When it comes to quads and leg strength, leg extension machines are considered the ultimate solution. This is because no other exercise exclusively works on the quads as the extension machine does. The extension machine tries and tests your quadriceps and leg strength and improves them significantly. Most gym instructors, veterans, and enthusiasts may even argue that this is the best and most effective type of resistance weight training exercise.
One major limitation you may face with this type of training exercise is the lack of equipment. A leg extension machine can be rather costly, especially if you intend to use it for personal home use. If that is the case, it may be more practical to sign up with a gym near you. However, that is not an option either; you can do these exercises from the comfort of your home without a machine.
How Do You Do Leg Extensions Without a Machine?
Suppose you are wondering how to do leg extensions at home without a machine. It’s quite simple. There are quite several ways to achieve the best leg extension workouts without using a machine. Most of them are equally effective and can be done with readily available materials such as chairs and resistance bands.
Leg Extensions Without any Workout Equipment
All you need for this workout is a chair. Sit upright on the chair with your entire upper body against the chair’s backrest. Ensure your hands are on your side. You can use the chair or its armrest to support yourself. Getting your posture right will not only make your exercise slightly easier but also prevent unnecessary damage to your body. After establishing the best sitting posture, proceed to the following steps;
- Spread your knees and ankles till they are hip-width apart, bend your knees to a 90-degree angle, and ensure that your feet are flat on the ground. Ensure that the chair you are using allows your knees to bend at a 90-degree angle for the workout to be effective.
- Raise your lower legs until they are in line with your thighs. Ensure you breathe steadily as you do this exercise. As you lift your leg, ensure that your shins and toes are parallel to the floor. Make sure your movements are slow and steady since this will be more effective and prevent injuries.
- Hold up your legs for a second in this position, then steadily lower them to the starting position.
- Do ten of these leg exercises three times for the best effect. However, it would be best to consult your doctor before doing this since these exercises may cause you injuries and pain if you have a condition such as arthritis.
Leg Extensions With Resistance Bands
If you seek a more strenuous and effective advancement, you may want to consider exercising with a resistance band. This will increase the level of difficulty and, in turn, increase the results you will get from this workout. For this workout, hook one end of the resistance band to the back left leg of your chair. Sit on the chair and loop the other end of the resistance band to your left foot. The recommended number of leg extensions for this variation is ten extensions for each leg. Once you have performed your left leg extensions, switch to the right leg and perform the same procedure. Switch it up after that and do an extra set of extensions for each leg.
Leg Extensions With Ankle Weights
The ankle weight leg extensions are much more challenging and effective than the resistance band variation. It focuses more on strength training. As such, you need to be more careful to avoid unnecessary injuries on your ankles, shins, and knees.
- Sit on your chair and strap the weights around your ankles.
- Start with lighter weights such as 5-pound weights. You may find them rather challenging; however, you can perform this exercise with smooth and steady movement.
- For this exercise, it would be best to stick to 2 sets of 12 leg extensions rather than three sets of 10.
Using these variations for leg extensions is not only cheap but also practical. They have been proven to work for different kinds of people as long as they are done correctly.
How Do You Make a Homemade Leg Extension?
If you have been working out before and are a regular gym user, you may want to use a leg extension machine since the other leg extension forms may not be challenging enough for you. Luckily, there are several ways to improvise when it comes to leg extension machines. You can use readily available materials at home to fix a machine of your own.
Wooden Leg Extension Machine
Amazingly, you can build a resistance weight training machine from wood. Although you will find the task very strenuous, you will find it very rewarding in the end. To build a wooden leg extension machine, all you will need is some wood, a basic DIY toolkit, and a detailed tutorial, and you are good to go.
Are Leg Extensions Bad?
Although leg extensions are effective in toning your muscles, they may have adverse effects on your body. Since they place maximum force on the back of your knee cap, they may end up causing permanent damage to your knees. Moreover, like most exercises, this exercise may not be ideal for everyone. If you suffer from severe conditions such as knee arthritis, then leg extensions may not be your best leg exercise.
What Exercise Can Replace Leg Extensions?
Just because you cannot access a leg extension machine or have health issues preventing you from using them does not mean you cannot exercise your quads. There are several alternative leg exercises that will prove very helpful. Some will even focus on additional muscles other than the quads. They will work the glutes, hamstrings, core, and other leg muscles. What’s more, most of them are simple home workouts that will not require expensive workout equipment or tiresome trips to the gym. If the leg extension exercises do not work for you, here are alternative exercises to work your lower body muscles.
Standing Leg Extensions
Standing leg extensions build up on your quads, core, and coordination. This workout offers the same kind of exercise that you may acquire from a leg extension machine. However, they are much cheaper and affordable since you do not have to use equipment to do this variation.
How to Do Standing Leg Extensions
- You will have to place your feet a distance apart from each other.
- While engaging your core, raise the left foot slightly off the floor, about 1 or 2 inches.
- At this position, bend your left knee to send your right one back.
- Straighten the left knee to extend your road ahead of you.
- Remember to start small. If it is the first time you are trying to work out, you may want to go with two sets of 12 reps as you gradually advance.
If you have never done some squats, at least you’ve undoubtedly heard of them before. Squats not only strengthen your quads but also engage your muscles in many other places, such as the butt, lower legs, hips, and even the core. What is even more fascinating about squats is that they are easy to learn and require no equipment for them to be done.
How to Do Squats
- Stand upright with your toes slightly upward and your feet shoulder-width apart.
- While engaging your core, straighten your back, push back your hips and bend your knees.
- Slowly lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your knees should be above your ankles.
- Gently push into your heels to stand up.
- For the best results, start with two sets of 10 preps.
Bulgarian Split Squat
If you want to focus on your hips and glutes and achieve that desired toned look, the Bulgarian split squat should be on top of your list of workout priorities. This workout also tones your quads and hamstrings and is one of the most effective leg extension alternatives. This is one of the cheapest leg extension alternatives since all you need is a knee-height bench and a dumbbell.
How to Do Bulgarian Split Squats
- Assume a standing position with your back facing the bench. Holding the dumbbell in both hands, position your elbows against your body.
- Move your legs to take a lunge position and place your right foot on top of the bench. Ensure your left foot is firmly placed on the floor.
- Bending your left leg to lower your right knee, slowly lower your body until your left leg is parallel with the floor. In this case, your knee should get close enough to touch the floor.
- Gently push into your left foot to return to your initial position.
- If you are a beginner, it is advisable to only start with two sets of 12 reps before switching legs and repeating the exercise.
When correctly done, reverse lunges go a long way in strengthening your quadriceps and ensures your quads are well toned. What’s more, reverse lunges also tone your hamstrings, glutes, and core, ensuring that your workout is as dynamic as it can get.
How to do Reverse Lunges
- Start in a standing position with your feet side by side.
- With your right foot prompted backward, lower the right knee towards t6he ground to a 90-degree angle.
- Using your right foot, push yourself into the original starting position.
- Shift to the left leg and repeat the process, making sure your feet are at the appropriate angles.
- Ensure that you do 10 to 12 sets of reps in two sets.
Step-ups have long been known for their incredible effect on glutes, quads, and hip flexors. When done effectively, they are also invaluable in enhancing hip mobility and general balance. The exercises are relatively easy to perform and can be easily done by beginners. You also require no special equipment to do step-ups. All you need is a bench or small box that may be knee-height. Once you have that, you can get straight into the exercise. In a need of a step platform, we got you covered with our in-depth review of the best step platforms.
How to Do Step-Ups
- Take a standing stance while facing the bench, maintaining a feet-width distance between your legs. Ensure your torso is straight as you do this.
- With your left foot on the benchtop, keep your left knee over your left ankle.
- Gently push off your right foot off the ground and place it on the box. Place both feet together and adopt a straight stance.
- Place your left foot on the ground, followed by the right foot. This will bring you to the starting position. Repeat this.
- For the average beginner, you may want to start with only two sets of 12 preps.
Also known as lateral lunges, side lunges are good for your hips, quads, and butt. They are also easy to do at home since you do not need any equipment to perform them.
How to Do Side Lunges
- Assume a standing position with both feet hip-width apart. Ensure your toes are facing forward. Remember to keep both hands together as this will increase your balance. You could either keep them straight ahead or keep them together.
- Engaging your core, place your right foot further to the right, send your hips back, and move your weight over your right leg.
- Maintain this motion until your right foot.
- Get your right foot back into the starting position.
- Repeat the steps with your left foot.
- The recommended number of side lunges you may do is two sets of 12 reps.
The quad squat, or cyclist squat, is one of the most effective leg extension alternatives you can perform to exercise different parts of your body and not just your quad muscles. For the cyclist squats to be effective, you may need to use a curb that is three inches high or a weight plate. Once you have them ready, you can start by standing with your feet side by side.
How to Do Cyclist Squats
- To begin the cyclist squat, rest both heels on the weight plate or curb and keep both hands straight ahead.
- In slow motion, bend your knees and sink your hips into a deep squat. While doing this, ensure your hamstrings get into contact with your calves.
- Resume to your initial position.
- You may want to do two sets of 12 reps for starters.
Bodyweight Leg Extensions
Bodyweight extensions are a great leg extension alternative. Unlike most other exercises, bodyweight exercises pose a minimum risk of injury. They are also great if you aim to increase your quad strength and suffer from knee injuries and complications.
How to Do Bodyweight Leg Extensions
- Sit on a good chair with your feet planted on the floor. They should be hip-width apart, and your back should be straight.
- Extend your right knee, lifting your right leg.
- Resume your starting position.
- Repeat this on the left leg and do two sets of 12 reps.
The Best Leg Extension Alternative
All these exercises will prove very helpful in toning your leg muscles and strengthening them fully. However, various leg extension alternatives will work differently depending on your body. Therefore, before you choose the best leg extension alternative exercises, seek professional guidance. If you have any medical conditions, you may also want to seek medical advice before settling for any leg extension alternatives. The most important thing is to focus on your health, even as you exercise your lower body. It will not pay to get permanent injuries while exercising.
Look for more leg press alternatives in the guide listed here.