The leg extension is arguably the purest test of strength in your quads. No other exercise can isolate them like the leg extension -- it’s a tried-and-tested isolation exercise that does wonders for leg growth. But what if you can’t use it? Or what if your gym doesn’t have a leg extension machine and you’re still looking to develop some serious strength in your legs?
That’s the problem we’re going to tackle today.
Read on to learn about the best leg extension alternative exercises that you can try from the comfort of your own home.
But First, What Exactly Are Leg Extensions?
The beloved leg extension is a popular exercise that is performed on a weight machine. Commonly referred to as knee extensions, you extend both lower legs by bending at your knees to lift the desired quantity of weight set on the machine.
This exercise very effectively targets your quadriceps, helping you to build strong quads -- the large muscles in front of your thighs. While the leg extension is undeniably useful for building strength and power in this specific muscle grouping, it’s not quite as effective as targeting anywhere else.
Prolonged leg extensions are typically not recommended for anyone with weak knee joints or with knee injuries, as the exercise can cause significant damage to the kneecap and the all-important anterior cruciate ligament. But there are many more effective alternative exercises to allow you to practice the leg extension (without weight machines) that won’t cause as much damage to your knees while also targeting other leg and lower body muscles all at the same time.
The Best Leg Extension Alternatives
You can use the following leg extension alternatives to create a productive leg day routine-- or you can take individual exercises and incorporate them into existing workout circuits. These effective exercises can also be used as warm-ups for leg extensions performed on a weight machine -- and they could help you to avoid any severe knee injuries.
We recommend executing each exercise below for a minimum of three sets of eight reps. As your legs start to become stronger over time, increase the number of reps. If you’re practicing leg extension with band exercises, then you can increase the difficulty by selecting a stronger band as your fitness improves.
Remember to warm-up with some stretching and light cardio before commencing any intense workout and, of course -- stay hydrated!
Here are some of the best leg extension alternatives that replace the machine:
1. Cyclist Squat
Build healthy knees and work your quads and glutes with the cyclist squat. Make it extra challenging by adding resistance with Gear 1.
- Start by standing with your feet together, Connect Gear 1 to a low anchor and hold the handles at your sides.
- Keeping your back straight, bend both of your legs simultaneously until your knees are over the top of your shoes.
- Hold this position for a moment or two before pushing back up through the floor to return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
2. Gear 1 Single-Leg Lunges
Target your quads and your glutes with this single-leg squat move. All you need are your Gear 1 bands from HYGEAR.
- Begin by standing with your back to a low or high anchor with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the handles at shoulder height.
- Take a long step back, bending your hip and knees to a 90º angle.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
- Switch legs with each lunge.
3. Standing Leg Extension
Work your quads and core while building both stability and balance. After attaching an ankle band around your ankle, attach your Gear 1 band. Then, attach the other end of your Gear 1 band to a sturdy anchor point that is low to the ground, directly behind your leg, to increase the intensity of this exercise.
- Begin by standing with your back facing the anchor point, feet shoulder-width apart. Take a step or two forward, so there is slight tension in the band.
- Raise your left leg off the floor while bending your knee slightly.
- Extend your left leg ahead of your body by bending your knee
- Repeat for at least eight reps without ever lowering your foot to the floor.
- Switch legs and repeat the single leg extension.
4. Tabletop Glute Extension
For this exercise, you’ll begin on your hands and knees with an angle strap or your foot in a loop.
- Extend one leg back for reps. Really contract your glutes and extend your leg outwards and upwards until your knee is straight.
- Hold this extended position for a second or two before allowing your leg to be pulled back into the starting position.
- Switch legs and repeat.
5. Gear 1 Reverse Lunge
Use the reverse lunge to target your glutes, quads, core, and hamstrings. Using Gear 1 will turn the movements into extra challenging lunges.
- Start with your back to your low anchor, holding the handles at chest height. Now you’re set to begin performing reverse lunges.
- Keep your right foot firmly planted forward and take a step back with your left foot.
- Lower your right knee to the floor, raise, and return your right leg to the starting position.
- Repeat for at least eight reps, then swap to your other leg.
A Final Word
You can learn all of these effective leg extension alternatives at home and without ever having to use a machine. Work different muscles, build a more muscular lower body, and improve your overall strength -- all you need is a quality band, like the one from HYGEAR.
The HYGEAR Gear 1 is a smart gym system designed specifically for your home. It comes with two high-performance bands with smart sensors and adjusters, two ergonomic handles, ankle and wristbands, a door anchor, a carrying bag, and a getting started guide -- everything you need for your best leg day yet!
Check out HYGEAR and start building strong quads today.