These Leg Extension Alternative Exercises Are Great For Gains

best leg exercises

No leg extension machine? No problem.

Going to the gym and tackling those leg exercises can make leg day a little better. Seeing huge lower body gains can make leg day seem awesome. The end result of leg day is important and working with the right exercises to attack those gains is something we cannot take for granted.

The leg extension exercise is performed on the leg extension machine and can greatly benefit quad growth and overall lower body gains. But what happens when that machine isn’t in the picture. Thankfully, there are some great alternatives to the leg extension so you still see great work done without giving up any gains. Either in the gym or your home, these exercises can work wonders for your lower body results.

Let’s take a look at some great alternatives to the leg extension exercise so you can still huge lower body gains without the need for a machine. Either bodyweight options, or those used with dumbbells or kettlebells, these alternatives are great for your home training when no gym is an option.

Benefits Of Leg Extensions

Leg extensions are usually done on a machine where you sit and raise a padded bar with your legs. This works well for building up serious quad growth for increased strength and size, better power output, and the ability to work harder with sport specific and more functional movements (1). As a great exercise, the only downside is a machine is needed. Thankfully, there are some great alternatives to still get work done without sacrificing any gains.

strong legs

Best Leg Extension Alternatives

Here are some of the best leg extension alternative exercises. The best part is, these fit well into your home training routine and work well with either dumbbells or kettlebells to add weight, or simply your bodyweight to make life easy for you.

Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is a great exercise and a useful one for cardio-based interval workouts. A great way to improve strength, mobility, and to establish movement, this exercise works well for seeing quad growth while also giving you a solid foundation to the squat movement when you decide to move to heavier lifts (2).

Reverse Lunge

Reverse lunges are a simple variation of the traditional lunge except you step backwards (3). This tends to take more pressure off the knees since larger muscle groups take more of the load. For those with knee pain, this workout works well for that reason. A bodyweight exercise, this is great for those with limited equipment.

Step Ups

Step ups are an awesome leg exercise for they can really save your lower back from unwanted pain and injury. With a lot less weight to use, this exercise can develop explosive power and work to fix any balance or symmetry problems since each side is worked on its own. For those bodybuilders seeking the utmost symmetry, this exercise is certainly one to include.

Sissy Squats

Sissy squats are a bodyweight exercise designed to target the lower thigh area, but also work the entire leg group well. With the ability to increase strength and size, this exercise promotes proper form and a real level of resistance to better develop coordination and balance in your quest to assist other big lifts and see gains.

Dumbbell Leg Extension

The dumbbell leg extension works the same as the leg extension machine just without the actual machine. This requires a bench and dumbbells and you will sit and raise and lower the dumbbells as if you were on the machine. A great home training exercise, this is one that is easy to perform, works the same muscles as the leg extension machine, and is more versatile with the use of dumbbells. It is important to not totally lock your knees out with this exercise.


Featured Supplement For Further Lower Body Gains

As a part of a great training routine, it is important that you put focus on a solid supplementation routine as well to really capitalize on all gains. Protein powders and pre-workout supplements can really give your pre- and post-workout routines a serious boost for they will provide energy and muscle pumps, and aid in growth and recovery for that desired physique. Fat burners, testosterone boosters, and creatine supplements can also work wonders for you as ways to tackle those specific needs, but one supplement in particular is exactly what you need. Intra-workout products, or BCAAs, can greatly affect your ability to push through fatigue and keep that energy high as you grind away at any workout (4).

Kaged Muscle In-Kaged

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Wrap Up

These leg extension alternative exercises are perfect for helping you see great lower body growth when the leg extension machine isn’t available. Great for your home training, these exercises are exactly what you need to succeed when it comes to quad growth, as well as assisting those other leg muscles to grow. Leg day can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. These alternatives can affect how you workout and provide variety to keep you engaged and see those gains you want most. The right alternatives will still fit well into your training program, provide similar benefits, and make your life easier for stress-free workouts.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Hasselgren, L.; Olsson, L.; Nyberg, L. (2011). “Is leg muscle strength correlated with functional balance and mobility among inpatients in geriatric rehabilitation?”. (source)
  2. Collins, K.; Klawitter, L.; Waldera, R.; Mahoney, S.; et al. (2021). “Differences in Muscle Activity and Kinetics Between the Goblet Squat and Landmine Squat in Men and Women”. (source)
  3. Fischer, K.; Walter, T.; Matovich, J. (2011). “Exercise Technique: Reverse Lunge Into a Step-Up”. (source)
  4. Shimomura, Y.; Murakami, T.; Nakai, N.; Nagasaki, M.; et al. (2004). “Exercise Promotes BCAA Catabolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle during Exercise”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.