T Nation

Dumbbell Substitutes for Leg Extensions/Leg Curls?


Have Power blocks and weight benches.

Have substitutes fo most exercises.

What do you recommend as substitutes?

I will be doing squats in place of leg presses.

Static leg curls/extensions

With resistance bands

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With your dumbbells, you can do Romanian deadlifts for hamstrings and sissy squats for quads. If you can have someone hold your feet, you could do Nordic hamstring curls for hamstrings instead.

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Back in the day (translation: years ago) ‘exercise footwear’ called Iron Boots was available for such a thing. Heavy-gauge metal ‘shoes’ were built to accept a dumbbell bar through them – and the assemblies were strapped to regular shoes that the user was wearing for the workout.
You could get a fair amount of work for the front & rear thighs using them. To see an example, click on Ivanko Iron Boots. Apparently they are still made and available – as indicated by the picture.

Those things were nowhere near as efficient as leg extension and leg curl machines – but, as noted above, they provide quite a bit more work than nothing. The boots have to be strapped tightly to the user’s shoes, though, if using ‘considerable’ weight.

Jesse Lee Otis

Leg Ext - Best bets are Wall Gironda Hack Squats or BW Sissy Squats. Also, Goblet Squats are excellent for quads AND conditioning.
Leg Curls - Romanian DLs (with DBs or bands), you can do Floor Leg Curls with your feet holding a DB, if you’re really talented!
Sumo DB Squats are great for quads, hip adductors, and glutes!!

I’m not aware of a free weight exercise that emulates the leg extension and leg curl to “isolate” these areas. I do recall seeing people holding a dumbbell with their ankles and raising trying to emulate a leg extension while on the edge of a seat, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Doing some kind of compound movement with Power Blocks whether a squat or as a lunge is a more productive exercise IMO.

Outside of leg presses, I also do one legged squats basically holding the DB training one leg at a time while using my opposite side free hand to stabilize my body. It’s almost like a semi-lunge, but I like the move as it hits the glutes too and no stress at all on lower back.

That version or the version where the opposite leg is up on a bench (often called Bulgarian Squats) may be the best all-around DB/BW exercises for Quads, Hams, AND Glutes! You basically get it all in one fell swoop. On days I do those, I do no other leg movement!!

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I feel like I’ve been overreaching a bit my training lately, so dialing it back. But I’ve been doing those and leg presses in the same session which surely hasn’t helped my recovery.

Yeah, the only way I’d do Leg Presses too was if they were partials on the contraction end of the stroke…That may be the only zone that Bulgarian/Split Squats don’t hit very hard.

There is a modern day alternative called MonkeyFeet from Animal House Fitness. It has a nylon shell that clamps around your ankle (kind of like a ski boot, only more open), and simultaneously clamps onto a dumbbell handle. You can use it to do leg extensions or hamstring curls one leg at a time. You can change the resistance curve by adjusting the way you support your thigh (i.e., vary the angle of the thigh). Also allows a variety of other single leg exercises.

You can find a product review on Garage Gym Reviews.

Even in a fully equipped gym, my go-to leg curl was off the end of a bench holding a dumbbell between my feet. If the weight wasn’t too heavy I could get the dumbbell off the ground unassisted. Having to squeeze my toes together worked the inside hamstrings like no other legs curl.

Just don’t drop that weight between your legs with the weight at the top! lol

Thanks for the info. I looked at pictures of them on their website.