5 Best Leg Extension Alternatives That You Must Try

Hey what’s going on guys ! In this article I have listed out five of the best quad building exercises and one of them is not going to be leg extension because those hurt my knees.

So here’s some good other leg extension alternatives for anybody out there looking to build bigger legs. This article is going to be all about a couple of different exercises that are good for building up your quads. Obviously hitting legs is a huge part of getting in shape.

It’s the largest muscle group in the body but quads are going to be the second largest muscle group in the body behind your glutes.

So making sure that you’re training them properly with the right exercises is of huge importance when it comes to losing weight and building muscle whatever it is your goals are now.

In my opinion depending on what your goals are, you should be following a different approach towards training and especially with your diet. Your macros are completely different whether you’re trying to lose 5 pounds or lose 50 pounds or maybe you’re trying to gain 10 pounds of muscle. If you’re not sure what your macros should be or what type of training you should be following, you need to know first what type of training and diet is best for you.

Moving on to the five exercises that are great for building quad muscles, let’s get into each one of them.

Leg Extension Alternatives

Bulgarian Split Squat

The first up on the list is going to be one of my favorite leg exercises and obviously all these exercises are going to be working. They’re not going to isolate your quadriceps because if you are doing a leg muscle workout properly, you don’t necessarily want to isolate your quad because then you’re going to be placing a lot of pressure on your knee if you’re not engaging your hamstrings at all.

So Bulgarian Split Squat is going to be primarily for your quads. It’s the Bulgarian split squat. Basically you’re going to have your one foot back behind you elevated on a bench, beholding weights and one foot in front of you. You’re just going to split squat down.

The things to look out for here is that you want to make sure that your knee is not caving inwards. Its because a lot of times when people are targeting their quads, they’re in a lot of knee pain. That can be caused by one or two things.

One: Your knees caving inwards a lot. So when you’re going down the form goes wrong and it even can hurt your knees. So you want to focus on driving your knee outward and then also not putting too much pressure on the front of your foot. 

Try to target your quads but you also want to spread your weight evenly throughout the balls of your feet and the heel of your foot.

Two: Then another thing to remember is that when you are doing this Bulgarian split squat, try to hinge your hip a little bit. So you don’t want to be sitting straight up and come down back straight. When you’re doing a regular Bulgarian split squat, you want to actually hinge forward a little bit with your hips. That makes your body come a little bit forward while your butt goes back and this is going to really help you target that quad. It’s because you’re focusing on most of the pressure being on this front leg which also means you’re loading your front leg.

While doing this or any exercise, try to focus and emphasize to that squeeze at the top. When you go down, get that muscle stretched and then when you explode up, squeeze at the top. Its really important to focus on contraction at the top.

 Go back into the next rep by switching legs. Perform with both legs focusing on driving your knee outward and distributing your weight evenly throughout the balls of your feet and the hill of  your foot. Make sure you’re doing it in a controlled manner.

Thus, our first exercise called Bulgarian split squat is a great exercise for building legs which can be used as an alternative to leg extension.

Bulgarian Split Squat as Leg Extension Alternative

Barbell Front Squat

Barbell Front Squat is a slightly different variation to a regular squat. In these exercises, you are going to place more emphasis on your quads. It’s simply because when you do get up under the bar, obviously the bar is going to be in front of your body. So, when you go back, focus on keeping your body more straight up and down; you’re going to be placing more weight towards the front of your body. That is, obviously, putting more loads on your quadriceps.

The ideas about form are pretty much the same here too.

You want to squeeze your butt at the top and as you go down you do want to drive your knees outward by keeping your back as straight up and down as possible. With your chest out, focus especially on keeping your back straight up and out as much as possible when you do a front squat.


As you drive yourself up, focus on squeezing through your quads and glutes at the top.

Perform as many reps as you can depending on what you’re going for typically. 

My suggestion for you is to go a little lighter with front squats because it is so core intensive and you will feel a lot better muscles engagement in your quads when you do go lighter with a front squat. Also, it’s comparatively a harder exercise. So, you can’t go as heavy with front squats as you can with just regular back squats.

So make sure you’re not loading up with too much weight. Better start with lighter weight and progress your way up by focusing on form and balance.

After doing so, you’re going to get a great burn. That makes Barbell Front Squat our next great quad builder and helpful leg extension alternative.

Barbell Front Squat as Leg Extension Alternative

Goblet Squat

If you don’t know what a goblet squat is, basically, you’re going to be taking a weight holding it right in front of your chest. With that weight, you will be squatting down. So It’s very similar to a front squat in the sense that you’re holding this weight in front of your body. That is clearly going to put even more emphasis on your quads obviously.

But here try to keep the same form as a regular squat. Try to keep your back as straight up and down as possible. Drive your butt backwards driving your knees outward and always focus on exploding up and then squeezing through your quads and your glutes at the top of the movement.

Again, talking about the weight distributed on your feet, don’t shift the weight way up in your toes and also not way back in your heels. Rather you want it distributed evenly between the balls of your feet and the heel of your feet. This will ensure that you will get your leg muscles worked properly.

While executing this goblet squat, go all the way down to parallel or just below parallel. Try not to stop all the way up to the point until you feel you’re not getting full depth and not feeling that stretch on that soft tissue.

Give what you have and hit reps until you feel like you want to sit at the bottom (until your quads scream “NO MORE”). Focus on getting continuous time under tension (TUT ) which is really going to of great benefit in this exercise.

Goblet Squat as Leg Extension Alternative

Reverse Lunges

You can perform this leg exercise with both dumbbells or barbells. It usually depends on how much space you have on your gym. I like do reverse lunges with a barbell on my back. However, that can be a little more difficult to balance if you’re new to this.

So, basically, get into an upright position, same as when you get ready to do the regular lunges. 

Now, rather than stepping forward and doing a lunge, you will be stepping back because it’s called a reverse lunge.

While stepping back, you will also be doing a little hip hinging just like the Bulgarian split squat.

As you lunge backwards, lean up towards your front leg which puts more emphasis on that front leg, driving that knee outward. Repeat by stepping back with the other foot and squatting and lunging down just like you did in the first rep.

That’s it about reverse lunges.

Reverse Lunges as Leg Extension Alternative

Close Stance Leg Press

You’ve probably done a leg press before. While doing leg press, we normally start with our feet about shoulder width apart and the toes slightly pointed outward because that’s what regular leg press form is. By altering the position of feet, it allows us to hit on different quad muscles selectively. It is very useful to work all the different muscles in your legs evenly. 

But when you bring your feet together more and really close, and toes slightly more vertical and then focus on squeezing with your quads, it becomes really more effective for your quadriceps.

It is not necessary to go too low with your depth. Just bend your knees up to 90 degrees.

Also while coming down, you’re not coming all the way down like you do with regular leg press.  Just go until you feel a nice stretch in your quads and then again press up with a good squeeze through your quads.

The weights on your feet should not be concentrated up on your heels only. Neither you want to press too much with your toes. Rather spread evenly on your whole feet.

Try to keep your knees in one vertical plane. Do not let them cave in or go way out.

The beauty of leg press is that you can load up on a pretty good amount of weight here depending on how strong your legs are. That’s really one of the reasons I like this exercise. And by the way, putting a lot of weight here is not as unhealthy for your knees as a leg extension.

Close Stance Leg Press as Leg Extension Alternative

The Takeover

I admit the fact that I have done leg extensions in my gym and a lot of people do it. It is really effective for developing the quad muscle but, sadly, it’s also really hard and harmful on your knees.

Leg extensions are harmful on your knees because you’re not working your hamstring at all. You hamstring are not involved to any level.

There is no involvement of other muscles except quads. So there’s a lot of pressure on that front of your knee which is really bad for your knees.

Thus, the aforementioned exercises are going to be a lot more healthy for your joints. Try them out on your next leg day and make sure your form is perfect. That way you’re not hurting yourself but hopefully this will help you develop your quads a little more. With proper form and balance, you can get the leg size and definition you’ve always wanted.

Well, that’s it. I hope you read the whole article. If you liked it and it helped you, don’t forget to share it on social handles which you can do easily with the buttons below.


Visual Demonstration

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Aaron Reiner

Aaron is a fitness blogger, founder & editor of Prosfitness. He has been lifting weights & writing about fitness for over 3 years. He has been a contributor for several health and fitness publications.

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