You might be wondering why you should even consider using the belt squat machine and whether it’s actually going to serve your needs as an athlete.
To be completely honest, belt squats aren’t for everyone…
But there’s a certain few reasons why this exercise may well be exactly what you’re looking for.
This month I’ve completely replaced my biweekly squat workouts with belt squat sessions and have been extremely pleased with the results.
In this article I’m going to briefly cover the 4 biggest benefits I’ve noticed of using the belt squat machine, so you can decide if it’s worth mixing into your routine.
1. Belt Squats Don’t Load The Spine
When you do regular barbell squats, your spine is put under quite a bit of load during hip flexion/extension.
This causes huge amounts of fatigue, not just muscular but it also taxes your central nervous system a ton.
Because there’s no bar on your back when doing belt squats, 100% of the load is located below the spine which means your legs are doing all the work, and not your lower back.
This means you can actually do more volume before you get gassed out.
More volume means more time under tension where it matters, which means bigger legs.
This is why I believe belt squats can actually be superior to traditional barbell back squats when it comes to hypertrophy.
There’s only so many squats you can do in a workout before you’re wiped out, but the ceiling on belt squats is much higher.
2. Belt Squats Are Perfect For Anyone With Injuries
Shoulder and back injuries are cited as some of the most common reasons while guys will skip out on squats.
But if you’ve got a belt squat machine, you can no longer use these injuries as excuses!
Aside from being able to work around injuries much easier on the belt squat, it’s also a great option if you’ve unfortunately programmed your leg day after a back day.
Sometimes your lower back will need some extra time to recover and so doing a heavy set of squats when you’ve still got some soreness in your back is far from ideal.
Some people also just plain struggle to squat to begin with…
Either their hips or knees will feel a bit uncomfortable and they’ll struggle to get into a position where they feel strong.
If this resonates with you, give the belt squat a go.
You may find that the lower loading relative to your center of gravity helps you perform the movement with less discomfort.
3. Belt Squats Are The Ultimate Glute Builder
For me, belt squats require significantly more glute involvement than doing regular squats.
Even using a low bar technique, barbell squats always felt like they were doing my quads a far bigger service than my glutes, but when I jump on the belt squat machine, it’s a different story.
I find that by default my glutes are engaged throughout far more of the range of motion and I’m able to get a significantly better booty pump going than I would under the barbell.
The cool thing is that this additional hip extensor activation doesn’t seem to come at the expense of leg drive: I’m still getting an awesome quad workout but now my glutes are as well!
4. The Belt Squat Is Far Superior To The Leg Press
This is coming from someone who would leg press almost twice a week in the past!
I recently compared the belt squat vs. leg press and in that article I was pretty critical of the leg press machine, but now I’m completely sold that the belt squat machine is significantly better.
The one thing people seem to think the leg press machine has going for it is that it’s an isolation movement which also doesn’t load the spine (much).
People therefore think that it’s great for hypertrophy because you can bang out reps without fatiguing as much as you would squatting.
While that may be true of barbell squats, I struggle to believe you can get a better hypertrophic response using a leg press over a belt squat.
When you’re deep in a belt squat set, every muscle fiber below your hips is completely lit up.
In terms of muscle fiber activation, I’m pretty certain the belt squat is a clear winner.
And in terms of being able to do ungodly burnout sets, I also feel like what I’ve been doing on the belt squat machine lately is far more brutal than what I was able to achieve on the leg press!
Maybe if you were looking to bring your quads up while resting your posterior chain, I can see leg press being the better choice, but for the vast majority of athletes, it won’t be.
So if you haven’t already given the belt squat machine some love, I highly recommend it!