Squat & Leg Press Alternative Exercises for Bigger Quads


What’s the one day you should never skip? Leg day. If you go by what most of the exercise magazines and fitness blogs say, you’ll be doing squats and leg presses all day, every day.

Sure, traditional barbell back squats and leg presses are fundamental in building big and defined quads, but it’s important to add some variety to your leg workouts.

What’s more, not everyone is physically able to do a squat or leg press. Maybe you had an injury or surgery that will prevent you from performing one or the other (or both). Perhaps you aren’t physically built to safely perform a squat (it’s more common than you think).

If you want to build up your legs, but you’re looking for alternative exercises to the squat and leg press, I have you covered. Here are five effective quadricep-dominant exercises that will help you build muscle and strength in your legs.

Bulgarian Split Squat

I know it has “squat” in the name but this is not your traditional squat. Not only will you be building muscle and strength, but you’ll also be challenging your balance, helping you to have better stability in other areas of fitness.

To perform the Bulgarian split squat, place the left foot behind you and elevate it on a bench.

With or without dumbbells in your hands, keep the chest up and core tight. Lower your right leg towards the ground until it’s parallel with the floor. Switch sides when you complete the prescribed repetitions.

Walking Lunges

Walking LungesLunges are an excellent exercise for the quadriceps as well as the glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors.

You can vary your lunges by using the traditional walking lunge, lateral lunge, or reverse lunge.

To perform a walking lunge, bring your chest up and shoulders back as you tighten your core. Take a step forward with the left leg as you drop the right knee just above the ground.

Once the left thigh is parallel to the floor, pause and press back up, taking a step forward with the right leg as you do. Alternate back and forth for the prescribed repetitions.

Weighted Step-Ups

You might take the steps everyday and never give them a second thought to being one of the best ways to develop your quads. Like lunges, you can perform step-ups from the front, side, and back.

Place a box or bench in front of you. With your chest up and shoulders back, step up with your left foot. Push from the left quad, focusing all of the contraction there.

Stabilize yourself with your right leg. Now step back down and repeat. Switch sides and complete all of the prescribed repetitions.

Leg Extensions

Leg extensions are an excellent way to isolate the quadricep muscle, and depending on which way you turn your foot, you can target different sides.

Sitting upright with a tight core, place your shins against the padded bar. Before you begin, contract the quadriceps to prepare them.

Now slowly lift the weight by pushing against the padding. Focus the contraction in your quadriceps as you push.

Pause at the top and slowly bring the weight down but don’t let it touch the weight stack. Immediately go into the next repetition.

Kettlebell Swing

Combining a bodyweight squat with a front shoulder extension, the kettlebell swing is an excellent full-body exercise.

Stand tall with your feet at shoulder-width or a bit more than shoulder-width apart. Hold a kettlebell with both hands in the center of your body.

Begin the movement by swinging the kettlebell up toward shoulder level. As the kettlebell comes back down in between your legs, go into a half squat by sitting back slightly. Your back should remain flat during the entire exercise.