The belt squat is a squat variation that uses a weighted belt or a belt squat machine. Unlike the traditional version of exercise, where weights are loaded on your back, this variation eliminates lower back pressure.
What Is a Belt Squat?
Muscles Worked by the Belt Squat Exercise
Despite being used by all variations, there are some major differences in how different squats affect the quadriceps. For example, the Spanish squat is supposedly much more effective than the wall squat or the general squat. This is why you need to get your facts straight before implementing any of these exercises in your daily routine.
As previously mentioned, we presume that the belt squat has a similar impact as the traditional squat, but we don't know how it compares to other variations. Whatever the case, we can still recommend this workout to anyone who is looking to build leg muscles.
Specifically, belt squatting has a massive effect on your quadriceps and less on hip extensors. This makes it an ideal transfer option for RDLs and deadlifts.
During workouts, hamstrings allow you to extend your knees while providing stability to your hips. However, the hamstrings aren't worked as much as in the traditional squats, given that the traditional version of the exercise requires more posterior muscle activation.
However, that doesn't mean you won't work your hamstrings. It's just that the barbell squatting is much better for this group.
Glutes help extend the hips, which is crucial for lifting the weight. Although it might seem that having all that weight on your hips forces activation, this isn't actually the case. In fact, limited data suggest that traditional barbell squats have much more impact on this area. But as with hamstrings, you'll still work these muscles.
How to Do Belt Squats?
1. Basic Setup
To do this exercise, all you need is a regular belt that allows you to load weight directly onto it. If you’re working out without a machine, make sure you’re standing on the elevated stand. That way, the weights won’t hit the ground each time you squat down.
It’s also better to have handles nearby. They will help you pull yourself up when you start working out. Alternatively, you might attach the belt to your hip after standing on the platform.
Your feet should be spread at the length of your shoulders. Furthermore, it's much better to point your toes outward to avoid hitting them with the plates. Then again, they should also be placed a bit forward to reduce the impact on the hips while maximising quad activation.
If you ever did regular squats, you shouldn't have a problem with this variation. Here's a step-by-step guide to performing this exercise:
- To execute a rep, you need to start lowering your body by bending your knees. Make sure you’re inhaling while doing so.
- Like with any other exercise, it's vital that you slowly lower the weights without sudden movements. The controlled movement is safer and better for your joints but also helps activate your quads.
- Once you're crouched, push yourself up by focusing on the heels. Ideally, you should once again go with a slower movement so you feel the burn in your thighs. Exhale while going up.
- It’s imperative that you don’t fully extend the knees when you’re in the upward position. Push the hips a bit, take a short break, and repeat the motion.
7 Alternatives for Belt Squats
If you’re looking for a belt squat alternative, you should definitely check out some of these workouts:
1. Landmine Belt Squat
The main advantage of landmine belt squats is the fact they’re so challenging. Unlike the belt squat variation, you can heavily load the belt to increase the resistance. Keep in mind you’ll need a landmine attachment to perform this one.
Another good thing about this exercise is that you can modify the effect on quads and glutes. In other words, by facing the landmine, you’ll put more emphasis on the glutes. When you turn away from it, you put focus on your glutes.
2. Sumo Belt Squat
Like with exercise from the sumo category, the thing that differentiates this workout is the stance. Instead of having slightly spread legs, the sumo belt squats require a much wider positioning. So, when using this stance, you'll have a much shorter range of motion, with significantly shorter and quicker dips.
The main reason why people go with this variation is to change the muscle emphasis. Specifically, the workout puts more focus on your glutes than your quads, which sets it apart from other squat alternatives. Among others, sumo squats don't require as much forward bending, thus reducing the pressure on your back.
3. Banded Belt Squat
This time around, you’re using bands instead of weights. All you need to do is connect the bands to the basis and the belt, and you’re good to go. This variation is especially great for people who have limited equipment or/and are working out at home.
Furthermore, banded belt squats are a good option for all levels of fitness. However, it’s worth noting this kind of training isn’t as challenging as heavyweight belt squatting.
4. Front Squats
Many people switch to belt squats as a way of reducing stress on the back. Still, that doesn't mean you have to eliminate the barbell altogether. With front squats, you can use a bar and heavy loading. This time around, all the weight is placed on the front shoulders, which reduces the pressure on your back.
Despite its advantages, the workout has a few drawbacks. Most notably, some people might feel uncomfortable with this kind of loading. Furthermore, front squats can be a bit troublesome if you have a hand injury.
5. Cable Hip Belt Squat
Doing the cable hip belt squats might feel a bit funky at first. This time around, you're forced to lean backward in a sitting position. As a result, it's really easy to lose balance when doing this workout. Another troublesome thing is you'll need an entire cable station to executive the training.
Nevertheless, the cable hip belt squat is fantastic for reducing stress on your back. On top of that, your legs will be constantly under duress, not allowing you to take a break for even a moment.
6. Goblet Squat
In a way, the goblet squats are a variation of the front squats. For this particular exercise, you’ll need a kettlebell or dumbbell, which you should hold on your wrists like a massive goblet. The main advantage of the goblet squat compared to front squats is that there's much less pressure on your hands.
This squat variation is easy to set up and doesn't require any particular equipment. The only issue is that you can't load as much weight as you could with the traditional or the front squats.
7. Safety Bar Squat
As you could guess by the name, this variation is much safer than the traditional squat. Basically, you’ll have a safety barbell placed on your shoulders, which eliminates the need for a spotter. Furthermore, there’s also extra padding on the bar that makes it that much more comfortable.
Unfortunately, despite being safer than the traditional back-loaded squat, this exercise still has its drawback. To be specific, like regular squatting, it puts lots of pressure on your lower back.
How to Use Belt Squat Machine?
Unlike the usual belt squats, where the plates are dangling from your belt, the squat machine attaches the belt to cables. These cables are sticking out of the stand and are connected to the machine. Otherwise, executing the workout is basically the same as the machineless belt squats.
In both cases, the impact of forces is very similar, continuously pulling your body and hips downward. Using the machine for your belt squats feels much more comfortable, as you don't have to worry about the plates swinging left and right.
An interesting thing about belt squatting machines is that each one of them can have a different impact on your body.
Weighted Dip Belt We Recommend
No matter what kind of belt squatting you want to do, you’ll need a reliable belt. That being said, we’d like to recommend Dip Belt With Chain for Weightlifting by DMoose.
photo by @mylegendlegacy
The product is made from resilient materials and will last for quite a while. The company provides free delivery and you also have a 30-day money-back guarantee. Another cool thing is that you can choose between several designs, each better than the last.
Are Belt Squats Good for Knees?
Can You Perform Belt Squats Without a Belt Squat Machine?
What Muscles Are Involved in Belt Squat Exercise?
The belt squats mainly focus on lower body muscles. During workouts, you’ll develop quads, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, adductors, and core muscles. Out of all these muscle groups, the biggest emphasis is on the quadriceps.
The belt squat is an amazing choice if you wish to do squats but don't want to load all this weight on your back. Athletes can do this type of training by using a squat machine or by simply attaching plates to a belt.
Like regular squats, this type of workout is fantastic for your legs, helping improve the strength of your hamstrings, quads, and glutes. As such, it can be a great addition to your routine, whether you’re a professional or amateur.
How often do you perform belt squats? Do you use a machine? Tell us more in the comments below!
- The back squat: A proposed assessment of functional deficits and technical factors that limit performance // Ncbi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4262933/
- Comparison of Muscle Activation Between Back Squats and Belt Squats // Pubmed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28595237/
- Differences in the muscle activities of the quadriceps femoris and hamstrings while performing various squat exercises // Pubmed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35063016/
- The Effect of Stance Width on the Electromyographical Activity of Eight Superficial Thigh Muscles During Back Squat With Different Bar Loads // Journals: https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/FullText/2009/01000/The_Effect_of_Stance_Width_on_the.36.aspx
- Comparison of muscle activation of 3 diff erent hip belt squat techniques // Rehabilityjournal: https://www.rehabilityjournal.com/articles/jnpr-aid1035.pdf
- Comparison of muscle activation of 3 diff erent hip belt squat techniques // Setforset: https://www.setforset.com/blogs/news/belt-squats
My name is Ihor and I have been a professional weightlifter since 1996. With over 20 years of competition experience, my resume includes European Champion in 2009 and the silver medalist at 2011's Senior World Championships – 105kg division.
I competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.
After hanging up my own competitive lifting shoes, I decided to share my huge background as a coach. I am currently coaching multiple athletes who are competing at national and international competitions.