Even if you’ve never stepped foot into a gym or lifted a dedicated weight before, you’ve more than likely heard the phrase, “Don’t skip leg day.” Working your legs is a critical part of any fitness routine, as it helps to balance your frame and actually helps to build other muscles throughout your body. In particular, leg extension exercises help you build strength and muscle support for your knee. And with many gyms still closed, a lot of guys are looking for ways to perform the best leg extension exercises for men at home.
Whether you have dedicated weights or just want to use your body, there are a number of different ways to make a leg extension workout work for you. Unfortunately, some of the best leg exercises do require particular pieces of fitness equipment and weights, which are increasingly hard to find in stock online. Even so, you can still perform a lot of great leg exercises using nothing more than a gym mat and some open space.
Below, we’ve highlighted five different pieces of equipment you can use to really maximize your leg extension exercises at home. For the purposes of this guide, we’ve chosen to focus on exercises and equipment that let you perform a leg extension without the machines you’d find at the gym.
1. Dumbbell-Based Leg Exercises
Dumbbells are arguably some of the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment, allowing you to focus on a toning and building muscle in a variety of different areas throughout your body. While there’s still a bit of a shortage due to COVID-19, these Fitness Gear Neoprene Dumbbells are available for store pick-up at your local Dick’s Sporting Goods and come in a variety of different weight sizes.
Some of the leg exercises you can do with dumbbells include:
- Bulgarian split squat
- Dumbbell step-up
- Single-leg deadlift
- Dumbbell deadlifts
- Alternating lunges (either forward or reverse)
This workout video from United Kingdom-based fitness coach Mike Thurston includes those exercises and a few others.
Fitness Gear Neoprene Dumbbells
2. The Best Barbell-Based Leg Exercises
While a barbell takes up considerably more space — and a dedicated home power rack or weightlifting space — it allows you to really pile on the weight and work a lot of different muscle groups all at once. However, in using a barbell, there is an increased chance you might injure yourself from working so many groups. Slow and steady repetition is the key to maximize your leg exercises.
You can do many of the same exercises you’d do with a dumbbell with a barbell including deadlifts and front squats. This workout from verified YouTube account Anabolic Aliens includes several different barbell leg variations you can try at home.
Sunny Health & Fitness Barbell
3. Kettlebell-Based Leg Exercises
Here at SPY, we’ve already spoken about how much we like kettlebells for a variety of different fitness activities, so you’ll be happy to know the same can be said for the best leg extension exercises for men. In addition to holding a single kettlebell for a variety of squats and lunges, you can perform kettlebell swings to really engage your legs, as well as, kettlebell press-outs to work on your squat form and upper body strength. Here’s a variety of different ways you can modify existing lower body exercises to accommodate your kettlebell.
Yes4All Solid Cast Iron Kettlebell
4. Mat-Based Leg Exercises
Just because you don’t have weights doesn’t mean you can’t work your legs. In fact, some of the most effective leg exercises are ones you can do with your body weight. Moves like a reversible table up or a single-leg glute bridge manage to work your legs as well as your abs in equal measure, adding a real two-for-one benefit. A supportive gym mat like this 5mm Yoga Mat from lululemon provides the cushion you need and it is easy to wipe away the sweat when you’re done after the fact. And if you’re in need of a good routine, this bodyweight workout from Obi Vincent will leave you barely walking — it’s pretty clear he’s never skipped leg day!
lululemon 5mm Reversible Yoga Mat
5. Leg Exercises With Resistance Bands
Another great workout tool to have on hand in your home gym (be it in quarantine or otherwise) is a resistance band. We love resistance bands because you can use them to work your entire body and they’re easy to carry on the go. And even more impressive, you can get your full workout without taking up too much space. So whether you’re traveling and looking to knock out some reps in your hotel, or you live in a studio and don’t have access to a gym, you can still get in your exercise. With resistance bands, it’s easy to perform your favorite leg extension exercises at home.
And as far as good resistance band exercises are concerned, we defer to our pals at Zeus Fitness. In general, Zeus Fitness has killer workouts, whether focusing on full-body, lower body or upper body exercises. But this video is particularly clever as Grant over at Zeus shows you how to isolate your legs and stay toned without needing much more than a resistance band and some space.
6. Leg Machines
In the same way that there are dedicated branch presses or machines at the gym to work your upper body, there are also pieces of equipment that will serve you well when it comes to just focusing on your legs. The aptly named leg machines help to isolate those lower body muscles. Common machines include a leg press, which allows you to press weight away from your body using a platform. Leg curl machines do the same thing bicep and tricep curls do, only with your legs. You can get a better sense of how they work via the circuit video below.
Leg machines are expensive to invest in and are hard to find during the coronavirus. However, if you do have access to a gym, you they make it easy to perform the best leg extension exercises for men.