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The leg press is one of the best leg workouts you can do. Great for growing your large leg muscles, and you can even work around to grow those smaller muscles too (looking at you, calf muscles).
Well, in this guide to how to do leg press at home, we’ll look at the different ways you can grow your legs at home.
How to Do Leg Press at Home?
The leg press machine is a great piece of gym equipment for targeting lower body muscle groups. However, maybe you can’t afford a fancy piece of equipment or are looking to workout from home. To do a leg press at home, all you require is the weight of your own body and sufficient space to move around. To take things up a notch, you can incorporate home gym equipment such as a resistance band, dumbbells, or a barbell. These alternatives work the same lower body areas targeted by the leg press: the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.
What are the Best Exercises to Replace a Leg Press?
You typically find two types of leg press machines at the gym – the horizontal or seated leg press, and the incline leg press. You are seated in an upright position for the former whereas the seat reclines at an angle for the latter. For both types, both feet are against a platform.
You push against a resistive force by extending your legs away from you through their full range of motion. The higher your feet are positioned on the platform, the more you work your hamstrings and your glutes. Walk them down, and they target the quadriceps.
The following exercises are fantastic substitutes for a leg press, as most are compound exercises that target the above muscle groups simultaneously. When performing resistance band leg presses, you work the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings against gravity. This exercise thus mimics the action of a leg press machine.
To do this exercise, lie down and lift your feet off the mat. Wrapping the band securely around your feet, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle while flexing your feet. Keep your toes pointed toward the ceiling as you press your legs against the band and straighten them.
To increase the amount of resistance, use a shorter or thicker band. It is also a good idea to do a variation of this exercise by isolating one side at a time. This aids muscle balance and proportion in both legs. When both legs are worked simultaneously, it is possible that one side compensates for the weaker side.
To do a side-lying single leg press, loop your resistance band around one foot. Lie on your side lengthways, stacking one leg on top of the other. Ensuring that the band is secure around your foot, bring each end of the band to around chest level. This is your starting position. From this position, slowly bring your knee towards your chest, stopping just above your hip. Make sure to inhale and engage your core as you do this.
Push the band away from your chest to return to the starting position as you exhale and keep your foot flexed. As you do this, pay attention to the tension you feel in your glutes and quadriceps. Where you lengthen and contract your muscles, you notice that your hamstrings benefit more in other exercises when they are in the stretched position— like at the bottom of a squat or deadlift.
Squats mimic the movement of leg presses. At the same time, since most of the body moves when you perform a squat, other muscle groups are also engaged. When performing squats, there is plenty of room to add variety with the use of simple home gym equipment. Variations of the basic exercise include the goblet squat or barbell squat.
To perform a squat, first anchor both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Looking straight ahead, drive your heels into the floor. Bend at the knees and hips until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. At this point, extend your legs to return to the starting position.
Finally, broad jumps are another fantastic leg press alternative as they build leg strength through explosive movement. This move combines a squat with a full lower body extension and is great for recruiting more muscle fibers for lower body gains. In addition to targeting the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, this exercise also works the calves.
To do this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, bend your knees to come into a squat while pushing your hips back. Your back should remain at a 45 to 90-degree angle to your hips, with your upper legs parallel with the floor. Swing your arms to propel your body forwards and upwards. Once again, land in a squat position. In order to prevent injury, ‘soft’ knees should be maintained to cushion the impact of the ground. To do this, ensure that your knees are not locked.
Pros and Cons of Leg Press Alternatives
The leg press is a unique exercise as it stimulates core lower body areas for an exercise with a fairly short range of movement. However, the fixed range of motion means that you miss out on engaging any important stabilizing muscles. These are crucial smaller supporting muscles of the hips, knees, and ankles.
The leg press alternatives in this guide enable you to incorporate functionality into your lower body workouts. These exercises are more full-body exercises. In addition to improving lower body strength, they allow you to benefit from the activation of stabilizing muscles.
While these workouts are more functional, the recruitment of stabilizing muscles is nearly always the weak link that limits the amount of weight. This means you are typically able to lift heavier on the leg press machine and achieve the same workout intensity with fewer repetitions. Muscle growth is also maximized by isolating a specific muscle. You should keep this in mind the next time you try out these exercises.
Performing these exercises is an effective way to get great results as they target multiple lower body muscle groups. With the increased range of motion that these exercises require, you also maximize the full body benefits. Leg presses can bring a lot of benefits, and by doing them regularly, you can easily see more and better results with your workout.
Extended Reading on Leg Press
If you want to read more about the leg press, check out the following: