The belt squat will most likely be an exercise that you either do all the time or never at all.
Despite many gyms favoring squat racks and leg press machines in favor of the belt squat, that doesn't mean this exercise is inferior to those classic exercises mentioned above.
If your goal is to grow bigger, stronger legs, then there could be benefits to choosing the belt squat machine over other leg exercises or including them within your leg day workouts.
So, if you're lucky enough to have a belt squat machine in your gym, this article will help you understand why it should be part of your training, the benefits of the belt squat, and how to do it.
If you don't have access to a belt squat machine, we'll give you a couple of alternatives you can try to help achieve a similar result, too!
What is the belt squat machine?
The belt squat machine is a lower-body exercise machine that helps you to train your legs using resistance to improve strength.
A belt squat machine is a plate-loaded machine that utilizes a belt to distribute the weight across the hips rather than the shoulders and spine.
What does a belt squat do?
The belt squat machine adds resistance to squats by placing the weight on the hips using a belt, rather than a barbell.
Belt Squat Benefits
So now we know what the belt squat is, it is probably a good time to share the benefits of the belt squat.
The belt squat has been shown to have similar muscle activation in the lower extremities as the back squat while reducing trunk muscle activation and lower back stress (study).
With the belt squat exercise being similar to other squat variations, the main difference and key benefit is the reduced loading of the spine with weight and reduced trunk and back activation required when compared to barbell back squats and front squats.
However, there are benefits to consider when deciding if the belt squat machine is worth your time...
lower injury risk
reduced skill level
lower center of mass for greater stability
less load on the shoulders and spine
greater hip abductor-to-adductor engagement ratio (study)
a safer way to train till failure for higher volume training
How to use the belt squat machine?
The belt squat machine may look intimidating, but using it is pretty straightforward.
Before jumping in, there is a minimal requirement to perform a bodyweight squat with the correct form before adding this into your leg workouts.
Here's how to use the belt squat machine properly.
How to do a belt squat
Set the belt squat machine up correctly with the correct support post height before loading the machine with weight.
Place your feet in your natural squat position (usually around shoulder width apart)
Grab the belt and squat down enough to clip the other end onto the machine, and stand back up, creating tension on your hips.
Push the support bar away (this will allow for a deep squat without hitting the support posts).
Keep your torso upright, and squat down until your hips are parallel or below your knees. You can rest your hands on the support bar or cross them over to touch the opposite shoulder.
Once at the bottom of the squat, explode back up to the start position.
What Are Some Belt Squat Alternatives?
Don't have a belt squat machine? No problem.
There are multiple exercise variations that can help provide some of the great benefits of the belt squat machine without having the machine itself.
As we've already discussed, the key difference with the belt squat machine is that the weight is not placed on the shoulders reducing spine compression, so these variations below follow the same approach.
Hip Belt Squat
Similar to the belt squat machine, the hip belt squat uses free weights rather than a plate-loaded machine to add resistance.
Using a dip belt, attach a kettlebell or weight plate to the chain and rest on the hips. Using your arms for balance, perform a squat.
If the weight hits the floor, consider standing across two benches or on gym boxes to allow for a deeper squat.
Front loading your squat with a dumbbell or kettlebell allows you to retain a more vertical torso, reducing lower back pressure and avoiding loading the spine.
Goblet squats are a great option to add lighter weight to a bodyweight squat and require minimal equipment.
Want more alternatives? Check out our article on the best alternatives to back squats.
When it comes to the belt squat machine, it's clear there are benefits to including the exercise in your workouts.
Is it essential? Probably not; however, whether you fancy taking some time off barbell squats, have a back injury and are looking for an alternative, or simply want to vary your leg exercises for maximum muscle adaptation – the belt squat machine should be a serious consideration when it comes to leg training.
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WRITTEN BY: CHRIS BECK
Chris Beck is Senior Editor at Gymshark, with a passion for writing informative conditioning, health and fitness tech content. Chris is an avid gym-goer and ex-international athlete, holds qualifications in Personal Training, Nutrition, and Sports Performance, and is a certified Crossfit Level 1 Trainer.
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