10 Leg Press Alternatives Without A Machine

What can you do if your (home) gym doesn’t have a leg press machine or your gym’s leg press is busy/not working? What other exercises and/or equipment can you use to get the same results?

The leg press mainly targets the: Quadriceps, hamstrings, Glutes, and calves. You can train these muscles with all types of squats, lunges, and jump squats. It’s also an option to train all the muscles used in the leg press separately with isolation exercises.

Let’s get into how you can train the same muscles as with the leg press but without the machine below.

1. Barbell Squats

The best alternative to the leg press is the barbell squat. The barbell squat is one of the best exercises you can do in general. It uses many different muscles which makes it a very efficient exercise. It doesn’t only use all the lower body muscles but also a lot of muscles in the lower and upper back.

The downside is that you need a barbell and some squat stands or a power cage. However, if you want to move heavy weights, that’s what you need anyway. It’s also a pretty technical exercise. You’ll want to get some coaching to make sure your form is on point if you’re a beginner because if it isn’t, you can hurt yourself.

The lower body workout on a squat is very similar to a leg press. However, with a squat, you add more upper-body involvement. So for the legs, it comes very close but overall it’s a more demanding and difficult exercise. But, it is by far the best alternative you can find.

2. Bodyweight/Dumbbell/Kettlebell/Band Squats

If barbell squats are a bit too much, bodyweight squats are not a terrible option. Especially if you don’t leg press very heavily, high-repetition bodyweight squats can be quite challenging and they will make you stronger.

If you need any more resistance than just bodyweight, you can use any weights like dumbbells or kettlebells. The benefit of this is that you need less equipment than for the barbell bench press. Hold the weight with the arms extended or the weight in front of your chest.

Resistance bands are another way to get extra resistance on your squats. Just stand on the band and hold the other side of the band at shoulder height. Combining band squats with other weights is even better.

3. Resistance Band Leg Press

With a set of resistance bands, you can do something very similar to a leg press. It’s performed lying on the floor. Hold on to the side of the band with your hands close to your shoulders. Then wrap the band around one or both feet depending on if you want to do this with one or two legs at the same time. Then push into the band until your legs are extended.

Go slow. During the whole repetition, there should be tension on the band, and going slow will help you control everything.

The drawback here is that you can’t do this exercise very heavily. You’ll have to hold the band in your hands and the hand/arms are not as strong as the legs. That means you’ll have to use a lighter resistance than you would on a machine. You can compensate for this by doing higher repetitions and more sets.

4. Banded Step-through

If you want to use heavier bands, the banded step through is good alternative to the band leg press. With the step-through, you attach a loop band somewhere high up. Then put one foot into the bottom of the band. Then push down until your foot is behind your body while holding yourself steady by putting your hands against the wall.

You can only do this exercise with one leg at a time and it focuses a bit more on the glutes and hamstrings than the leg press but it’s still quite close and a great exercise.

5. Split Squats

Split squats are an interesting squat variation where have your legs staggered. That means you mainly only use the front leg to do the squats. This means you can focus much more on just that one leg. You’ll need to use certain stabilizing muscles more and also focuses a little more on the quadriceps than the usual squat although that depends on the variation.

You don’t need a barbell to do split squats. Just a bench and any other weights will do. Of course, if you want to train very heavy, a barbell is a good tool to have but especially with split squats, you don’t need as much resistance as with a normal squat. So a set of dumbbells is likely going to be enough for quite a while.

6. Lunges

Lunges look a little bit like split squats although they are a bit different. There are tons of lunge variations but all of them are good for the lower body. The main difference between the split squat and the lunge is that with a split squat, you keep your feet in the same position until the set is finished. With lunges, you move your feet every repetition. Split squats are a bit easier for beginners for that reason.

They are both great lower-body exercises. Lunges and split squats are both good for the glute medius as well as the quads, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus.

7. Box Jumps

If you’re an athletic person, box jumps are also a good way to build up explosive strength in the lower body. Box jumps are not so much for building muscle but they are good at building explosive strength. The movement pattern is quite similar to the leg press but everyone jumps a bit differently.

You’ll need something solid to jump on of course. There are specific boxes you can buy which are called plyo boxes. Those are solid and made for purpose. You can find other things to jump on, of course, just make sure it’s something that can handle your weight, doesn’t move, and doesn’t have sharp edges.

Find out more about plyo boxes here.

8. Jump Squats

You can also just jump without landing on a box of course. Basically, you do a box jump without a box. It’s a high-impact exercise so you probably don’t want to do this every day for high repetitions. Combined with some other exercises in this list it can be a very effective tool.

It is good at building explosive power instead of just strength and muscle size. It’s a great exercise for athletic performance. If you would want to load it a bit heavier, you can hold some light dumbbells in your hands. However, keep in mind that this would increase the impact on your tendons and joints even more.

9. Hack Squat

If you don’t have access to a leg press machine, you probably don’t have access to a hack squat either since they’re often the same machine. However, if you’re looking for leg press alternative exercises, this is a good one.

The hack squat rests the weight on your shoulders.  You have a pad for your hips to rest on. It differs from the leg press because the leg press takes the whole upper body out of the equation. The hack squat still uses some of the upper body but loads the back less than a barbell back squat. The hack squat focuses more on the quadriceps than the normal barbell squat.

10. Isolation exercises

A great benefit of leg presses and the exercises listed above is that they are compound exercises. That means you move more than one joint in the same movement and therefore use a lot of different muscles at the same time.

The leg press uses the quadriceps, gluteus, hamstrings, and calves all at the same time. The quadriceps and glutes are the main movers but the hamstrings also play a decent role and the calves a smaller one. That means we can also split up this exercise into different isolation exercises that target one muscle at a time and get similar results. Yes, it will take longer and you’ll want to do some exercises that integrate all those muscles later.

These are also good exercises if you want to focus on one specific part of the legs more than others.


The quadriceps are the big muscles on the front of your legs between the hip and the knee. They are some of the biggest muscles in your body and they are used to straighten your knees. There are a few things you can do to work them out at home but they’re hard to isolate. You’ll almost always use some other muscles as well.

Here are some exercises that mainly focus on the quadriceps.

  • Leg extensions: These can be done sitting on a chair with or without a band. Sit on a chair that’s high enough to get your feet off the floor. A pillow or similar can help. Sit upright and then simply extend your knee. To add resistance you can use ankle weights or a resistance band wrapped around the rear legs of the chair.
  • Wall sit: The wall sit is a deceptively simple exercise. It’s an isometric hold which means you don’t move the muscle but keep it in the same position. Lean your back against the wall while having a 90-degree bend in your hips and knees. Push through your heels to stay in that position. Seems simple but not after holding that position for a minute.
  • Isometric quad holds: lay on your back and put something under your knees. A foam roller or something similar in size is perfect. Then simply squeeze your quadriceps as hard as you can for about 30 seconds. Seems simple but it’ll burn after a few repetitions.
  • 1 leg levitation squat: A single-leg squat variation that focuses more on the quadriceps. Check out the video because it’s hard to explain in words.


The glutes are the largest and strongest muscles in the body. That means there is a lot of potential for strength and size growth. Especially since many of us are seated the whole day which underutilizes the glutes. So it’s good to give them some attention. There are some good glute exercises you can do with no or minimal equipment.

  • Glute bridge: One of the best glute isolation exercises that don’t need any equipment. Simply lay down on your back, pull your heels to your bum, and squeeze your bum up as far as you can. Then go down but don’t touch the floor.
  • Donkey kick: Get on all fours and kick one leg back. Try to push your feet straight up to the ceiling as far as you can.
  • Good morning: Good for glutes and hamstrings. The good morning means you simply bend over at the hips while keeping your back and knees straight. Then go back up.
  • Deadlift: Lifting heavy things off the floor while keeping your back straight is good for your lower body, who knew? Deadlifts are especially good for glutes but also other muscles in the lower and upper body. You don’t necessarily need a barbell. Dumbbells or resistance bands work too.


The hamstrings can actually be a little difficult to work out at home if you have limited equipment. The main function of the hamstrings is to bend the knee. It also helps with hip extension. Hip extension is mainly done by the glutes but the hamstrings support them in some parts of the range of motion. So you’ll use your hamstrings a little with many glute exercises but the best way to isolate them is to focus on the bending of the knee.

Man doing glute ham raise

You can do this in a few ways;

  • Sliding leg curls: My favorite for at-home hamstring isolation. All you need is a slippery floor and socks. Lay down on the floor and get into the glute bridge position. From there, push out your legs until the knee is almost completely extended. Then pull your heels back to your bum sliding them on the floor.
  • Resistance band leg curls: Got resistance bands? Good! Anchor the bands just a little above the floor. Now lay down and loop the band around your ankles. Lay face down and pull your heels towards your bum.
  • Good morning: Good for glutes and hamstrings. The good morning means you simply bend over at the hips while keeping your back and knees straight. Then go back up.
  • Nordic curls: These are for more advanced people with strong hamstrings. You need something heavy to put your legs under like a wardrobe or sofa with a small opening under it. Face away from the object and lock your heels under the object while standing on your knees. (use a yoga mat or knee pads). Then let yourself go forward.
  • Standing leg curl: For a light hamstring exercise, simply stand up straight and lift your lower leg up without moving the knee. Get your heel as close to your bum as possible.


The calves are a part everyone tends to forget but they are absolutely necessary for many athletic endeavors. And they’re always visible if you like to wear shorts so working them out can help you look a bit more muscular while wearing clothes.

Calves basically pull on the back of your foot to push the toes down. With that knowledge, it’s pretty easy to find ways to exercise them. Here are some good options.

  • Calve raise: Simply stand on the floor but preferably with the front of your feet on something a little raised. This can be a weight plate or a piece of wood. As long as you can let your toes go above your ankle without the heel hitting the floor. Then push up.
  • Wall sit calf raise: Lean with your back against the wall while your hips and knees make 90-degree bends. Then lift your heels from the floor. This one hurts.
  • Sprints: Walking but especially sprinting hits the calves hard. So implementing some sprints into your workout isn’t only good for cardio, it’ll also help with your calve development.
  • Jump rope: Jumping rope the right way means you just use your feet to lift off the floor. That speed has to be created all by the calves. And then they have to catch the landing too. On top of that jumping rope is a great cardio exercise.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to HomeGymResource.com. After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

Recent Posts