March 11, 2023
While the belted squat is undeniably convenient and more comfortable than many other leg exercises, it is also unusual and expensive to purchase, necessitating possible alternatives. Fortunately, there are some alternative belt squat exercises, some of which are simply variations of the belt squat, while others are a little less similar in spec but just as effective. While variations of the belt squat, such as the landmine squat, may share many similarities, possible alternatives without the same disadvantages of the traditional belt squat are also available, such as: Satisfied show The belt squat is a machine-based compound exercise intended to serve as an alternative or complementary exercise to heavier free weight movements such as deadlifts or squats. It is usually made for low to medium volume and moderate weight sets. Belt squats work almost the same muscles as regular squats; the quadriceps, core, hamstrings, glutes and erector spinae. The main benefit of belted squats is the increased safety and comfort they provide compared to similar exercises. The position the lifter is in when performing the exercise, plus the fact that the squat machine distributes resistance more evenly, means that it is easier for the lifter to maintain spine neutrality and correct posture. In addition to safety and comfort, belted squats are also known to better isolate the lower body in order to reduce pent-up fatigue and allow for greater volume and resistance without involving other parts of the body.
What is the belt squat?
Muscles Worked by Belt Squats
Defining the benefits of the belt squat
While the belted squat is undeniably convenient and more comfortable than many other leg exercises, it is also unusual and expensive to purchase, necessitating possible alternatives.
Fortunately, there are some alternative belt squat exercises, some of which are simply variations of the belt squat, while others are a little less similar in spec but just as effective.
While variations of the belt squat, such as the landmine squat, may share many similarities, possible alternatives without the same disadvantages of the traditional belt squat are also available, such as:
The belt squat is a machine-based compound exercise intended to serve as an alternative or complementary exercise to heavier free weight movements such as deadlifts or squats. It is usually made for low to medium volume and moderate weight sets.
Belt squats work almost the same muscles as regular squats; the quadriceps, core, hamstrings, glutes and erector spinae.
The main benefit of belted squats is the increased safety and comfort they provide compared to similar exercises.
The position the lifter is in when performing the exercise, plus the fact that the squat machine distributes resistance more evenly, means that it is easier for the lifter to maintain spine neutrality and correct posture.
In addition to safety and comfort, belted squats are also known to better isolate the lower body in order to reduce pent-up fatigue and allow for greater volume and resistance without involving other parts of the body.
Why should you alternate squats with a belt?
In most cases, lifters simply switch to belted squats because they don't have access to the proper equipment. This can be easily remedied with some creative solutions and some free weight machines.
Other reasons why the belt squat may need to be replaced have to do with the need for a more intense or focused exercise, either to better emphasize a specific lower body part or to work harder.
The Belt Squat Variation
For lifters who want to retain as much of the belt squat's capabilities as possible, replicating the exercise without using a belt squat machine is probably the best course of action. The following moves work essentially the same muscle groups and provide nearly the same benefits as a traditional belt squat and are performed in the same manner.
Keep in mind that even though these exercises don't require a belted squat machine, they still require certain types of exercise equipment to properly replicate the exercise stimulus.
1. Squat with Plate Belt
For the closest approximation of a traditional belt squat, belt squats are the ideal choice because they use a dip belt to replicate the resistance angle, load distribution, and position of the original exercise.
While there is actually a slightly lesser range of motion due to the weight hanging between the lifter's legs, this can be addressed by positioning the lifter on an elevated surface or holding the weight closer to the pelvis.
2. Land mine bar squat
To make carrying a large amount of weight easier, using a barbell attached to a land mine box can also provide a similar exercise to the traditional belt squat.
To do this, simply attach the opposite end of the bar to a dip belt and allow the lifter to stand over the bar, assuming the normal back squat position with the back to the bar.
Similar to the traditional belt squat, this particular variation has very little pressure and force on the spine and has nearly identical resistance and intensity angle, making it great for lifters who don't have access to a weight machine.
3. Squats with resistance bands
For exercisers on the go or those looking for a lower intensity workout, resistance band squats are convenient to carry and a slightly easier workout than other free weight squat variations.
For this exercise to be possible, the lifter needs a medium weight resistance band. Placing both ends of the band on both feet simply involves grabbing the center of the band from a standing position before proceeding to the belted squat as normal.
In addition to having the same angle of resistance, mechanics, and risk of injury as the traditional squat, the resistance band squat also provides consistent time under tension for your lower body muscles, making it great as a complementary movement.
Belt squat alternatives
1. Front squat
One of the best possible alternatives to the belt squat is the traditional front squat, an exercise with nearly the same benefits and muscle recruitment but without the need for the same equipment.
Front squats work the entire lower body and core muscles at highly effective levels, although they target the quadriceps more than the posterior chain like belt squats.
Equipment needed for front squats
Front squats only require a barbell and a set of weight plates, although a rack can also be useful to build on the exercise.
Benefits as an alternative to belt squats
The main benefit of the front squat alternative is its ability to distribute the load throughout the body rather than the spine, creating vertical pressure and increasing the risk of injury.
This is almost the same benefit as the belt squat, hence the fact that the front squat is considered a great alternative for those who don't have access to a belt squat machine.
Plus, the free weight and increased resiliency mean it's a great replacement for lifters looking to improve their muscle strength, as the belted squat is pretty short in comparison.
Front Squat Instructions
The lifter raises a barbell in front of their shoulders and grips it with both hands more than shoulder-width apart, making sure the elbows are facing forward.
Supporting the torso and squatting down, the lifter simultaneously flexes the hips and knees and lowers until they are at least parallel to the depth, keeping the torso upright.
When they reach the end of the repetition, they lock the heels and straighten the hips and knees until they return to a standing position, ending the repetition.
2. Barbell Squats
The barbell hack squat is an alternative to the free weight belt squat that has a similar range of motion, angle of resistance, and muscle recruitment pattern, while still tiring the body in the same way as other compound exercises.
The barbell squat is the clear choice for strength athletes looking for a slightly more intense but just as safe exercise as the belt squat, especially if they want to minimize spinal compression.
Equipment needed for barbell hack squats
Barbell squats only require a barbell and a set of weight plates.
Benefits as an alternative to belt squats
Like the belt squat, the barbell squat is chosen for its comparable ability to distribute force throughout the entire body, greatly reducing the risk of injury and ensuring that the spine or back is not put under significant strain.
The lifter places a barbell behind the legs and lowers himself onto the hips and knees to ensure the lower back is straight and the core is tight. From the side, the lifter appears to be sitting with the bar parallel to the shoulders in a vertical line.
You hold the bar below you, then push through your heels and pull your torso up, stopping when your hips and knees are in a state of full extension.
To complete the repetition, return to the starting position with the barbell on the floor in a slow, controlled manner.
3. Goblet Squat
Cup squats are another alternative to belt squats that draw strength and pressure from the spine while still recruiting the same muscles at similar intensity.
Unlike many other lower-body compound exercises, the goblet squat is relatively low-intensity and fairly easy to learn, making it an ideal replacement for the belt squat for beginners or those returning to training after a long workout. long interval.
Equipment Needed for Goblet Squats
The goblet squat only requires a dumbbell or kettlebell.
Benefits as an alternative to belt squats
The goblet squat has the same force distribution as the belted front squat, which means that the back is largely protected from compression, although the lifter must ensure that the upper back is not arched to gain power.
Additionally, goblet squats require far less equipment than belt squats and are so easy to perform that they are accessible to beginners who don't have access to equipment like a barbell or squat rack.
How to Make the Kniebeuge Chalice
Holding a dumbbell at chest level on the side (through the weight), the lifter engages your core and ensures your back has a neutral curve before simultaneously bending at the hips and knees.
You squat down to at least parallel depth, making sure that the "cup" or barbell remains in a stable position and that your heels are in contact with the ground throughout the entire repetition.
From this point, you'll push through your heels and straighten your hips and knees until you return to an upright position, completing the cup squat.
4. Do squats
Hack squats, also known as machine hack squats, are a great alternative to the belt squat for lifters who want to maintain their machine-based nature while ensuring their spine remains relatively uncompressed.
Like the belt squat, the hack squat recruits the entire lower body and core, although it places a greater emphasis on the quads by comparison. Fortunately, lifters can adjust the machine and change their stance to focus more on the back chain if they so choose.
Equipment needed to cut squats
Traditional hack squats require a hack squat machine.
Benefits as an alternative to belt squats
While hack squats really do have different mechanics, they still put little to no stress on the spine and have the advantage of being machine-based, meaning there's less stress on the stabilizer muscles as well.
This means that hack squats are arguably just as safe as belt squats, especially when performed at the same intensity.
In addition to safety and load distribution, the hack squat is also easier to modify than the belted squat and can even be performed backwards or with a different angle of resistance, two factors not present in the traditional belted squat.
How to do squat tricks
The lifter stands with their back to the machine pads and places their feet shoulder-width apart on the base plate before unlocking the sled to begin the repetition.
The lifter bends at the hips and knees and lowers in a controlled manner, allowing the sled to move with them. Unlike traditional squats, the knees can move a little further without risk of injury as long as the feet remain in contact with the plate.
Once you reach a comfortable depth, push through your heels and straighten your knees, pushing through your shoulder pads until they return to the original starting position, completing the repetition.
Remember that the belt squat is a situational compound exercise. The belt squat is rarely used as the primary compound exercise in a regular training program, and your replacement movement should reflect this with a similar level of intensity, mechanics, and muscle recruitment.
If you find that none of the alternatives listed here can fulfill the original role of the belt squat in your program, you can restructure that program to meet your goals.
1. Gulick, Dawn and Fagnani, James and Gulick, Colleen. (2015). Comparison of muscle activation of hip belt squat and barbell squat techniques. Isokinetics and the science of movement. 23. 101-108. 10.3233/IES-150570.
2. Joseph L, Reilly J, Sweezey K, Waugh R, Carlson LA, Lawrence MA. Lower extremity and core muscle activity: comparison between parallel squats and belt squats. J Hum Kinet. March 31, 2020;72:223-228. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2019-0126. PMID: 32269663; PMC ID: PMC7126258.