The leg press is an effective lower-body exercise that targets your quadriceps, hamstring and gluteus maximus muscles. While the leg press is common in most gyms, it's often useful to have a number of alternative exercises available in case the machine is out of order, busy or you just want to inject some variety into your workout. There are various dumbbell exercises that you can perform in place of the leg-press machine.
Dumbbell Goblet Squats
Goblet squats, like leg presses, work your knee and hip joints at the same time. Grab a single dumbbell and hold it vertically. With your palms turned upward, hold the dumbbell by the inside of the weight plates. Imagine the dumbbell is a large cup, or goblet, and you must keep it vertical to avoid spilling its contents. Hold the dumbbell against your upper chest so that the top of the bell is just below your chin. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your butt back, bend your knees and descend into as deep a squat position as you can safely manage. Stand back up again and repeat. Maintain a slight arch in your lower back throughout this exercise.
Dumbbell Dead Lifts
Dumbbell dead lifts work your entire leg musculature, but with an extra emphasis on your butt and hamstrings. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and position the dumbbells in front of your thighs. Squeeze your shoulders back and down and arch your lower back slightly. Bend your knees and hips, lean forward and lower the dumbbells to within six inches of the floor. Thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees and stand up. If you find your grip is a limiting factor when performing this exercise, you can use wrist straps.
Lunges are like performing a leg press using one leg at a time. Adding dumbbells increases the strength demand on your leg muscles. With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet together and your hands by your sides. Take a large step forward with your left leg and rise up onto the ball of your right foot. Bend your knees and lower your right knee until it is just above the floor. Push off your left foot and return to the starting position. Perform another rep, but lead with your right leg. Continue alternating legs for the duration of your set.
Dumbbell step-ups are another exercise that simulates performing the leg press using one leg. Set up a sturdy exercise bench so that it is approximately knee height. Stand in front of the step with a dumbbell in each hand. Step up onto the bench with your left leg, then drive up so that you are standing with both feet on the top. Step down, leading with your left leg. Perform another rep, but lead with your right leg. Continue alternating legs for the duration of your set. For variety, you can perform an entire set leading with your left leg, then a second set leading with your right.