Those who are quite new to the resistance training landscape, generally put into a conversation that I don’t have a leg press machine- how to do leg press without a machine and can I replace leg press with dumbbells and more. 

The relatively greater popularity of leg press exercises among gym enthusiasts is fairly reasonable. It targets the muscles of your lower body, mainly the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, to tone them into better shapes without exerting undesirable pressure on your spine. Since it requires you to repeat the same moves without much stabilization, they suit the training styles of almost everyone from beginners to those coming back from an injury recovery.

That being said, not everyone has an access to leg press or desire to train themselves on it regularly. If you have been recently falling into either of the groups, you need not compromise on your leg day training regimes. You can perform leg press without the machine. An alternative to the leg press or a leg press substitute needs to fulfill certain criteria with respect to your training, which has been discussed below. They are effective, cost-cutting, and in short- lifesavers for those looking for a leg press alternative at home. 

Why is the Leg Press Everyone’s Favorite?

Strength training is no joke. It demands so much muscular endurance with each repetition and set of moves the trainee performs. Even while doing compound movements, you may realize the substantial amount of energy it requires to yield those amazing results.

The resistance machines, such as the leg press, make the struggle a little easier by reducing the complexity and stability it requires while training the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It only demands and allows a fixed pattern of movement. Therefore, before choosing to switch to advanced training such as barbell and dumbbells leg lifts, it is important to begin safely by adjusting the weights on the leg press machine.

Criteria for a Good Leg Press Alternative 

In order to qualify for an effective leg press replacement, the exercise has to target the muscle groups as the leg presses without putting much load on your spinal area. The primary muscle worked by the leg press machine is quads and glutes.

Therefore, it effectively increases your strength in the lower body and gives you more firm control over other lower body workouts be it squats or cable leg lifts. It also enhances your athletic performance and gives you the strength to score those long marathons with ease. Secondly, it also works the hamstrings and calves in extension while pushing the platform.

10 Effective Leg Press Substitutes That You Can Include In Your Leg Day Routine 

1. Hack Squat 

What is it all about?

To give you an overview- it is a brilliant combination of 2 moves: a deadlift and a squat. But beware if you have troubles with your back- this might not be a great move! 

The crucial takeaway from a hack squat is similar to the multi-joint movement one performs on a leg press. It works the quads strenuously, giving the leg, back, and forearms a nice chiseled shape. 

The Correct Way to Do It

This exercise can be performed with the hack squat machine at the gym.

1. Set the machine with the right amount of weight that can challenge your strength. At first, get familiar with the workout moves on the machine before increasing the weight plates.

2. Placing your feet at least shoulder-width apart, step into the machine and align your shoulders and back against the pads.

3. Keeping your back straight, release the safety handles, and squat down bending your knees until you make a 90-degree angle with the calves.

4. Hold the position for a couple of seconds then push back upwards using your feet and extend your legs and back to the resting position

2. Resistance Band Leg Press 

What is it all about?

The resistance provided by a leg press machine can be replaced by using a resistance band that challenges your muscular endurance and strength while working the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. You only need to keep prepared a resistance band and a mat or chair.

The Correct Way to Do It

  1. Lay down on a mat facing upwards and lift your legs off the floor.
  2. Bending the knees, form a 90-degree angle with the thighs, and keep your toes pointing toward the ceiling.
  3. Keep your feet joined and stretch the band across your feet, clutching the opposite ends firmly with your palms.
  4. Straightening your knees, press your feet against the resistance of the bands till your legs are in a straight line with the body.
  5. Return to the original position by pulling your knees back to 90 degrees.

You can do the same moves on a chair to help relax the back and engage the core. Just sit straight on a chair and engage your core, keeping the back flat. Wrap the band around your feet and hold the opposite end with your palms just above your thighs. Keep pulling your knees into 90 degrees and straighten them for one rep of the press.

3. Goblet Squats 

What is it all about?

A Goblet squat is typically a full-body exercise that strengthens the legs, core, and glutes. It does not require much expertise but relies a lot on the form you acquire while performing the squat. If done right, it targets the gluteal muscles, quads, hamstrings, calves, core abdominals, forearms, and shoulders. It’s a great workout to build lower body stability while also working out a substantial area of the upper body. 

The Correct Way to Do It

  1. Stand with your feet a bit broader than hip-distance apart and the toes pointing slightly outwards. 
  2. Clutching the side of the handles, bend your elbows to place the Goblet right in the center of the chest. 
  3. You may warm-up using a lighter weight to train on the movement and improve the amount of weight as you progress. 
  4. Focus on your core and keep your back straight throughout the squat. Throw your hips back and bend your knees to perform a clean squat. 
  5. Don’t take the kettlebell away from your body while working out. Try to get your hip parallel to knees- challenge yourself but not so much as to risk injury. 
  6. Balancing your weight uniformly across both feet, push yourself back upwards,  carrying the pressure on your heels. 
  7. Make sure that your elbows stay within the boundaries of your knees at the lowest position of the squat. Keep the knees in line with the toes 
  8. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position 
  9. As you stand up press your hips forward in order to engage the glutes

4. Hip Belt Squats 

What is it all about?

The hip belt squat exercise is the one that goes close to replacing the straight and erect torso position as well as knee-led movements of a leg press. However, if you are planning to perform a variation of this effective workout at home, consider working out with a dip belt which can ease out the move for you greatly.

Depending on the accessible equipment around you, performing more than one variation of the belt squat is feasible and also recommendable. It can range from an actual belt squat machine, a cable machine, a landmine attachment, or a set of couple boxes along with a dip belt. 

The Correct Way to Do It

  1. Wear the hip dip belt around your waist, and kneel, without stressing any muscle to fix it to the belt squat machine
  2. Get into a squat position without adding up the tension to your body from the machine
  3. Gently put your hands on the handrails, supporting yourself to stand straight 
  4. Push the stopper away to squat down freely
  5. Holding the handrails to maintain your body’s stability, bend your knees and squat down along with the resistance.
  6. Upon achieving the right depth in your squat, push the platform away and stand back up 
  7. Keep the knees in alignment with the toes throughout the move.

5. Jefferson Squats 

What is it all about?

Some workouts look extremely ugly while performing. Not to overstress, Jefferson squat is one of those notorious exercises. However, this multiplanar exercise is friendly to your back and gives you unbeatable abductor strength.

It trains your Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Adductor Magnus, Obliques, Multifidus, Spinal Erectors, and Lats. The workout is dedicatedly performed by the participants of the StrongMan championship for training themselves on a variety of movements. 

The Correct Way to Do It

  • Split your legs across the handlebar of the barbell
  • Your front foot must point forward, and the back foot should acquire an angle of 90-degrees with the direction of the front foot. However, you can alter it based on your personal preference, just don’t keep the foot flat.
  • Your torso would gently build a tension akin to turning to the side.
  • Without twisting your torso try to rotate it back to the core middle keeping your shoulders squarely forward.
  • Bend down to hold the barbell with hands straight about shoulder-width apart
  • As you grab the barbell don’t move or lift the feet off the floor
  • Inhale and engage your core while you stand up, lifting the weight of the barbell by pushing yourself up through the midfoot, and avoid twisting the torso.
  • Return to the initial position
  • Switch your foot position to train the opposite side

6. Sissy Squats 

What is it all about?

A sissy squat qualifies to be one of the most effective exercises for building quadriceps. It requires your core stability and works the hip flexors to strengthen them simultaneously. It derives the name from King Sisyphus who was eternally doomed to pull a heavy rock to the peak of the highest mountain. That’s the mythology but trust me on this- had we met Sisyphus, we’d have been envious of the quads he’d have grown. While you can do the workout without a Sissy Squat bench yet it is preferable to use one that contains a platform to stand on, a bar that locks feet in place, and a vertical pad to support your calves. It can be a great way to provide you with stability so that you work yourself out without losing balance. 

The Correct Way to Do It

  1. Lock your feet into the locking pin and the adjustable platform bar, securely enough to prevent tripping accidentally while you perform the sissy squat. 
  2. Now gradually lean back and get down into a squat position while holding the tension in your thighs and engaging the muscles of your lower body
  3. Try to bring your body into a straight line by leaning as far as you can without arching the spine.
  4. Reverse the motion and bring yourself back to the initial position.  

7. Walking Lunges 

What is it all about?

The name is pretty self-explanatory that you got to perform a lunge while walking. It is a subtle variation of the static lunge workout. What you do in a regular lunge is standing back right after you do a lunge on one leg. But with the walking lunge exercise, you need to step forward or lunge out the other leg instead of standing upright in a position. The workout is extremely effective in building the leg muscles and can be increased in terms of challenges by adding weights to the walking lunge or transforming it into a compound exercise by adding a torso twist. They simultaneously train the core, hips, and glutes which helps you in acquiring a stronger lower body.

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Stand on the platform with your feet shoulder-width apart without bending either the back or knees.
  2. Place your hands on the side of your body and hold your waist. You may also seek a comfortable position with the hands. 
  3. Take a step forward with one leg and balance your weight on the heels.
  4. Bend the knee of the leg placed ahead and lower down into a lunge bringing your knees in alignment with the hips. Don’t put the other knee on the floor just stay up controlled and well-balanced for a beat.
  5. Stand up and place the other leg ahead now and following the same movement perform the lunge with the leg. 
  6. Repeat the movement, stepping forward after every lunge, with the alternating legs.

8. Bulgarian Split Squats 

What is it all about?

Also called the rear-foot-elevated split squat, the Bulgarian split squat miraculously improves strength, hip mobility, stability, and athletic endurance. With the focus on one side at a time, the performer can work laterals and asymmetries to build strength while reducing the risk of aches, pains, or accidental injuries.

The workout is mostly focused on lumbopelvic stability, glutes and thigh strength, hip mobility, knee and ankle alignment, and foot strength. Moreover, it employs the core and the proprioceptive abilities of the nervous system in performing the exercise. But remember- the position is the key! Don’t hesitate in trying out the best position with your feet and legs.

You can gradually level up by adding weights to your move and challenging your strength 

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Place a knee-high platform like a table or short block. Stand 2 -3 feet ahead of it 
  2. Extend your right leg behind to rest the toes, tucked or flat as you wish, on the raised platform.
  3. Keep the torso upright and bend your knee slowly towards the ground. 
  4. Without caving it inwards from a 90-degree angle with the front knee
  5.  Maintain your weight evenly distributed across your planted foot.
  6. Reverse the move and get back to the initial position

9. Landmine Squats 

What is it all about?

For this variation of a squat, you require to have access to a Landmine machine. The basic mechanics is that the anterior load of the machine will train the entire body. If compared to a barbell squat, Landmine Squat can provide greater resistance with a reduced risk of injuring the joints. You get all the benefits packed in the super workout. 

That being said- remember a wrong form can affect your back which may contradict your purpose of performing the workout. It is easy to learn and perform all you need to know is the key technique. Don’t hesitate from trial and error rounds to learn more about the moves.

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Put the desired numbers of weight plates on the barbell. You can also skip putting the load as you start in order to learn the move. 
  2. Stand in front of the Barbell and face the anchor. 
  3. Taking a shoulder-width stance with your feet, grip the barbell top using both of your hands. Consider stacking or interlocking the hands as you like
  4. Hold and maintain the weight at chest height and do the squat deeper  until your thighs are parallel to the floor
  5. Reverse the motion get back to the initial position 

10. Glute Bridges 

What is it all about?

An alternative to the leg press, Glute Bridges are hugely effective and have countless variations. You can try out single-leg bridges to challenge your lower body more. The workout employs your lower body weight as the resistance you utilize in pushing yourself against the gravitational force. It is a  body-strengthening move and needs no fancy equipment unless you wish to challenge yourself more and add weights in the form of barbells or dumbbells to your hip bone. These workouts are also known as forms of hip raises but yes, for the time being, let’s just call this a glute bridge. 

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Lay on the floor facing upwards. Bend the knees and place your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider 
  2. Keep the feet stacked below the knees and root them firmly to the ground without arches. Balance your weight majorly on the heels and there4 must be nothing on the toes
  3. Lift your hips and raise your body into a slant straight from your knees to your shoulder blade. 
  4. Draw your ribs down and engage your core while keeping the shoulders relaxed and away from touching your ears.
  5. Reverse the motion and lower the hips back to the ground. 
  6. Get back to resting in the position as you started without straightening your knees.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some alternative exercises to the leg press include squats, lunges, leg press variations (such as single leg press or sumo leg press), Bulgarian split squats, step-ups, glute bridges, and calf raises.

There are several reasons why you might want to try alternative exercises to the leg press. For one, it can help to prevent boredom in your workout routine by introducing new and challenging exercises. Additionally, incorporating a variety of exercises can help to target different muscle groups and provide a more well-rounded leg workout.

Many of the alternative exercises to the leg press can be done with or without weights. For example, squats and lunges can be done using just your body weight or with the addition of dumbbells or a barbell. Other exercises, such as glute bridges and calf raises, can also be done using just your body weight. However, some exercises, such as Bulgarian split squats and step-ups, may require the use of a bench or step.

The number of sets and reps you should do of these alternative exercises will depend on your fitness level and goals. As a general rule, aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise. You can adjust the number of sets and reps based on your ability level and the intensity of the exercise.

There are several ways to make these alternative exercises more challenging as you progress in your fitness journey. One option is to increase the weight you are using, either by using heavier dumbbells or a barbell. You can also increase the number of sets and reps you are doing, or try more advanced variations of the exercises, such as single leg squats or jump squats.

Many of these alternative exercises are safe for beginners, as long as they are performed with proper form and technique. It’s important to start with a weight that is manageable for you and to focus on maintaining good form throughout the exercise. As you become more comfortable and confident with the exercises, you can gradually increase the weight and intensity.

Yes, these alternative exercises can definitely be incorporated into a full-body workout routine. In fact, many of these exercises, such as squats and lunges, are great for working multiple muscle groups at once. You can also incorporate these exercises into leg-specific workout routines, or mix and match them with other exercises to create a customized workout routine that meets your specific fitness goals.


We have laid open a  range of leg press alternatives for you that need not utilize heavy gymming equipment or weights every time. Therefore, these leg press alternatives can be easily performed at home for no extra cost! 

We hope it was insightful. 

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