The Best Leg Extension Alternatives to Build Huge Quads

Jeff Baldelli
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What’s So Good About the Leg Extension?

A quad-dominant leg exercise like the leg extension is often the most popular exercise used to build massive quads. But what’s so good about it?

The first thing that makes the leg extension such a popular quad-dominant exercise is its simplicity. You don’t need any fancy equipment or any complicated techniques. All you need is a machine and a little bit of knowhow. It took me about two months to figure out the technique by drifting in the gym and finally finding video instruction. That’s how simple it is.

This makes it a great option if you want to build huge quads, but don’t have the funds to buy any fancy equipment. You can save up for a leg extension machine, but in the meantime, the leg extension is perfect for getting you strong with good mechanics.

The leg extension is also great because it’s great for the core. The ability to control the body at an angle can help make your deadlift tip points because you’re being able to create tension while you hinge, and you don’t have to worry about stabilizing yourself laterally.

It Will Decrease the Likelihood of Hurting Your Knee

If you are looking for a way to increase the amount of weight you can lift on your exercise machine, especially if you have undergone knee surgery, a variety of machines are available to help you achieve a similar effect to leg curls. These machines involve the upper leg and the lower leg at the same time, helping to simulate and strengthen the leg muscles. The leg extension exercises are a little more complex, but they will help you get your leg muscles in shape without straining your lower body.

If you are suffering from plantar fasciitis, straining your knee or want to strengthen your lower leg muscles without straining your knee joints, leg extension machines are always a good way to help you continue to work out.

When you have a knee injury, it can seem almost impossible to continue with the exercises you want to do. However, leg extension machines can be a good injury management tool. They can also provide a boost to your weight-lifting program.

If you have good strength on your legs already, you may need to work on leg extension exercises as a supplement to your weight-lifting program. Many of the machines that are specifically designed for leg strength development are arranged in the same way as leg extension machines.

You Can Use it to Finish Off a Leg Day Workout

The leg extension is a popular machine in gyms everywhere, and many trainees swear by the exercise. The leg extension isolates the quadriceps to allow the trainee to add plates to the stack to increase both size and strength.

A major problem with the leg extension is that it can be quite painful. The movement can put a lot of pressure on the knees. With much of the tendons and ligaments resting inside the knee joints, the leg extension is a potentially unsafe movement, which doesn’t even load the body very well when it’s performed correctly.

It’s a common injury among beginner weightlifters who are not yet accustomed to proper form on leg exercises.

If you’re deciding to use this exercise as part of your leg day workout, you’ll need to make sure that your form is perfect. The only way to perform the leg extension properly is to keep the knees well under your hips, which is essential in making sure the quadriceps are the primary muscle that’s stressed.

The greater the range of motion, the more chances for the hips and glutes to take over, which is only stress on the knee joint and not the quadriceps.

You Can Develop Quads of Steel

Sitting on the leg cockers at the gym is a great way to develop your quadriceps. A study at the University of Utah demonstrated that exercising one muscle for 1 day per week is more effective than exercising it 3 days per week, or even 5 days per week. However, you can still put a lot of focus on the quads with the other muscle groups and body parts that you exercise in between.

Here are some great leg extension alternatives:

Chest Press

If you eliminate the leg bend and only focus on the extension, you use your quadriceps a lot more than you do during the traditional chest press.

Chest Press

To activate the quads in every rep, get your knees as high as possible, lower them straight down, and then press them back up. If you lock them out at the bottom of each rep, thus eliminating the straight-down part, you will target the quads even more.

Leg Extension (Leg Kickback)

This is a great quad exercise, but one key to getting the most out of it is to pull the ankle back in line with the hip. Doing the straight-legged variation forces you to flex the knees and not use your quads as much.

Leg Extension Kickback

Nordic hamstring exercise (Nordic ham curls)

Leg Extension Alternative Exercises

Leg extensions are performed using a machine or a leg extension attachment with a cable or pulley system. The machine consists of one bar with a pad that you place your foot on, and you simply extend your knees to move the pad.

On the machine, the way to do it is to extend your knees to push the pad away from you. However, the real reason for doing this is to target your quadriceps muscle. The quadriceps are the muscles in your upper thigh, and you can use leg extension to strengthen them. This will give you more powerful and stronger leg extension.

However, there are more efficient ways to train your quads than doing leg exercises in the gym. These exercises have been tested and improved over time. Here is a list of the top 10 leg extension alternatives with videos to show you how to do them. I recommend doing at least four sets of 10-15 repetitions, with each exercise, two or three times a week.

Exercise 1. The Leg Press

The leg press is one of the best possible alternatives to leg extensions. It targets the quads specifically, and you will build muscles quickly. The progressions are simple and the challenge is hard. You will feel the burn and will be forced to push yourself.

Exercise 2. The Burpee

Bodyweight Leg Extensions

If you need an alternative for leg extensions because you don’t have access to one at a gym, or you don’t like doing leg extensions, try bodyweight-only leg extensions.

Some people call these “air leg extensions” because you won’t place any added weight on your body, but they still make you work very hard for your legs.

They’re also a good alternative to doing leg extensions without weight if you have access to one. You can do them at home when the weather is bad, or when you’re traveling. You can even do them at work! Bottom line is, if you have a limited amount of time and you want to build your quads, don’t overlook bodyweight leg extensions.

You can try to do leg extensions without weights by placing the back of your ankle on a step with your toes pointing up. You can also place a weight on your back so that you’re flexing your knee against resistance.

Barbell Reverse Lunges

Set up a barbell behind yourself, resting it on your shoulders with the bar pointing straight down.

Stand up straight with your legs shoulder-width apart, and take a few easy steps back with one leg.

Slowly lower your body down by bending the front leg until your back knee almost touches the floor.

Push yourself back up to the starting position by using your leg muscles. One repetition should be completed. Repeat with the other leg.

This is one of the most effective exercises you can do to develop tremendous quadriceps. Lunges are excellent exercises for growing a huge pair of quads. You can do them with your barbell, dumbbells or a weighted plate held in front of you. There are many variations of lunges that you can do to fully stimulate the quads. However, the barbell reverse lunge is one of the most effective for growing huge quads.

Weighted Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian split squat is a heavily weighted move that will make your quads scream. It’s a fantastic exercise for developing strength in your quads.

Attaching heavy weights to your lower body by either holding weights in your hands or placing them in a weight vest will make you feel like you’re going to die while doing the exercises. By doing these movement with gravity as your resistance, you can force your legs to move more weight, staying away from the knee-friendly leg extension for once.

There are two main variations that you can choose for this exercise.

First, you can keep your back leg elevated while you lunge. Your back leg should be extended behind you with your heel on the floor. The weight should be held with the opposite hand to the side that you’re lunging.

Second, you can do the regular Bulgarian split squat. Ideally, you’ll choose a weight that is so heavy that you can only perform a few repetitions. This will turn this exercise into more of a strength building workout that will have your legs growing, rather than a muscle building exercise. It’s best to alternate between the two during your workout. One set of each exercise would be a great place to start.

Cyclist Squats

Compared to a standing barbell squat, the cyclist squat—with its lower squat depth—can put less stress on your spine and knees. But be careful not to round your lower back during this exercise ‗ your body weight still needs to stay above your heels.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the waist until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.

Keeping your knees slightly bent and your lower back in its natural position, place the dumbbells on the floor to either side of your right foot.

Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

Your arms should hang directly in front of your knees, palms facing down.

Using your right leg, extend your body back to the starting position. This is considered one rep.

Complete all of your repetitions on one side before switching to the other leg.

Cyclist squats can be made more effective by holding dumbbells. If you don’t have weights, hold a resistance band or lightly hold a door frame to add resistance to the movement.

Weighted Step-Ups

One of the best weight leg extension machines to build quadriceps muscle, which is the biggest muscle in the body, is a flat leg extension. However, when it comes to building the maximum quad size, you want to incorporate the step-up exercise.

The weighted step-up resembles the flat leg extension movement, but on the side of the step, your body is at a 45-degree angle. With this knowledge, it should be clear that weighted step-ups work the quadriceps in a different way.

With the weight resting on the floor and very little muscle contraction, you hardly use any of the quad muscle. It’s really the glutes and hamstrings that help push you up. Although the flat leg extension can build an impressive quad, the extra deltas that you put on your step machine will help you build the leg size that you want.

Go straight for six reps with heavy weight, and if you can do more, add more weight. For a complete 6-week training program, check out this link.

Front Weighted or Bodyweight Squats

There is no rule that you have to lift weights to work your quads. If you only have access to bodyweight or very light weights, then don’t beat yourself up for not being super strong.

The quadriceps muscles are the muscles on the front of your thighs. These muscles are activated most when the knee is straight and the ankle is bent. The front weighted squat and the bodyweight squat are both effective ways to exercise the quads.

It’s important to keep the weight shifted to the front. If the weight is too far back, then you’ll put undue stress on your knees. To stay in the front quad-activation zone, keep your weight forward and over your ankles.

Also, in the bodyweight squat, focus on bending the knees as deeply as possible. Don’t strain yourself to go lower than is comfortable. You’ll put unnecessary pressure on your kneecaps.

Tip: Choose a squat where you feel the most activation in your quads, whether it’s bodyweight or weighted squats.

Side Lunges

The side lunge is a variation of the classic exercise. It works by targeting your adductor muscles, which is the muscles on the inside of your thighs, while getting a crazy pump during the exercise. A couple of things to keep in mind when doing this exercise:

  • Start small with the weight. If you can’t do the exercise with proper form, you’re going too heavy.
  • Don’t “overdo it”. Don’t swing the weights around.
  • Don’t shorten your range of motion. Don’t go deep.

Final Words

Of Advice:

The best leg extension alternatives are simply to mix it up! Do some static exercise with the most weight you can on the leg extension machine. Then have someone push your knees/lower legs forward through a series of stretches and holds. Then try rolling the bar up. Then use an exercise ball to help lengthen your legs. Then do a couple of sets on the smith machine with the legs up. Then take a break. Then walk around on your heels for a minute. Then try to lock your knees out and push your toes to the sky for a couple of sets.

In addition, if you’re going to be doing a lot of running type exercises (which I recommend any non-power lifter to focus on) then weight training and heavy leg work is not the most effective use of your time.