8 Best Leg Extension Alternative Exercises to Build Huge Quads

The Leg extension is a very popular exercise for your leg, so here we are mentioned 8 best leg extension alternatives.

The knee extension or leg extension is a kind of strength training exercise. It’s an excellent move for strengthening your quads. No other exercise can isolate them like leg extension. This exercise is tested and tried as an isolation exercise that works well for your leg growth.

This exercise is done on a leg extension machine. But what if your gym doesn’t have a leg extension machine and you’re still looking to improve the strength and health of your legs.

Then stick with us till the end. We are going to share the best 8 leg extension alternatives that will develop quads and grow legs. 

What Are Leg Extensions?

The leg extension is an isolated exercise that specifically targets the quadriceps muscle. And this exercise was done on a leg extension machine.

To perform this exercise, you sit on the machine with a weighted pad on top of your lower foot or legs. Then extend your knees and push your lower legs.

Drawbacks of Leg Extension

The leg extension works great on quads, but this exercise doesn’t work any other muscles and this exercise is not effective for improving your overall leg strength. 

Also, it will put a lot of pressure on your knees, that will increase the risk of injury, and to perform this exercise you need a special machine so it’s not convenient.

 So, in this article we listed 8 best leg extension alternatives, these exercises not only work on the quads, but also work well on other leg muscles, they are also placing less stress on the knees.

Before starting any exercise, talk to your doctor first and then talk to a personal trainer, so they can explain to you how to stay safe while working out. 

What Muscle Does Leg Extensions Work?

The leg extension targets the quadriceps femoris, and extends the knee. Quadriceps are a group of muscles in the side of your thigh and front of your thigh. This includes:

  • Vastus Lateralis
  • Rectus femoris
  • Vastus intermedius
  • Vastus medialis

This exercise hits only 4 muscles of the quads and develops strong quads, having strong quads can be easy to walk, squat, run, and have good posture.

9 Best Leg Extension Alternative

There are plenty of exercises you can do, some of the exercises replicate leg extension and while others work your quads effectively by using alternative movement.

So, here we have listed 8 best leg extension alternatives that may help to build and strengthen your quadriceps.  

01. Bodyweight leg extensions

Bodyweight leg extensions

You can do this exercise while sitting in a normal chair. The bodyweight leg extension without a machine may be a best alternative for leg extension. This will strengthen your quads without using added weight, and gives less stress on your knees.

How to do it:

  • Take a normal chair and sit in. keep your feet on the floor, hip-wider apart.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Lift your right leg in the air extending your right knee.
  • Slowly, back to the starting point.
  • Repeat with the left leg.
  • Alternate left and right leg and do two sets of 12 to 16 reps for each leg.  

02. Reverse Lunges

Reverse lunges are great exercise that would replace the leg extension. This exercise strengthens your quads, and also activates the glutes, core, and hamstrings, so you may get a more dynamic workout.

How to do it:

  • You can do regular reverse lunges or start with holding dumbbells.
  • Stand straight with your feet side by side.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Step your left foot back, and lower your left knee to 90-degree.
  • Push yourself into your right foot and return back to the starting position.
  • Then, repeat with the right leg, alternate with right and left leg.
  • Do 2 sets of 12 to 16 reps for each leg.

03. Step Ups

This exercise is very effective for strengthening your glutes, hip flexors and quads, and will improve hip mobility. To do this exercise, you need to have a bench or box that will be at knee height.

How to do it:

  • Stand straight in front of the bench with your feet hip-wider apart, keeping your hands on your hips to strengthen your torso.
  • Place your left feet on top of the bench, push off your right foot to step on to the bench.
  • Keep your right feet side to your left feet and stand straight.
  • Step your left feet back on the floor, and return back to the starting position.
  • Repeat, alternate left and right leg placing on top of the bench.
  • Do 2 to 4 sets of 12 to 16 reps for each leg.

04. Cyclist Squats

The cyclist squats are another best leg extension alternative, and it’s very effective on your quads.

How to do it:

  • Stand straight with your feet side by side.
  • Rest your heels on the plate, keeping your hands straight ahead or together.
  • Engage your core.
  • Bend your knees and slowly lower your hips into a deep squat until your hamstrings touch your calves.
  • Push up to stand off and return back to the starting point.
  • Start 2 to 4 sets of 12 to 16 reps.

05. Kneeling Leg Extension

This exercise is also known as natural leg extension. To perform this exercise all you need is a bit of space to kneel down. Kneeling leg extension gives more tension to your quads and strengthens it.

How to do it:

  • Kneels down on the floor so your femurs are perpendicular to the ground. Use a mat to protect your knees.
  • Keep your hands crossed in front of your chest.
  • Sit back and lower your butt towards your feet.
  • Slowly, go back as far as your flexibility.
  • Then, slowly return back to the upright to starting point.
  • Repeat, do 2 to 4 sets of 12 to 14 reps.

06. Cable Leg Extension

This exercise involves knee flexion and hip extension, that will produce a very intense quads contraction. You are doing this exercise adding weight but you will definitely feel it targeting muscles.

How to do it:

  • Stand straight with your back to the machine.
  • Put on an ankle cuff and attach it to a low pulley cable.
  • Engage your core, lift your leg back until your hip is knee level. Use your arms for balance,
  • Make sure to keep back straight.
  • Slowly, lower the leg to the starting point.
  • Alternate the right and left legs.
  • Do 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 14 reps for each leg.

07. Bulgarian Split Squats with Dumbbells

Bulgarian Split Squats with Dumbbells

This exercise targets your hips and glutes, also effectively your hamstrings and quads. To perform this move, you will need dumbbells and a bench (bench should be knee height).

How to do it:

  • Stand straight you’re to the bench, hold dumbbells with each hand and keep your arms by your sides.
  • Keep your right foot on the top of the bench, and plant your left feet on the floor.
  • Bend your left leg to lower your right knee, lower yourself until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. a right knee touches the floor
  • Push yourself into your left feet and return back to the starting position.
  • Do 2 to 4 sets of 12 to 14 reps for each leg.

08. Dumbbells Leg extension

Dumbbells Leg extension

This exercise is best for leg extension alternatives, and works well to squads with adding a bit weight to this exercise. To perform this exercise, you need to have a dumbbell and chair or bench. Also place a mat below.

How to do it:

  • Sit on a bench or chair and keep your back straight.
  • Hold the dumbbell between your feet and grip it tightly.
  • Extend your both legs until both legs are straight.
  • Hold for a second and slowly, lower the legs by bending your knees.
  • Repeat, do 4 sets of 12 to 14 reps.

Why These Leg Extension Alternatives are Better

Leg extension is the best idea to focus on your quads, but if you want to improve your overall leg strength, then it is better to go with leg extension alternatives.

The leg extension alternatives are more engaging with leg muscles. Like your hamstrings, glutes and some exercise work your core. These alternative exercises are more functional workout and reduce risk of injury because they give very less stress on the knees.

Important Note: if you’re a beginner to strength training then talk to a personal trainer because they can create the best workout plan that’s good for your overall health and your fitness level.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are Quadriceps Used for?

    Quadriceps support strengthening of the knees, also when your bending knees. It has a very close relationship that makes muscles develop.

  • Are Leg Extensions Bad for you?

    The short answer is NO. But the leg extension targets only quadriceps effectively, so there are many alternatives of leg extension that work well on other muscles.

    People with knees and ligament injuries should avoid leg extension exercise.

  • Can Leg Extensions Build Mass?

    The short answer is yes, but if you’re not doing it with correct form then it’s very unlikely you will not see any progress in muscle. Take advice from a personal trainer to know the correct form.

The Bottom Line

Performing leg extension on a machine works well for the squads but it won’t target any other muscles in your leg. There are lots of exercises that you can do instead of leg extension, and these alternatives involve more muscles in your leg, so you will get a functional workout.

These workouts give less stress on the knees, so you can reduce risk of injury. If you are not sure about the correct form then consult a personal trainer or professional in this field.

Hopefully, you like this article, if you have any questions and suggestions put them in the comment box below. 

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