The leg extension is a “go leg day” weight training exercise that targets your quadriceps muscles to contract the quad to lift your knees against the weighted resistance. The exercise is usually performed with a leg extension machine with a chair to sit while lifting the weight bar to engage your quadriceps. If you’re reluctant to go to the gym but need to perform this exercise, you don’t have to purchase gym equipment because there are leg extension alternatives you can do at home at less cost, too.
Why Do Leg Extensions?
Leg extension exercise is one of the best workouts to perform to challenge your quads and test their strength. It is the most effective isolation exercise for leg growth. Here are the following benefits you can gain by performing leg extensions.
The whole purpose of doing leg extension is based on wanting to get your quads stronger. In the process of the exercise, the knee joints and key attachments are also getting strong.
Especially when performed with a machine for leg extension, beginners can easily do this exercise with their form and posture supported.
Great Finisher Exercise
Leg extensions are a great follow-up to compound exercises such as squats or deadlifts.
Leg Extension Alternatives
If you opt to workout at home or don’t have access to gym equipment, there are various alternative workouts to strengthen your quads by doing the following workouts:
Bulgarian Split Squats
The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best alternatives for leg extension exercise. It’s a single leg movement that targets the quads and the hip flexors, glutes, and hamstring. The Bulgarian split squat provides maximum stimulation to your quads by allowing a greater range of motion as it uses the elevation of the back leg.
You will need a pair of dumbbells and a stable bench for this exercise. First, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand—step one of your foot forward and the other one placed on the bench. Maintain a split stance, then raise your hips by pushing through your left heel. Repeat the movement for 8 to 12 reps on each leg.
One advantage of performing step-up is the simplicity of the tool you have to prepare. This single-leg movement is one of the best leg extension alternatives you can do at home to build power in your quadriceps.
For this leg extension alternative, prepare a box or any stable and suitable box with a height just below your knee. Position yourself in front of the box, with your feet hip-width apart. To begin the leg step-ups exercise, put one foot on the box, then push through your heel to lift and place the other foot on the box. By this time, both feet should be above the box. To go down, use the latter foot you lifted to step off the box before placing the other foot back to the floor. Do 8 to 12 reps for each leg.
Lunges is one of the leg exercises any beginner could have encountered as part of their fitness routine and program. It’s not surprising since performing a lunge applies to any fitness level with minimum to none required equipment. A simple movement such as a lunge can benefit your quads, making it perfect as a leg extension alternative.
You can opt to have dumbbells or kettlebells on each hand when you perform lunges. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Using one leg, step forward, lower your hip and make a right angle with the forward-stepped leg. To return to starting position, push through your heel. Do 5 to 8 reps on each leg.
Resistance Band Leg Extension
No leg extension machine? No problem. Working with resistance bands to strengthen your legs with the same movement pattern and exact feel is a great way to achieve your go-leg day goal.
Aside from the resistance bands, you should prepare to have at least a bench if you don’t have Glute Ham Developer (GHD) equipment at home and a reliable anchor to attach the resistance bands on at an ankle height. First, attach one end of the resistance band unto the chosen anchor, then the other end wrapped around your ankle. Sit on your workout bench and make sure you feel the tension in the band. Extend your legs almost to a lockout, then return to a flexed position. Repeat 12 to 15 times to complete a set.
Cyclist squats mainly target the teardrop muscle of your quads. It involves your feet and heels working together to perform a squat variation. For this exercise, you will need a dumbbell and a weight plate. To start, Place the weight plate on the floor. Make sure the surface is not slippery. Hold the dumbbells in each hand. And elevate your heels by placing them on the weight plate. Keep your chest up and maintain your core engaged as you squat down below your parallel by bending your knees. To return to the starting position, push yourself up through the heels while pushing your knees out. Do 12 to 15 reps to complete a set.
Bodyweight Leg Extension
This easy movement can be performed and is suitable for beginners or fitness enthusiasts with knee problems. The best thing about this exercise is that you can also do it without workout equipment. You will only need a chair and your own bodyweight to perform this leg extension exercise.
For starting position, sit on your chair with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Keep your back straight. Lift your left leg to extend your left knee, then return to the starting position. Perform 10 to 12 reps on each leg.
When you’re at home, you can only do so much to get the best training and workout program to achieve your fitness goals both for your upper body and lower body. You always hear that you should not skip leg days, and it is one of the important aspects of keeping your health and body proportion balanced. Performing Leg Extensions is one of the best ways to train your legs. However, if you don’t have the bulky leg extension machine to perform this exercise, it may be difficult to accurately mimic the effect and the stimulation of leg extensions with alternative leg exercises. Nevertheless, completing leg extension alternative exercises can provide you with an adequate result for strong quad muscles.