbbell bulgarian split squats target the same muscle group as the leg press which is the quadriceps and glutes. It also very good because it requires great balance and stability from you. As you will be standing on one feet only while doing this exercise.

It is very challenging and burns out your whole leg with the least amount of weight. Unlike the leg press, you will not be bothered by putting on a ton of weights each set. This exercise is good as a squat accessory for powerlifters and as a main hypertrophy movement for bodybuilders. It can be done at home with just a pair of dumbbells and a bench.


To do this exercise, you will need a pair of dumbbells and a bench or a box to put your legs on. To start, stand in front of the bench or the box you have ready with dumbbells on hands, put one legs on the bench, and move away a little bit with your standing leg to make a good width stance.

To start the movement, squat down with a focus on your front legs until your knee nearly touches the ground, then get back up and repeat. After finishing one leg alternate to the other. Focus on your technique and performance and start light.

4. Dumbbell Walking Lunges

The dumbbell walking lunges is an exercise that is so popular among bodybuilders and powerlifters and most of them love to do it instead of many leg exercises as it is easy to do.

Lunges are quite effective and don’t need any pieces of equipment other than a pair of dumbbells and an area to workout in.

Why it’s good

The Dumbbell walking lunges target the same muscle groups as the leg press. The quadriceps as a main muscle, glutes, and hamstrings. It works up nearly half of your body just as the leg press.

It is done as a hypertrophy movement for both strength purposes and muscle gain purposes. It can be useful to increase muscle endurance if you performed many reps with it.

The dumbbell walking lunges also increase your stability and balance because you alternate between your legs while moving and doing the exercise.


To do the dumbbell walking exercise, you need a moderate to big area to train in, and a pair of dumbbells. To start off, Grab the dumbbells in your hand and stand neutrally, take a wide step in front of you and lower your body down by bending both of your knees, then stand up and take the next step with the alternative leg and repeat.

5. Dumbbell Step-up

The Dumbbell Step-up is an exercise that focuses on a single leg at a time. It targets the quadriceps, calves, and glutes in a similar way to the leg press. It is quite effective if you want to focus on a single leg at a time.

Why it’s good

As a unilateral exercise, the dumbbell step-up requires great stability and balance that if you did not have stability while doing it, you might fall off, and that’s something you don’t want. The dumbbell step-up will strengthen your adductors and abductors as they are your legs’ stability muscles.


To do this exercise, you need a pair of dumbbells and a bench or box at knee height. To start, hold the dumbbells in your hands, stand in front of the bench.

Start by placing one leg at the bench and pushing to stand on the bench. Do not rest your other leg on the bench. Instead, get back down with both legs and do the same movement with your other leg.


Final Words

Leg press is a great exercise to do but unfortunately many people do not have the facility to perform it. So we have listed the best alternative exercises for you so you can have the same results as with the leg press.

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