5 Lower-Body Exercise Swaps for Long-Term Gains

athletic man doing a cable stiff leg pull-through exercise at the gym
athletic man doing an elevated single-leg squat on a bench at the gym
athletic man doing a glute bridge and hamstring curl exercise
athletic man doing a drop lunge on a plate
Bored with the same leg-day routine? These lower-body exercise swaps will give you a new challenge.
Image Credit: nortonrsx/iStock/GettyImages

They say variety is the spice of life. This is especially true when it comes to your lower-body workouts.

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Sooner or later, the same old leg exercises will become a snore. And what's worse, your body will no longer adapt, says Justin Kompf, CSCS. To prevent plateauing, you need to change something.

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"Adding weight, reps, sets or increasing training frequency is great but can only get you so far," Kompf says. "This is when variety comes in."

Indeed, switching up your lower-body moves is the secret to sustained, continual progress.

Ready to shake things up? Swap out your usual leg day exercises for these less predictable moves that'll keep your gams and glutes guessing.

Tip

Kompf recommends changing up your leg exercises every 12 weeks. Alternatively, you can also try swapping out one exercise per day weekly. “Just be sure to keep the majority of your routine consistent if you chose this route and continue to increase load, reps or sets,” he says.

1. Swap Romanian Deadlift For Stiff Leg Pull-Through

Image Credit: Justin Kompf/LIVESTRONG.com

Tip

“Due to the line of force, the stiff leg pull-through has the benefit of forcing you to engage your glutes in the fully hip-extended position,” Kompf says.

  1. Fasten the rope handle attachment to a cable machine at its lowest setting. Grab the handles, step over the cable (so it's between your legs) and walk forward a few feet.
  2. Keeping your arms and back straight, push your hips back.
  3. Squeezing your glutes, return to the standing position.

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2. Swap Back Squat For Rear Leg Elevated Squat

Image Credit: Justin Kompf/LIVESTRONG.com

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“Oftentimes the limiting factor on the back squat is the back itself,” Kompf says. “With the rear leg elevated squat, you are able to stay more upright, take stress off the back and put it on the legs.”

  1. Stand approximately two feet in front of a bench (with your back facing it) and put one foot on the bench with the toe pointed.
  2. Bend both legs until your back knee comes close to touching the ground. Keep the shin of the working leg perpendicular to the ground.
  3. Push through your front foot to stand.

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3. Swap Hip Bridge For Bridge to Hamstring Curl

Image Credit: Justin Kompf/LIVESTRONG.com

Tip

“With the addition of the curl, the hamstring muscles are maximally contracted, which reduces force output and puts the emphasis even more on the glutes at the end range of motion,” Kompf says.

  1. Sit down on the ground with your knees bent and place two sliders under your heels. If you don't have sliders, you can use a physio ball, a pair of hand towels or two pieces of paper.
  2. Lie on your back with your arms by your sides and your hands flat on the ground. Extend your legs in front of you.
  3. Pull your heels toward your butt, lifting your hips and lower back off the ground to come to a glute bridge. Squeeze your glutes at the top.
  4. Push through your heels to extend your legs back out in front of you, returning to the starting position without allowing your legs to touch the floor.

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4. Swap Reverse Lunge For Reverse Lunge From Box

Image Credit: Justin Kompf/LIVESTRONG.com

Tip

“By adding an extra 6-inch box, you increase the range of motion of the lunge, thus making it more challenging,” Kompf says.

  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart on top of a box.
  2. Take a large step (about 3 feet) behind you and bend your knees until they form 90-degree angles. Your back knee should hover an inch above the ground and your front thigh should be parallel to the ground.
  3. Keep most of your weight in the front leg as you press into your heel and straighten your front leg, returning to a standing position.

5. Swap Pistol Squat For Single-Leg Squat

Image Credit: Justin Kompf/LIVESTRONG.com

Tip

“While the pistol squat may look cool, it is often performed [incorrectly] with a flexed back,” Kompf says. “The single-leg squat has the benefit of training the lower body in a more athletic position while still working the quadriceps, glutes and balance.”

  1. Stand on one foot with your other leg bent at the knee and an Airex pad, pillow or towel behind you.
  2. Send your hips back, so that you lean forward slightly, and squat down as low as you can. Try not to let your back foot touch the ground.
  3. Lower until your back knee taps the Airex pad, then push back up through your heel to return to standing.

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