For many people, spending hundreds of dollars every year on a gym membership you hardly use seems like a bit of a waste.
However, if you do cancel that membership, you’ll be missing out on all the fancy exercise equipment they have on offer, right?
Well, thankfully there are plenty of ways around this. Fitness enthusiasts have come up with a bunch of different ways to recreate the effects of a gym-quality exercise machine at home.
In this article, we’re going to be looking at the leg press. It’s hard to imagine some kind of homemade device that can accurately replicate a leg press and don’t worry, you won’t have to build one yourself!
Instead, we’re taking a look at some exercises you can do at home that will replicate the muscular benefits of using a leg press machine.
How Does A Leg Press Work?
The leg press machine you’ll use in a gym offers a form of weight training. You’ll basically lay down in a seat with your feet flat on the surface of a weighted platform, slightly higher than your head.
The exercise then simply involves lowering that weighted platform in a controlled manner towards your body, then pushing it away from you and repeating the process over and over.
Leg press is a highly effective belt squat alternative as it’s a great exercise for building up muscular explosive strength and endurance in your lower body, particularly the legs.
Because the whole movement is done from a seated position, it’s also very difficult to get the technique so wrong that you’ll do any harm to your neck or back.
The main muscles you’re targeting by using a leg press machine are your quads, calves, and glutes.
So, we’ve established that the leg press is a pretty beneficial exercise to perform in your workout but what are some of the exercises you can do at home to gain the same benefits?
Leg Press Alternative Exercises
Leg Press With Resistance Bands
This exercise is one of the best for accurately replicating the effects of a leg press machine.
Simply lay on your back, on the floor, and loop a resistance band around your feet. Then, holding the other end of the band, push your feet up above you, stretching the band as you do so.
The resistance from the band itself provides plenty of force for your legs to work against, providing a sufficient workout. The only real downside to this exercise is that you can’t control how much weight your legs are required to lift.
This is an exercise that many people will already be familiar with, as it’s a staple of pretty much any workout routine.
The technique is pretty simple too. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and lower your body down as far as you can go without arching your back. Then, push yourself back up to the standing position, but try not to lock your knees fully.
With this exercise, you replace the weight from the leg press machine with your own body weight and gravity.
The benefit of this exercise is that you can actually adjust the weight applied to your legs like you would with a leg press machine. You can easily perform squats with a dumbbell held between your legs to make the movement a little harder.
Alternatively, if you have access to a barbell, you can challenge your balance as well as your lower body strength by holding the weight on your shoulders while squatting.
There are actually loads of different types of squats you can try out, all of which will simulate the quad, calf, and glute workout you’ll get from a leg press machine.
This exercise differs from the first two somewhat because it doesn’t necessarily replicate the movements you’ll perform with a leg press machine. However, it does still work a similar group of muscles.
To perform a wall sit, simply lean against a wall and lower your butt down it until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Then, all you have to do is hold that position for a set period of time (usually 30-60 seconds).
This exercise is fantastic for working out your quads and glutes but will have a slightly lesser effect on your calves.
The main benefit of working this into your routine is how simple it is to do. You don’t need any equipment whatsoever to perform a bodyweight wall sit, though if you wanted to add extra weight you can always hold one on your thighs during the sit to make it harder.
The last exercise we’re looking at is lunges. This is another very simple exercise that requires no equipment at all.
Starting in a standing position, take one long stride forward with one leg and bend your knees so that your rear leg starts to lower towards the ground. Try to keep your rear knee from touching the ground while still getting as low as possible for the best form.
This exercise will work on all the same muscles as a leg press and can easily have weight added to it to make the workout more intense.
You can perform lunges with a dumbbell in each hand, either side of you or you could even hold a barbell on your shoulders like you would with weighted squats.
Why You Should Avoid Leg Press Machines
A lot of gym-goers actually steer clear of the leg press machine on purpose because of the long-term damage it can do to your body.
The exercise puts a great deal of strain on your joints, as well as the knees and lower back. This means it can be particularly easy to pick up an injury to these body parts without realizing it until you stand up from the machine.
Not to mention, while it does work your muscles well, the leg press machine offers little challenge to the rest of your central nervous system.
For example, a squat or lung requires coordination and balance to perform correctly, meaning they work out more physical aspects than simply your muscles.
As we’ve established, the leg press machine can actually be pretty detrimental to your physical progression when working out and you might be better off avoiding it altogether.
However, you can still follow any of the exercises we’ve outlined in this article to experience the same muscular benefits without any of the risks of injury or the need to pay for a gym membership!