When it comes to training quads, leg extension workout takes the 1st position. This is one of the most fantastic exercises for quads because it works only for quad muscles, removing all other muscles like hamstrings, hip flexors, and others.
But if you cannot use or don’t have this leg extension machine, what can you do? How do you achieve well-developed quads?
Don’t worry. You can train your quads with different alternatives while engaging other muscles in the legs and hips. In this article, you are going to find the top 8 best leg extension alternatives that can be performed with various equipment such as barbells, resistance bands or dumbbells and is according to individuals fitness-level.
The muscles worked
Quads are the most primary muscle in our body and are the largest muscle that targeted with leg extension.
These muscles are present in the front part of our thigh, consisting of 4 muscle groups.
1. Rectus femoris: This is the only quads muscle in the middle of the front thigh and crosses both knee and hip joints.
2. Vastus Lateralis: This muscle helps extend the knee joint and is present outside the thigh.
3. Vatus Medialis: It is present in the inner part of our thigh and works as a stabiliser for the kneecap.
4. Vastus Intermedius: This muscle is located beneath the rectus femoris and is responsible for the knee extension.
Leg extension muscles worked on the quad, with quads this exercise also targets other muscles too, such as hamstrings, calves and lower back with significantly less involvement and as a stabiliser and supporter during the training.
Benefits of leg extension alternatives
The leg extension is an excellent exercise if you want to target only quadricep muscles, but if you want to enhance overall leg strength, you go for leg extension alternatives.
Leg extension alternatives target the primary muscles (quadriceps) and involve secondary muscle groups like the glutes, calves, hamstring, lower back and primary muscle quads. We choose these exercises by keeping in mind that not only increase strength in muscles but also help to achieve good posture and improve balance.
These alternatives are very helpful because they target multiple muscles with a focus on one. Another benefit is that they do not injure the knee joint because it puts less stress on the knee joints. Let’s begin with the top 8 leg extension alternatives and discover how each exercise hits different muscles.
Let’s Find Out 8 Best Leg Extension Alternative
1. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
- To perform this leg extension alternative exercise, you need dumbbells with good weight. Choose dumbbells according to your power.
- Pick two dumbbells and hold with an overhand grip in each hand facing towards your sides.
- Stand straight with feet and buttocks width apart, and this will be your starting position.
- Maintaining the torso upright, take a significant step with one left foot in a backward direction while placing another at the same position.
- Inhale and slowly lower your body by keeping your chest up, shoulders back and engaging core.
- Continue lowering your body until your left knee comes in contact with the floor, or stretch in the right quad when you feel good.
- Exhale and slowly return to the starting position by moving the left foot to the starting position.
- Perform the same steps on the other side.
Tips: Perform ten repetitions on each side with full range of motion and maintain a good form in this dumbbell leg extension. Choose a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of repetitions; don’t rush for heavy. For maintaining proper form and a stable torso, it’s very important to keep your chest up, core engaged and shoulders back. To avoid injury, don’t bang your foot hard; lower your body in a controlled manner.
Sets and Reps : 3-4 sets of 20 reps for both sides.
2. Barbell split squat on a bench
- Load plates according to your fitness level on the barbell. Stand under the barbell with feet and buttocks apart, and grip the barbell with your hand shoulder width apart.
- Place the barbell between your traps and upper back, slightly unrack the barbell and step back where your bench is placed.
- Squeezing the barbell tightly and maintaining proper form, lift your left leg and place it over the bench by resting the top of your foot.
- Inhale and, keep the other foot in the same position, lower yourself towards the floor.
- Continue lowering your body until you feel a blasting stretch in your right quad.
- Pause for a second at the downward position.
- Exhale and push back to the starting positing while maintaining form
- Switch to another after completing the desired number of repetitions on the left leg.
Tips: This is a great leg extension alternative. Load barbell with plates and avoid placing a barbell on your neck muscles; it can lead to a neck injury. Place it between your traps and upper back. The width between the left and right foot varies according to your comfort level; a wider distance targets the glutes and hamstrings more effectively, while a shorter length targets the quadriceps.
Sets and Reps: three-four sets of 10-12 reps.
3. Hack Squat Machine
- Position yourself on the machine and place your feet on the rest pad. Place your shoulders under shoulder rest pads.
- It is keeping the chest up with extended legs and holding handles with hands. This is the starting position.
- Inhale and slowly lower your body by bending your knees.
- Continue lowering your body by bending knees until your thighs become parallel to the floor.
- Exhale and return to the starting position by pushing through your feet and engaging your quads.
- Continue performing this movement until your desired repetitions are not completed.
Tips: Before performing this exercise, do light cardio to increase blood flow to the quadriceps and prevent injury. On the hack squat machine, place your feet slightly wider than your buts.. Perform every repetition in a full range of motion and avoid swinging and momentum.
Sets and Reps : 3 sets of 12-10-8 reps.
4. Sled Push
- Load enough weight on the sledge that you find hard to move but can perform the desired number of sets.
- Grab the handles of a sledge and bend forward with your torso parallel to the floor and your head positioned forward.
- With your legs or using your foot, push the lead from behind by extending your legs one by one.
- Continue performing this movement until you feel a blasting pump in your quadriceps.
Tips: Your arms should be extended while moving the sledge. Load enough weight on it that you find completing the desired reps challenging. Keep your core engaged, maintain a stable torso and engage hip and leg muscles while pushing the sledge forward. Focus on your breathing. Always exhale while pushing.
Sets and Reps : 3-5 rounds for 20-50 meters.
5. Narrow squat on block
- You can use an iron plate or any block for performing this leg extension alternative exercise.
- Stand straight on the scale with your foot closer than shoulder-width apart, hands on your love handles and heels on the plate.
- Inhale and gently lower your body by bending your knees, keeping your torso forward and hip backwards.
- Continue lowering until your thighs become parallel to the floor.
- At the downward position, pause for a second.
- Exhale and go back to the starting position by pushing through heels.
Tips: Breathing is essential. It can increase your reps and also provide more effect of the exercise. Remember to inhale while lowering and exhale while pushing back to the starting position. Keep a slight arc; don’t round your lower back, which can lead to injury. Another benefit is that it’s your leg extension at home.
Sets and Reps : 3 sets with 10-12 reps.
- Load the barbell with plates according to your fitness level. Stand under the barbell with feet shoulder-width apart and grip the barbell with your hands with a difference of precisely the shoulder.
- Place the barbell between your traps and upper back, slightly unrack the barbell and step back.
- Keep your feet pointing slightly outwards. Inhale, and lower your body by bending from your knees.
- Keep your hip backward and torso forward.
- Continue lowering your body until your thighs become parallel to the floor.
- Exhale and return to the starting point.
- After completing some reps, slowly move forward and gently return the barbell to the rack.
Tips: Try to perform this leg extension alternative exercise in slow movement. It will help you gain strength. Down, go deep, with low weight, and find where your hips got locked. After seeing the position, try not to go below that for safety. Ensure your knees are not crossing your feet when you squat. If you lift heavy, consider having a supporter.
Sets and Reps: three sets of 8-12 reps.
7. Single-box squat
- It would help if you had a box nearly the height of the calves.
- Place the box behind you and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your hands forward perpendicular to the shoulder, just like the shoulder raises exercise.
- Raise your left leg slightly upward; it must be straight, and balance your whole body on your right leg.
- Inhale and lower yourself by bending your right knee and sitting on the box backwards while raising your left leg straight in the forward direction.
- Continue lowering until your butt makes contact with the box.
- Exhale and return to the starting position by pressing through the heel.
- After completing all repetitions, switch sides and perform reps with the same movement.
Tips: Perform ten reps on each side with proper form and balance. Start with a cardio warm-up to prepare joints and muscles for this single leg extension. It must engage core muscles. It helps in balancing the whole body on one leg. Inhale as you go down and inhale during up.
Sets and Reps: three sets of 12-15 reps.
- Stand upright with feet and butts width apart on the step mill.
- Choose the appropriate speed or any other settings on the step mill machine according to your fitness level.
- Hold the handles for support or balance yourself, and press start.
- Imagine just like a standard set of stairs and walk regularly on this step mill.
- Continue this as per your cardio routine.
Tips: Breath rhythmically during the movement. Start slow as you begin this leg extension alternative exercise and gradually increase the speed as you become comfortable. Don’t grab the handles too tightly. Keep weight on your legs. Focus on engaging the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves during this exercise.
Sets and Reps: 20-30 min continues.
The Isolation vs compound myth
You may also misunderstand that you need compound exercises like squatting to train the quadriceps, but that’s false. Movement of your leg is done by bending the knee and the quadriceps muscles are responsible for this movement. It would help if you resisted this movement to gain strength and muscle growth, known as knee extension.
This resistance can be achieved from exercises that directly target quadricep muscles, like leg extensions, or with compound exercise, like the squat, which needs knee extension. Performing leg extension is one of the best exercises you can do.
One of the best benefits of leg extension is that it does not involve any other muscle group but the quadriceps.
Progression is essential in your workout routine. It helps improve your strength and make consistent improvements. When evaluating leg extension alternatives, consider whether the exercise allows for progression.
Here are some of the leg extension alternatives that you can apply:
. Timely Increase the number of repetitions and sets.
. Increase the weight gradually.
. Try to perform it with one leg at a time for more results.
. Pause at the bottom and top of the exercise.
. Try slowing down on the way down (slower on the descent) or speeding up on the way up (faster on the ascent) during your exercises.
Choose the exercises in your workout routine that fulfil these requirements to effectively work your quadriceps, maintain good body mechanics, and enable progress in your leg workout routine.