Hip Belt Squat: Builds Legs, Saves Spines

7 Variations to Try Out

No squat rack? Can’t squat with a barbell on your back? Build your legs with the hip belt squat. Here are seven ways to do it.

7 Ways To Do The Hip Belt Squat

Training legs with heavy barbells and plate-loaded machines can take a toll. Those who suffer from back pain can struggle with repeated compression and shear forces through the spine. And those who lack upper-body mobility can struggle with a bar on their back.

That’s usually where hip belt squats come in, but they feel awkward for a lot of lifters. Don’t worry, though; the right variation can help you build bigger and stronger legs while unloading your spine.

I’ve worked with pro rugby teams that have solely used hip belt squats as their main lower-body lift. The purpose was to manage unnecessary back stress outside their daily spine-crunching tackles.

The traditional way to perform hip belt squats is with a purpose-built machine or a low cable. No access to that equipment? No problem. Here are six unconventional ways to hip belt squat:

1. The Olympic Plate Variation

Let’s start with some more obvious alternatives. You’ll need a couple of benches or boxes and a standard dip belt. The key is to have the box as low as possible so it’s not too awkward to get on.

It’s also useful to have the belt chain as long as you can get it. This will keep the weight as far from your fun parts as possible while allowing the weight to stay close to the floor as you hit full depth. That way, if you bail out at the bottom of your squat, it’ll please the gym safety police.

Because of how the plates are hanging, you can afford to use a narrower stance. However, these are arguably the hardest to get in and out of because the plates can’t rest on the floor like the other options.

2. The Kettlebell Variation

Kettlebells are easy to sit upright on the floor, so just link your chain through and get going. The downside will be the amount of kettlebell weight available to you.

For beginners, though, kettlebells are a great place to start. There’s also a nice feel to them. They allow good depth, making them a valuable booty-building exercise.

3. The T-Bell Variation

A loadable kettlebell, also known as a T-Bell, can be a good solution if you need to stack the weight up. It will often allow you to use 225 pounds or more.

A higher step will be needed to compensate for the height of the handle, and you’ll also want to use a longer chain so the plates don’t hit your inner thighs. However, if you like belt squatting with more of a sumo stance and need to go heavy, these are a great option.

This variation and the previous ones all cause a little swinging to occur. For some, it can be hard to manage. On the upside, the potential swing forces you to control the eccentric or negative even more.

The following variations are a little more stable (less swinging) since there’s some form of attachment to the floor.

4. The Banded Variation

These are possibly the easiest to get in and out of, and for a higher-rep quad burner, they’re hard to beat.

In the video, I start with the standard band version. Once fatigue sets in, I grab a dowel and keep going. It becomes a drop-set since the dowel gives me a little help on the way up, allowing me to do some extra reps.

A banded hip belt squat can also be useful as a power complex. You’d do some heavy-ish squats (say, 85% of your 1RM for 3-5 reps), wait a few minutes, then do 5-7 banded belt squats as fast as you can.

You should feel a slight potentiation effect from the heavy pre-load. The band will also teach you to speed through it, while accelerating you on the way down. This has a powerful effect on the neuromuscular system that most sports strength coaches will appreciate.

The advantage of bands is that you don’t need much of a setup. You can use either a dipping belt or loop through a lifting belt. This is something Westside Barbell has done for years, so I can’t claim to have come up with the banded method. Albeit, the drop-set is an extra nasty take on it.

5. The Landmine Back-Facing Variation, No Deficit

If you have a landmine-style attachment, this should be on the top of your list of must-try exercises. Now, here’s the deal: It’s not actually essential that you stand on some boxes. Boxes simply raise you up and allow you to hit depth.

If having a shorter chain is comfortable enough, then give it a try. You can also use smaller Olympic plates and stack more of them on the bar. That way you’ll be closer to the floor and might find you won’t need the elevation.

Using a landmine in the back-facing position will cause you to feel it more in your quads in the bottom position. Because of the leverage factors, the landmine is loading you more at the bottom while also driving your knees forward away from the device. If you have cranky knees, you might want to skip this. If you don’t, this one will blast your quads into oblivion.

6. The Landmine Back-Facing Variation, With Deficit

If you need to use larger plates or feel you’ll benefit from the extra range of motion, then use a deficit. The feel of this is exactly the same as the previous version, in that the majority of the load is in the bottom position through your quads.

The upside is the extra depth available to you, as well as the option to use larger plates. The downside is that it’s a little more awkward at the start.

7. The Landmine Front-Facing Variation

You might feel a little like MacGyver doing these variations, but if you’re willing to go the extra mile, then try this setup. I promise it’ll be worth it.

With the front-facing landmine, the resistance profile feels nicer. It’s less of a struggle in the bottom position and your knees are no longer being driven forward.

With a barbell collar firmly gripping the end of the landmine, the chain is quickly slung over and hooked in position when moving. You have to find the spot where the collar is best for you, but start it roughly level with the back of your heels, see how that feels, then move it around from there.

This version is best done with more of a forward lean. Since the load is still placed through the belt, this slight torso shift doesn’t diminish the tension on your quads. In fact, it seems to add to it.

Make sure the belt isn’t directly in the middle of your lumbar curve. Instead, it should be sitting as close to your hips as possible. This variation will allow you to handle some respectable weight, so it’s important to get it in the right position. I’ve actually used this with younger athletes all the way up to retirees to great effect.

Avoid This Variation!

Avoid the barbell variation where the entire bar lifts off the floor. This is a variation I’ve seen a lot recently on social media. Granted, you can chuck a ton of weight on the bar and get a lot of likes out of it. But it’s massively unstable, and you can’t get the kind of feel and tension out of it to make this list.

There’s no arguing the usefulness of hip belt squats. Granted, you wouldn’t choose them as one of your big lifts (albeit there are some this might benefit). But use them for assistance work and as a way to offset some compression to the spine.

They’re a great muscle and strength-building exercise. Go with the option that feels best in all the right places and creates the greatest muscular tension. Just avoid the one that crushes your junk.

T Nation earns from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate. Read more about our policy.


Love it! I’ve been rotating in the belt squat a bit recently (Rogue and one other manufacturer). It’s awesome to have a squat variation that not only doesn’t load my spine but actually decompresses it.

I will say it took me some playing around to load my quads on these machines. My natural stance ends up being all hip. There’s probably a lesson there for me that I’m choosing to ignore. It’s certainly easier to “learn” this than a barbell squat though!


I also use the Rouge hip belt squat machine and love it.


Same, I position my feet in the position I am strongest, but I should target the quads more.

I suppose it comes down to what are you trying to get out of the exercise. I need to build my quads, so I should move my feet to get that.

1 Like

Same here. A lot of these secondary exercises I think the best plan often ends up being to pick a stance/ grip that’s a bit less comfortable, since the goal is usually to get after your weak link. Not always, but often.


I do love Gareth Sapstead exetcise article.

I recall Chris Duffin did a piece on belt squats and he advised to place the belt on top of your butt as this helps create posterior pelvic tilt and is preferable to placing the belt on the lumbar which still produces shear- at least i think it was shear. Might be an issue getting the belt to sit on top od bitt with some of these variations

1 Like

Most comfortable way to squat I’ve found since I can no longer pull my arms back far enough to hold the bar behind my neck. Belt squats beat an SSB bar.

1 Like

Those of you who do belt squats with a dip belt and plates (with or without a loading pin), I have two noob questions that stem from me trying these out in the past and a few times recently after seeing this article:

  1. At weights of around 100 lbs. or more, the belt digs into my torso rather uncomfortably due to the large amount of weight in the equation. Am I not placing my belt correctly? I’ve experimented a bit with this and it is still uncomfortable when I add that much weight to the belt.
  2. Gents who use a dip belt, how do you mitigate the chain rubbing into/digging into the fun parts? I find this to be a problem at the bottom of the movement. I could just keep holding the chain with my hands to get it out of the way, but it’s not a great solution imo. Any advice?

I’ve been wanting to add these to my routine for a while now, but it’s difficult to justify until I figure out the answers to the two points listed above.

How tight are you wearing the belt? What does your belt/ chain combo look like?

The belt is a Dominion Strength Training dip belt, tightness is secure but not too snug. It fits my 31" waist quite well for dips, pull ups, etc. With more weight as is required for belt squats it does feel tighter. If I’m not clipping to a loading pin, the chain is 36" and sometimes is a few inches longer than my preference but that’s usually not a huge problem. I usually bring the chain through the plates and pass it through the metal ring and clip the end onto the first metal ring to keep the belt secured around my waist. I’ve found the chain tends to uncomfortably rub the top of my quads during belt squats. When I’m using heavier weights the belt does get rather uncomfortable.

Hmm. I really don’t know. I’ve only ever used the belt squat machine, and it’s loaded on a fulcrum in front so it kind of pulls away from my danger zone.

Maybe @T3hPwnisher has some advice? I know he is pretty handy with a home gym belt squat setup.

1 Like

For digging into torso, I wear a soft belt under the dip belt.

For digging into other parts: wonder if its a technique issue



Doesnt seem to be an issue here


Thanks @TrainForPain and @T3hPwnisher! Definitely going to keep experimenting with this one. :slight_smile:

1 Like

My gym has a belt squat machine, and the belt it comes with has a lot more padding than a regular dip belt (we have those as well for comparison).

It also has different rings you can attach the carabiner to to avoid the package. It looks like this, and I think you can buy just the belt, but I think it is around $100 which is kinda a lot.

I really like the belt squat machine. An awesome way to add volume or overload the legs. It for sure takes a lot less will power to add in 5X10 of these after deadlifts compared to squats haha.

1 Like

Absolutely. And I don’t have “bad days” on this the way I would a squat. That’s my lift that if something is a little off or just my head isn’t in it, it can legit make a 90lbs difference in the weight I would do even for higher reps. Using 275 vs what I maybe thought would be 365 is a big difference and makes me sad. The belt squat is a lot more forgiving and lets me “fix” myself a bit more even between reps, so I don’t have this kind of delta.

1 Like

The squat is a lift that just has never felt great for me. Bench has always felt pretty natural. Deadlifts were also really weird until I tried sumo, which for me feels a lot more natural as long as I don’t have feet super wide. Squat after at least 5 years of doing them consistently still feels weird and inconsistent week to week.

I really think I gave squats a good solid effort to learn them, but now I am mostly a belt squat guy as I don’t have any plans for the near future to compete in powerlifting again.

1 Like

I can front squat really comfortably, but still insist on squatting through how uncomfortable it is. It’s really starting to beat up my adductors, as well, so I am somewhat sure I’m not nailing it.

1 Like

Ah yes, I feel like I am going to tear an adductor while getting into the hole of the squat. They will be sore if I do volume squats. My spinal erectors really take a beating as well.

1 Like

Makes sense–thanks for that insight, I really appreciate it! Didn’t realize that before now.

1 Like