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7 Leg Press Alternative Machines to Maximize Your Leg Day Gains

Cover Photo For Best Leg Press Machine Alternatives

Today we will take a look at some of the alternative machines to the leg press. 

While home or commercial leg press machine is great, it always good to add some variation in there and shock the muscles with new types or forms of exercise. 

Firstly we'll cover some things about the leg press, and establish the ground works for what makes a good alternative machine to the leg press. 

Then we'll go into more detail about each machine, how to use them, and some benefits of each one. 

If you want the short answer, or to skip to a section you're most interested in, click the links below to jump to that section!

1. The Hack Squat

7. Ground-Based Squat Lunge Machine

Why Use a Leg Press?

Leg press machines provide a safe and effective way to build lower body strength, and size, targeting key muscle groups like the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

They are also perfect for individuals with limitations or injuries that prevent them from performing traditional barbell exercises like squats and deadlifts.

Many facilities feature leg press machines and similar movements as a staple of their leg day equipment. 

If you're like us, leg day and having many options to take your leg workouts to the next level is very important. 

Benefits Of A Leg Press Machine

The leg press benefits its user an many ways included the muscles they work, the minimized spinal loading, and more!

Effective Lower Body Isolation

A leg press machine is an excellent tool for isolating and targeting the lower body muscles, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

This is because the leg press machine stabilizes the upper body, allowing the user to focus solely on working the lower body muscles.

Low Amount of Spinal Loading

Unlike squats or deadlifts, which can place much stress on the spine, the leg press machine provides low spinal loading.

This is because the user is seated and supported by the machine, reducing the risk of spinal injury.

Available to People of any Experience

The leg press machine is an easy exercise to learn, making it an excellent choice for beginners and more advanced lifters.

It also allows users to quickly progress by gradually increasing the weight being lifted without worrying about form fatigue. 

Safely Overload with Heavy Weights

The leg press machine provides a safe and effective way to overload the lower body muscles with heavy weights while staying secure with good form.

This is because the user is seated and supported by the machine, reducing the risk of injury while under high resistance.

Adjustable and Versatile 

Leg Press machines are designed so that the user has some freedom with their use. 

Not only can you adjust the weights, and other personal settings like the seat, there is a range of ways to bring creativity into the leg press to add versatility. 

A great example is that the exercise targets slightly different muscles using different foot positions. 

Muscles Trained With A Leg Press

The muscles worked by the leg press include the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.

These muscles are responsible for powering many daily movements, such as walking, running, and jumping.

By targeting these muscles through the leg press exercise, we can increase strength and muscle mass in the lower body, improving our overall physical performance and athletic ability.

As mentioned, different foot positions on the leg press allow you to target specific leg muscles, making it a versatile exercise.

Leg Press Machine Variations

Multiple different types of leg press machines may offer various benefits compared to their other leg press relatives.  

When looking for a variation on the leg press machine, sometimes you can look for a completely different type of machine. Instead, a variation of the same machine may offer an additional benefit.

Here's a quick summary of 7 different types of leg press machines:

  • 45-Degree Linear Leg Press: popular, plate-loaded, 45-degree angle sled push
  • Horizontal Seated Leg Press: pin selectorized, comfortable seated position with legs extended
  • Angled Leverage Leg Press: lever system for resistance, smooth and controlled motion
  • Dual Function Leg Press: can be used as leg press and hack squat, designed for home gyms
  • Vertical Leg Press: plate-loaded, vertical position while lying flat on the back for ultimate back and neck safety
  • Compact Leg Press: designed for smaller spaces, often found in home gyms
  • Iso-lateral Leg Press: allows independent work on each leg, corrects imbalances, and provides advanced isolation.

For greater detail on the types of leg press machines, check out our article about the best leg press machine types

What Makes for A Good Alternative Machine to the Leg Press?

We should consider the benefits mentioned earlier to find similar options to the leg press machine.

In this article, we will explore several machines that offer comparable advantages to the leg press machine, each of which may provide a better experience for each user.

These machines share the benefits of effective lower body isolation, low spinal loading, ease of use and progression, the ability to safely overload with heavy weights, and accessibility to anyone of any experience level.

Let's get into the best alternative machines to the leg press without further ado.

7 Best Leg Press Alternative Machines:

The Hack Squat

Hack Squat

Checkout the Bodykore Hack Squat Machine

The Hack Squat is an excellent alternative to the leg press machine, providing a unique workout experience while still targeting the lower body.

With the hack squat, users can perform a squat-like movement in a fixed plane of motion, which can help isolate the quadriceps and glutes.

This machine is often plate-loaded, meaning users can safely overload with heavy weights and not stress about their form fatiguing or being crushed by a barbell.

How to Perform a hack squat:

  1. Load up an appropriate amount of weights that you can confidently lift.
  2. Stand in the hack squat machine with your shoulders and back against the pads.
  3. Release the safeties and lower your body by bending your knees and hips, keeping your back straight.
  4. Push the platform back up, straightening your legs and returning to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pro Tip: For an added challenge, try slowing down the squat's eccentric (lowering) portion or pausing at the bottom of the movement for an isometric hold.

Benefits of the hack squat:

  • Reduced spinal loading compared to barbell squats. 
  • Excellent lower body isolation.
  • Direct carryover from the barbell squat movement helps improve your squat directly.
  • Beginner / Noobie friendly. They are quick and straightforward to learn, allowing for a very lightweight load.
  • Built-in safety. In case of emergency, most hack squat machines have safety precautions to keep the user safe in case of emergency.

For a more complete comparison to the leg press, check out another article about the leg press vs. the hack squat.

The Front Squat / V Squat Machine

York Power Front Squat / V Squat Machine

The Front Squat Machine is an excellent alternative to the leg press machine, providing a unique front squat imitation and targeting the lower body.

With the Front Squat Machine, users can perform a squatting movement in an assisted range of motion, which can help isolate the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

A front squat machine isolates the lower body similarly to the leg press but in a vertical alignment, similar to a barbell squat. 

How to Perform the front squat:

  1. Load up an appropriate amount of weights that you can confidently lift.
  2. Stand in the V Squat Machine with your back against the pads, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your toes pointing slightly outward.
  3. Release the safeties and lower your body by bending your knees and hips, keeping your back straight and your chest up.
  4. Push the platform back up, straightening your legs and returning to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pro Tip: To maximize the activation of the quadriceps, keep your knees aligned with your toes throughout the entire movement.

Benefits of a front squat machine:

  • Imitates a front squat while providing an extra level of stability and security in a machine-style of exercise. 
  • Reduced spinal loading compared to an actual barbell squat allows for a different experience while isolating the leg muscles.
  • Built-in Safety. With a machine exercise for the legs, you can rest assured that in case of failure of a rep, or emergency, you are not directly under a barbell with weight on it. If you fail a rep, you will not be crushed by a heavy weight load. 
  • Great quad and glute activation. Just like a front squat, the front squat machine is excellent for isolating the quadriceps and glutes specifically. 
  • Versatility. While there is a correct way to use the machine, the user can bring their creativity into the exercise and change up the target muscle group.

The Leverage Squat Press / Calf Raise

Body Solid Leverage Squat And Calf Raise Machine SLS500

Check out the Body Solid SLS500 Leverage Squat

The Leverage Squat Press and Calf Raise Machine is a versatile piece of lower body gym equipment that allows users to effectively target their quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves in a front squat style movement similar to the front squat machine. 

With the Leverage Squat Press and Calf Raise Machine, users must perform the squatting motion only without the back support.

This means the range of motion is assisted and guided, but there is no direct contact with a back pad or seat.

Like the leg press, your calfs can also be trained by allowing the heels to go past parallel at the bottom of the movement, providing a nice stretch for the calves.

How to Perform the leverage squat:

  1. Load up an appropriate amount of weights that you can confidently lift.
  2. Stand in the machine facing inwards with your feet comfortably to squat down.
  3. Adjust the padded shoulder rests to comfortably rest on your shoulders if the machine allows for this.
  4. Lift the weight from the resting position and release the safeties to lower your body.
  5. Bending your knees and hips, keeping your back straight and your chest up, lowering your body, and the weight loading on the shoulders down to a 90-degree angle of depth. 
  6. Squat back up, straightening your legs and return to the starting position.
  7. For a calf raise, place your toes on the thin platform and raise your heels as high as possible, then lower back down.
  8. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Benefits of the leverage squat machine:

  • Front Squat Imitation. This leverage squat machine properly imitates a front squat, with no back support or seat, but maintains a guided range of motion. 
  • Added Calf Press Function. This type of machine is made not only for a front squat imitation but also features a great addition of the standing calf raise exercise.
  • Lower Body Isolation. While this machine requires some core and back muscle engagement, it is most excellent at providing an isolated lower-body workout. 
  • Direct benefit to the barbell squat progression and other day-to-day activities with lower body strength. 

The Belt Squat Machine

 Bodykore Belt Squat Machine

Check out the BodyKore Belt Squat

The Belt Squat Machine is a great alternative to the leg press machine, providing a unique lower-body workout experience while still targeting the same muscle groups.

With the Belt Squat Machine, users can perform a squat-like movement while wearing a belt attached to the weight stack or weight plates. This allows for a great lower-body workout without putting pressure on the back or shoulders.

How to Perform a Belt Squat:

  1. Load up an appropriate amount of weight on the machine.
  2. Put on the belt and attach it to the machine.
  3. Stand in the designated area with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward.
  4. Lower your body by bending your knees and hips, keeping your back straight and your chest up.
  5. Push the platform back up, straightening your legs and returning to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pro Tip: To maximize the activation of the glutes and hamstrings, focus on pushing your knees outward during the upward motion of the squat.

Benefits of the Belt Squat:

  • Reduced spinal loading compared to barbell squats or leg presses, which makes it a safer option for those with back or shoulder injuries.
  • Great for targeting the lower body muscles, including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
  • Allows for a greater range of motion than traditional squats or leg presses.
  • It can be used for accessory exercises such as calf raises, lunges, and even upper body exercises like rows and presses.
  • It provides a unique workout experience that can challenge the body in new ways.

The Pendulum Squat Machine

French Fitness Pendulum Squat Machine

Credit: French Fitness Pendulum Squat Machine

The Pendulum Squat Machine is a unique and less common type of resistance training machine that allows users to perform squats in a safe and stable environment.

One of the benefits of the Pendulum Squat Machine is that it offers a natural squatting motion that mimics a free-weight squat but with added support and stability. 

It has an incredibly bio-mechanically correct range of motion with a high level of knee and back comfort while still allowing for heavy weight loads and an intense leg workout. 

How to Perform the Pendulum Squat:

  1. Load up an appropriate amount of weight onto the machine.
  2. Adjust the back or foot platform to your desired height.
  3. Place your feet shoulder-width apart on the foot platform.
  4. Grasp the handles located on the sides of the machine.
  5. Lower your body by bending your knees and hips, keeping your back straight and your chest up.
  6. Push the platform back up, straightening your legs and returning to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Pro Tip: Keep your weight centered over your heels during the entire movement to maximize the activation of the glutes and hamstrings.

Benefits of the Pendulum Squat:

  • Offers a natural squatting motion that mimics a free-weight squat
  • It provides added support and stability for safer and more efficient squats
  • Allows for heavy weightlifting without the risk of injury
  • Targets multiple muscle groups, including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings
  • Easy to adjust for users of different heights and body types.

The Sissy / Spanish Squat Machine

Body Solid Sissy Squat Machine

Check out the Body Solid Sissy Squat Machine

The Sissy / Spanish Squat Machine is an excellent alternative to the leg press machine, providing a unique squatting movement that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

This machine allows users to perform a deep, isolated squatting movement without any weight on the shoulders or back, which can benefit individuals with lower back pain or discomfort.

They are also a fraction of the cost and size of a regular machine. They are more closely related to a bench but are used for a great, targeted leg exercise.

How to Perform the sissy squat:

1. Secure your legs inside the machine, with the cushion or padded part tucked on the back of your knees with the front or legs, or shins, tightly against the pad.

2. Lean back with your bottom, bending your knees and engaging your quads.

3. Go as low as possible without being stuck at the bottom.

4. Extend your legs and hips and explode from the bottom until your legs are straight again.

5. Perform as many reps as needed.

Pro Tip: To increase the difficulty of the exercise, try leaning your torso slightly backward during the squatting movement. This will increase the activation of your quadriceps and provide a more significant challenge.

Benefits of the sissy squat:

  • It can be performed without additional weights, making it an accessible exercise for individuals who do not have access to a gym.
  • Provides a deep, isolated squatting movement that targets the quadriceps and can help to improve knee stability.
  • It can be a helpful exercise for individuals with lower back pain or discomfort, as there is no weight on the shoulders or back.

The Ground-Based Squat Lunge Machine

Fettle Fitness Squat Lung Machine

Credit: Fettle Fitness Squat Lung Machine

The Ground-Based Lunge and Squat Machine is an excellent alternative to the leg press machine for targeting the lower body.

It is a hand-loaded machine, meaning the user will hold the weight-loaded machine up with their hands and then perform either a squat or a lunge, similar to using a trap bar.

This machine aims to target a high-rep workout for the lower body with no weight loaded on the back or shoulders.

How to Perform the lung / squat machine:

  1. Load the appropriate amount of weight onto the machine.
  2. Step into the machine, making sure the handles are at an appropriate height.
  3. Grasp the handles firmly and keep them close to your body.
  4. Perform the desired movement, either a squat or a lunge, keeping proper form.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pro Tip: Get creative with this machine and throw in some calf raises, shoulder shrugs, and RDLs all on the same machine!

Benefits of the lung / squat machine:

  • Provides a different type of workout than using a barbell or leg press machine, as it is hand-loaded but still guided by the machine
  • Targets mostly the lower body with exercises like a single leg lung or even a squat/deadlift.
  • High level of versatility. You can perform a range of leg exercises, but the machine also allows you to use your creativity and do any exercise you can think of it!

Alternative Machines to the Leg Press - Final Thoughts

 In conclusion, while the leg press is a popular exercise machine for targeting the lower body, numerous alternative machines and exercises can provide a similar or even better workout.

The Front Squat Machine, Belt Squat Machine, Pendulum Squat Machine, Sissy/ Spanish Squat Machine, and Squat Lung Machine are some of the best alternatives to the leg press.

Experimenting with different machines and exercises can help break through plateaus and add variety to your workout routine, improving strength and muscle development.

If you're looking to buy a new machine as an alternative to the leg press, feel free to check out all of our various squat machines

For more information on leg presses, check out these other resources!

Previous article Top 7 Leg Press Foot Placements For Maximum Leg Gains
Next article 7 Different Types Of Leg Press Machine You Need To Know About

About The Author

Matt Gemkow, the author of this content section at Select Fitness USA, boasts more than 15 years of fitness experience. He started out in sports and athletic training for many years and has since 2014 transitioned into heavy-weight training and bodybuilding. As a result, he has become one of the most experienced fitness equipment experts out there, and a valuable source of information.