January 23, 2023 7 min read
Belt squats are a great way to add intensity to your workout routine by targeting your lower body muscles. When done properly, belt squats can help strengthen your legs, glutes, and core muscles, regardless of whether you are an Olympic lifter or an endurance athlete.
In this article, we'll discuss how to do belt squats correctly, including the correct form, which muscles are worked, and the benefits that come with this exercise. We'll also provide some tips to help you get the most out of your belt squat workout. Read on to learn more about this effective exercise and its intended range of motion.
The Belt Squat is a workout that employs the traditional squat movement, but instead of placing all the weight of a heavy barbell on your shoulders and back, it distributes it evenly over your hips and lower body using a weighted belt that you wear around your waist.
It is best to perform this unique squat variation using a belt squat machine created by Louie Simmons in 1975. After suffering a significant back injury, Louie had to come up with new ways to squat properly, which led to the creation of his invention.
Belt squats are an excellent workout for targeting the quadriceps and growing large leg muscles. As the load is held by the hips instead of the spine as in back or front squats, it can be done without causing back strain. This is an ideal way to increase training intensity and volume without risking injury. Targeted muscle groups include:
Quadriceps (the front of the thighs) – flex the hips and knee joints to lift the weight.
Gluteus Maximus (buttocks) – extends the hip joints to help lift the weight.
Hamstrings (back of the thighs) – extend the knee joints and help stabilize the hip joints.
Core Muscles (abdominal muscles, obliques, lower back) – These muscles are worked to a minor degree. The core muscles stabilize the trunk and help to keep the spine in a neutral position.
Adductors (inner thighs) – help stabilize the hips and keep them in a neutral position.
Hip Flexors (groin) – flex the hip joints to help lift the weight.
It has been pointed out that the most effective way to do belt squats is with a machine; however, many gyms do not have one. What is the best alternative? Most people use two benches or boxes to form a “V” shape while standing, with a weight attached to a dip belt.
If you’re a beginner it might be a good idea to seek the guidance of a certified personal trainer to provide guidance and ensure your form and technique is perfect. Else you may be targeting the wrong muscles and setting yourself up for the risk of injuries. It might be wise to do these as bodyweight squats until you master the proper form.
There are two ways you can do belt squats.
This particular piece of equipment is designed to allow you to perform squats while wearing a belt. You stand on a flat surface and strap a belt around your waist, which is attached to a weight stack via a cable. As you squat, the resistance increases, requiring you to use more strength to stand back up.
Belt Squats are often done with a Dip Belt. The belt is strong and has a chain that can be used to attach a weight between your legs. The chain can be wrapped around a landmine barbell, or you can stand on an elevated surface (such as a raised dip bar) with the weight disc dangling between your knees.
Don't rush when investing in a dip belt, here you can learn what to consider before making the purchase.
Belt squats are one of the easiest lower-body exercises to master. Doing a standard back squat with the proper form is all that's required for this exercise; the only variation is that the load is put on the hips instead of the shoulders. You'll definitely experience less impact on your lower back.
Muscles worked when performing belt squats are those of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, while taking the load off the spine. It can serve as an alternative to traditional barbell squats if you have shoulder, knee, or lower back issues.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to doing belt squats with proper form
Load the weights
Before you begin a belt squat workout, you'll need to attach the barbell plates to the machine itself or to the chain of a dip belt or pin-style belt, depending on the equipment you're using.
Position yourself on the elevated platform with your feet spread approximately shoulder-width apart.
You may find it necessary to angle your toes outwards to make sure your legs are far enough apart to avoid colliding with the weight plate.
Yet, it's best to begin with your toes facing forward, as it helps engage your quads and reduces the amount of effort the hips must exert.
Here’s how to do it
While inhaling, slowly bend your knees and lower your body toward the floor. Do not drop the weight, but rather control your motion to engage your quads. Make sure to keep inhaling as you lower yourself.
Push up from a crouched position to a standing one by pushing through your heels. Move slowly and deliberately, as this increases the involvement of your quads and strengthens them. As you rise, exhale. Avoid bouncing up quickly, as this won't help with your strength.
When you reach the highest point of your squat, do not straighten your legs completely; instead, maintain a slight bend in your knees. Push your hips forward to activate the glute muscles, and pause for one second before proceeding to the next repetition. This will enable you to maintain a steady and controlled motion, as well as give you the opportunity to adjust your posture if necessary.
Repeat to suit your goal
For powerlifting, aim for 2 to 6 reps
For strength training, aim for 8 to 12 reps
For endurance building, aim for 15 to 25 reps
The Belt Squat allows you to shift the weight onto your hips and waist rather than your lower back, minimizing the amount of strain on the spinal muscles. This makes the exercise much less taxing on your low back, but still provides a great workout for the lower body, which gives rise to additional benefits.
The belt squat is most commonly used for building muscle mass in the legs and is typically done in the 6-15 rep range until reaching close to exhaustion. Although it is possible to do fewer reps to increase strength, other leg exercises such as the squat, Romanian deadlift, and leg press are usually better suited for heavier weights.
The belt squat offers a way to work the lower body without placing any load on the upper back and spine. Most lower body exercises involve some sort of spinal compression, which can be beneficial for building bone density, core strength, and muscle mass.
However, when someone is recovering from an injury or has an existing back condition like compromised spinal erectors, it's best to avoid this type of loading. The belt squat is also helpful for targeting the legs more than the back.
For those weightlifters who have restricted shoulder movement, whether due to an inability to externally rotate their arms to hold the barbell or because of a shoulder injury, belt squats remove the shoulders from the equation.
If you are doing squats regularly, you might find that your elbows and wrists become sore. The hip belt squat eliminates any strain on the elbows and wrists that would normally be required to do a lower body workout.
The belt squat eliminates the strain on your spine, making it a less exhausting exercise. This means you can still train your lower body hard without feeling too worn out, and you'll be able to bounce back from your workout much faster than if you did squats, deadlifts, and lunges.
If you want to train your lower body more but are worried about your recovery, a belt squat is a great option, and for even more recovery benefits you might want to try our WHEY ISO SHREDDED STACK, for optimal recovery.
A belt squat is an effective exercise for weight lifters who have hurt their core muscles, as it allows them to work their quads without putting too much pressure on the core.
If you currently only do squats once a week but would like to do them more frequently, belt squats are a great way to step up your lower body training.
The belt squat is a full lower-body exercise that works both the glutes and quads. If you want to focus on one or the other, it can be easily modified.
To emphasize the glutes, sit back on your heels and keep your shins vertical, which is why some people hold on to a railing and lean back.
To focus on the quads, stay as upright as possible and flex forward into the knees as you lower into the bottom.
Adding a weight belt or a belt squat machine to your favorite squat form like a split squat can enhance their benefits. Try adding weights to these workouts. When you adjust your movement patterns for these variations you can hit different muscles and ensure evenly developed muscle hypertrophy.
Split Belt Squats
Sumo Belt Squats
Staggered Belt Squats
Belt Squat Marches
Landmine Belt Squats.
All of these are compatible with both landmine bars and cable machines, so they can add exciting variety to your lower-body building toolbox.
Now that you are informed about hip belt squats, it's time to get to work without the risk of subsequent back pain. Start with lower weight until you master the technique before progressively moving up. Just like with any other exercise, don't overwork your body and listen to what it tells you.
If done correctly, you'll start to experience the various advantages of hip belt squats – better mobility, heightened strength, and a better-toned booty. If you lack access to the machine, you can try its adaptations or even opt for the alternatives.