There are a few ways you can do close exercise variations of leg extensions without a machine.
Leg extensions are a popular lower body exercise, but not everyone has access to a machine as they are too expensive for most home gym set ups and not every commercial fitness center has one.
One important option to consider is to not do leg extensions at all. If you don’t have access to a machine or would just prefer not to do leg extensions for whatever reason, there are plenty of leg extension alternatives out there, many of which don’t require the use of any machine.
If you are looking to still be able to do leg extensions without using a machine, here are a couple options.
This exercise is called natural leg extensions because they mimic the movement of the leg extension machine without having to use a machine or any other external resistance. Your body will provide the resistance.
The video below demonstrates 2 versions of the exercise. The first requires only your body and a soft bad to rest on. The second version requires a plyometric box or a weight bench to be used.
In the first version, you begin by kneeling with both legs on the pad and the rest of your body in a relaxed and upright posture. You will tighten your glutes and core to maintain good posture as you lower yourself backwards. You hold your arms out long in front of you for balance and slowly lower yourself backwards. Lower yourself as far backwards as possible while maintaining good posture. Ideally, you will be able to reach the heels of your feet with your glutes. Then, trying to use only your quad muscles, propel yourself back up.
The second version is slightly less challenging for your core and can normally be done for more reps. The video is shown with a plyo box being used, but a weight bench or something with a similar height can be used, as long as it is sturdy.
To perform this lift, you begin in a pushup position with the toes of your feet resting on the box. Make sure your feet aren’t too far back on the box or your shins could get beat up.
From there, you lower your knees down to the ground in front of the box. You want to get as low as possible while maintaining your posture and keeping your knees off of the ground. From there, you propel yourself back to the start position, trying to use only the muscles in your quadriceps.
There are a couple major differences between these exercises and the traditional leg extension exercise on a machine. For starters, you aren’t able to alter the resistance as easily. With a machine, you can usually adjust the weight in 5 or 10 pound increments, making it easy to vary the resistance. When your body is the resistance, it is harder to switch things up unless you get creative.
You can still vary the resistance in this scenario using something like a weight vest. Holding even light dumbbells out in front of your body may not be the best idea as they could really throw off your balance. If you want to try this out, begin with your lightest weight plate or dumbbell and increase the weight once you are comfortable.
The other difference with doing leg extensions this way is that you will not be able to isolate the quads as well. When you use a machine, most of your body is locked into place, and your quadriceps are isolated, making them the only muscles that can move the weight.
Doing a bodyweight version like this activates many other muscles, your core especially, and makes it more of a full-body exercise. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just important to keep in mind if you are doing these to isolate your lower body muscles.
Leg extensions are one of the most common exercises prescribed for a lower body workout, but not everyone has access to a machine. There are plenty of options to simulate the movement. You just have to get creative.