At the core of any gym’s circuit, it is common to find a leg extension machine.
While these machines do serve a purpose, namely isolating quadriceps, there are a variety of exercises that can yield results for this core muscle group.
Alternatives that can build muscle balance, reduce knee strain, and liven up a workout routine.
Extension machines are functional, but not as practical. There are effective ways to incorporate quad strengthening routines on leg day.
What are our options?
Here are some of the best leg extension alternative exercises:
These are tried-and-true workouts which have become so commonly built into an effective routine.
Isolation workouts are great, but let’s keep the strain off the knees and build balance with these effective compound exercises.
Let’s take a closer look at why they work.
Leg Extension Alternatives
The gold standard for lower body workouts, and for great reason.
This compound workout targets additional muscles surrounding the quadriceps. The hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core all work together in this exercise.
A simple bodyweight squat is a great start to develop the proper technique. With so many affected muscles it is crucial that form is maintained throughout.
How to do them:
Once you have perfected the routine try adding weighted variations to your squats for a power workout.
Dumbbell squats and barbell squats add resistance and further boost muscle growth.
Another alternative to leg extensions is a sister of the squat workout, lunges
You will find the similarities between the two body-weight workouts include reduced joint strain, compound muscle building, and flexibility to modify for additional results.
How to do them:
For those looking to keep their routine fresh, there are many variations of the lunge. Try adding dumbells to increase weight resistance, just remember to maintain form.
Other variations to explore are the reverse lunge, walking lunge, and elevated lunge.
The theme so far has been compound workouts as alternatives to leg extensions, many of which use bodyweight as the primary source of resistance.
Let’s introduce some weight training, with the leg press.
The leg press machine is a staple at just about every gym you can enroll in, for good reason. The leg press effectively targets your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
A wide weight range can be added to these machines, so everyone can build a workout that suits their current level of training.
Since this is a machine-based exercise, form discipline is assisted by the machine setup. Let’s take a look at the basics.
Note: As with all workouts mentioned the same rules apply. Your core should be engaged, knees carefully handled, and head facing forward throughout.
How to do them:
The leg press is a weighted exercise so remember to stay in a comfortable weight range. Use appropriate spotting, and never overload weights.
What Muscle Does Leg Extension Work?
The leg extension exercise is an isolation exercise targeting the quadriceps.
The quadriceps muscle group is comprised of four muscles:
Leg extensions use weight resistance to train this muscle group. It does not actively work the surrounding leg muscles.
The Leg Extension Movement
The leg extension movement is simple.
In a sitting position, your legs push outward from a resting 90-degree angle and return to the starting position.
Leg extension machines use a padded bar against your feet to add weight resistance to the movement.
While effective for quadriceps it does have it’s drawbacks. The motion does not support surrounding leg muscles, which are necessary for most practical applications.
The movement can also stress the knee joints which is why some people search for a good leg extension alternative.
Leg Extension Alternatives You Can Do At Home
For the at-home workout, there are a plethora of great options available to target your quads and get an excellent leg workout.
Each of these options requires no special machines and most of which are compound workouts.
Bodyweight exercises are effective and fun for those who want a great workout from the comfort of their own home.
Mix it up and challenge yourself
Once you have mastered the exercises on our list of best leg extension alternatives don’t be afraid to push yourself with some fresh and difficult variations.
After perfecting your form in the basics you’ll be able to tackle new workouts that are sure to keep you pushing the limits and progressing.
Be sure to try variations such as:
And the list doesn’t end there! Who needs leg extension exercises when you have this many options at your disposal.
Are Leg Extensions Bad For You?
They still target quadriceps effectively. There are simply other exercises that strengthen the quadriceps while reinforcing other muscles easily.
What Are Quadriceps Used For?
Quadriceps support bending and straightening of the knee.
This close relationship to the knees makes it an important muscle to develop. It also means that over-exertion can directly result in damage to knee joints.