T he first time you try leg presses at the gym, you are stroked by the impression that you can do anything. The position is so comfortable that you almost think that you can keep pushing and adding more weights without ever having to stop. Plus, you get good results as it doesn’t take long until your legs commence feeling more forceful and your body fat percentage starts getting down. But what do you do if you still want to get similar results and have a comparable experience, but you cannot afford to buy a leg press machine for home or, for a period, you don’t have enough time to go to the gym? You do what I did during the pandemic: start looking for alternatives. In this article, I will discuss the best methods I have found to replace leg presses, and I will also explain what elements I took into consideration when making my selection.
Before trying to find a replacement, it is important to understand how the machine functions and what are the stages you need to follow to do this calisthenics. I was also interested in the muscles that get activated and the degree of participation of each group. Here is what you should know before making a decision. I will propose more than one alternative, so knowing this stuff may help you select one of the options.
Before explaining the actual exercise, let’s take a moment to talk about the types of apparatuses. The most common type is the one inclined at 45 degrees since it combines comfort with performance. You also have the horizontal press, which is the easiest to use since the plate travels parallel to the ground and at the same level as your torso. The third type is often incorporated into Smith machines and has the footplate placed in a way that it stays parallel to the floor and travels perpendicular to it.
If we ignore the incline, there is nothing different between the calisthenics you will perform. Let’s take a look at the steps:
We have learned that this workout involves getting your legs extended and then bent, so this movement we will be examining the alternates. Nevertheless, there is one more thing that needs to be taken into consideration: the muscles.
The press is renowned for its ability to work the quadriceps without putting pressure on the spine or back muscles. This is why weightlifters and bodybuilders use it to induce muscle hypertrophy in their thighs and build a steadier base for their weightlifting. The position protects their back when it is already overexerted after barbell squats or bench presses.
Besides the quads, the apparatus also involves your gluteal muscles, which are located in your buttocks area, and your adductors, which are the ones helping your thighs come close to each other. The hamstrings play a role as well, but it is a small one.
The exercises I propose resemble the leg press through the movement that is performed and the muscles they put into motion. Some differences do exist, and some of the workouts may seem slightly more difficult to perform, this is why I suggest trying all of them before making a decision.
Muscles Engaged: Glutes, Quadriceps, Hamstrings
This is as close as you can get to using an apparatus. In this case, the resistance system that is represented by weight plates in a leg press is replaced by resistance bands. You can adjust the resistance in two directions: use shorter and thicker bands to increase it and use longer and thinner bands to decrease it. Follow the following steps to do the workout correctly:
Tip: you can try doing this workout with both your legs to mimic a horizontal press.
Muscles Engaged: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves, Obliques, Abdominals
This is a very simple set of movements that are frequently used in warm-up routines. The advantage of doing lounges is that you don’t need to use accessories, so you can perform them basically everywhere and at every moment. The steps are also very simple to learn.
Muscles Engaged: Quads, Hams, Glutes, Abs, Calves
The most popular choice for leg workouts, squats are known to improve leg power and speed, so they are used both by weightlifters and athletes. The number of variations is extremely high, as you can choose to add an accessory like an Olympic barbell, a kettlebell, or a set of dumbbells to increase the difficulty. You can also do split squats, which look a lot like lunges, or try sumo squats. Let’s see the steps.
Muscles Engaged: Glutes, Calves, Quads
Starting from regular wall seats, which imply doing squats while using a wall to maintain a straight trajectory, weighted wall seats entail carrying a weight plate on your thighs. This doesn’t only add opposition, making things harder, but pushes you to train balance as you cannot afford to let the plate fall. Here is how the sequence works:
As you were able to see, all the workouts I have proposed involve the same three chief muscles, and some may involve other muscles as well. They are easy to execute and don’t require an extra effort in acquiring a machine or expensive accessories. This makes them more suitable for home training as you don’t need to sacrifice a lot of room. You can choose to do only one type of workout or combine them, so you get a more complete routine that won’t allow you to get bored. You can also return to the leg press at any moment, and you may even be surprised to discover that you can push more as you have been strengthening your legs in the meanwhile.