The leg press machine is one of the most popular gym machines. It works out almost everything in your lower body at the same time which is very efficient. How can you do that at home?
A vertical leg press, a hack squat machine or a multi-gym with leg press attachment are the closest home gym alternatives that have the same movement pattern. Barbell/dumbbell/cable squats and lunges are other leg press alternatives that target the same muscles as a leg press machine.
Find out more about these options below.
Home gym leg press options
What are the best options to do a leg press in your home gym? These options aim to have the same muscle activation and movement pattern as the leg press machine you can find in any big gym.
Stand-alone leg press
If you want to do a leg press in your home gym, get a leg press machine. It’s by far the best option that will yield the best results.
There are of course a few downsides; 1.) Leg press machines are expensive 2.) Leg press machines are big. Expect to pay about $2500 for a good leg press machine although there is a pretty wide range. However, you won’t find a decent leg press for less than $1500.
There are different types of leg press machines. Most plate loaded leg presses have you sit on a seat and you push away the foot rest at a 45 degree angle. Selectorized leg presses have the exerciser sit up straight while pushing away the seat you sit on.
Selectorized gym machines are the ones where you put a pin in the weight stack to change the weight.
A plate loaded leg press is going to be a better option for people who already have a set of weight plates. This saves a bit of money since you don’t have to pay for the weight stack in the leg press. However, if you don’t have any weight plates and don’t plan on needing them for anything else anytime soon, a selectorized leg press will be better.
Vertical leg press
A smaller and much cheaper version of the leg press that is good for a home gym is the vertical leg press. You’ll never see this type of leg press in any commercial gym because it’s a bit too rudimentary and difficult to use for most normal people. However if you know your way around a leg press machine, you’ll be able to use this one as well.
Instead of sitting on a seat and pushing away the seat/foot pad, on a vertical leg press you lay on the floor. Now there’s a bar you can load with plates that moves up and down vertically. The bar is guided by two rods that slide through the stands. As said, it’s a rudimentary machine and a bit uncomfortable to use but the movement is the same as on a leg press.
They’re a lot cheaper and more compact than a normal leg press machine although the load limit is a lot lower as well.
Hack Squat machine
Another variation on the leg press is the hack squat machine. At first sight, the hack squat and leg press just look like inverted versions of each other. However, on a hack squat the range of motion is a lot bigger and targets muscles in a slightly different way. The hack squat focuses more on the quadriceps while the leg press is a more all-round leg builder.
Luckily, there are machines that can be used to do both a leg press and hack squat. They are usually easily transformed with a few quick changes. These machines aren’t any cheaper or smaller than a normal leg press machine but at least they’re a bit more multifunctional.
Multi gym with leg press
You might want a bit more functionality in your home gym than just a leg press. If you’re spending several thousand dollars, you want to be able to train more than just your legs.
That’s where multi-gyms come in. A multi gym is a home gym machine that combines as many gym machines into one piece of equipment. This is probably what you think of when you think “home gym machine”. Most of these don’t have a leg press built in but there are a few that actually do have the option to add one onto the main multi gym. Sometimes they have their own weight stack while other times the extra attachment is hooked up to the weight stack of the multi gym.
These add-ons will give you the same movement pattern as the leg press in your gym. They are selectorized so changing the weight is easy. One issue is that the resistance is often limited. You’re limited to the amount of weight the stack has to offer which might not be enough for some people.
Home gym leg press alternatives
A leg press is a machine. However, most machines that can offer that movement are either huge or expensive and usually both. What are some more compact and maybe cheaper alternatives? What can you use to train the same muscles at home?
- Power rack and barbell: of course the most obvious alternative to a leg press is the barbell squat. The muscles used in the lower body are very similar although a barbell squat does feel different. Many people don’t want to do a barbell squat though for several reasons. Old injuries and fear of free weights are some of those reasons. A machine is a bit more beginner friendly. However, if you want to build the best/strongest legs, a barbell squat is hard to beat.
- Dumbbells: If you don’t like/have a barbell and power rack, you can do squats with dumbbells as well. You need less equipment for this. Just a set of dumbbells is enough. Heavy dumbbells are quite expensive although not as much as a leg press machine.
- Cable machine: If you don’t like the idea of free weights, a cable machine can help. Especially a functional trainer which has two pulleys you can stand between. Use cable squats and lunges to replicate a movement similar to a leg press.
- Bodyweight exercises: While bodyweight exercises can’t give you the same resistance as a leg press (unless you’re a bigger person), they are still useful to build some size and strength. Doing bodyweight squats and lunges work well for beginners. For more advanced lifters, try a backpack filled with heavy things. You can get 40-50 kg into a travel backpack pretty easily. No it’s not 200 kg but in a pinch, it works. Just increase the repetitions and sets.
- Split it up: The beauty of leg presses and squats is that you train almost all of the leg muscles at the same time. This builds real world strength and is time efficient. It also allows you to lift much heavier weights which creates more strength. However, if there is no other option, splitting up your leg workout is an option. A superset of resistance band leg extensions, band leg curls and glute bridges will target most of the same muscles as a leg press.
What are some alternatives you shouldn’t be using;
- Smith machine: The bar on a smith machine is fixed to only go up and down. On most exercises I’m not a big fan of smith machines and I would advise against doing squats on them. Not because it’s not possible to do a good squat in a smith machine but I’ve seen very few people actually do them right. In fact most people are doing it so wrong they are going to hurt themselves at some point even though they think it’s safer than the free barbell.