Belt Squat Alternatives

12 Best Belt Squat Alternatives (No Machine Needed)

Belt Squats are a squat variation that doesn’t require any axial loading (basically the placing of a barbell on top of the shoulders). Anyone that has had back issues yet has been able to use Belt Squats as a replacement will tell you just have valuable they can be.

This leads me to the first point I want to absolutely emphasize:

If you are Belt Squatting due to any kind of back issue or any other limitation, make sure you clear any new exercise with your doctor or athletic trainer. There is no way for me to know your individual situation and how you may react to another exercise.

However, if you’re working without limitation, but perhaps also with a Belt Squat machine – I’m going to give you 12 of my favorite Belt Squat alternatives.

Belt Squat Alternatives

I’ve tried to include as much variety in this list of alternatives as possible. There are exercises that incorporate different pieces of equipment – barbells, dumbbells and even one that doesn’t require any equipment at all. There are also beginner-friendly exercises and others better suited for more advanced lifters.

Finally, there are traditional exercises as well as a couple that are a little more ‘outside the box’.

Hopefully, at least one of these exercises will be a good fit for what you’re looking for.

Back Squat

Man Back Squatting 315 Pounds

Not to sound like a broken record here, but if you’re doing Belt Squats because you cannot do Back Squats then obviously they would not make a good alternative.

However, if you’re able to do Back Squats (or can have a qualified coach teach you) then I would highly recommend incorporating them into your strength training program as they are the single best movement you can do to develop strength. Period.

Equipment Needed

  • Squat Rack
  • Barbell


  • In setting up for the Back Squat, athletes choose between the high bar and low bar positions. (I personally teach the high bar position with athletes)
  • Regardless of bar placement, the athlete should actively pull their shoulders together and back in order to create a shelf for the barbell to rest on.
  • Generally speaking, the athlete should place their hands as close together as comfortably possible, which helps maintain the aforementioned upper body tightness and shelf for the barbell to rest on.
  • After setting up properly, the athlete un-racks the bar and walks it out of the uprights, takes a big breath in, braces their core, and initiates the eccentric portion of their squat.


  • While maintaining a tight brace in their core and tension in their upper back (as mentioned in the setup paragraph), the athlete initiates downward motion of the bar via simultaneous hip and knee flexion until the crease of their hip goes below the knee.
  • The especially important part of the range of motion is taking the muscle to its full eccentric length, demonstrating that athletes further benefit by taking their squats to the deepest depth that their mobility allows. Once the athlete reaches their lowest position in the squat, they transition from the eccentric to concentric portion.
  • The concentric portion of the squat involves the athlete rising out of the hole via a combination of knee and hip extension.
  • In rising out of the hole, athletes commonly experience sticking points either in the hole or when they are just above parallel. These can vary based on each athlete’s relative strengths and weaknesses, or some technical errors to be addressed later.
  • Once the athlete completes the rep, they exhale, and either initiate the next rep or re-rack the bar.

Coaching Points

It is better to set the safeties one level too low vs one level too high, as the athlete can either let the bar off of their back or allow themselves to lean forward until the bar hits the safeties. In the event the safeties are too high, the barbell has a chance of colliding with them during the exercise.

Front Squat

Full Front Squat Catch Position

The only exercise that comes close to the Back Squat is the Front Squat. It is more technical (and also may not be possible for some) but Front Squat is a great Belt Squat alternative if you can do them correctly.

Equipment Needed

  • Squat Rack
  • Barbell
  • Bumper or Iron Plates
  • Lifting Straps (optional if needed)

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Set the height of the squat rack so that the barbell is about 1-2 inches below the flexed elbow (Elbow pointing toward the squat rack prior to taking the weight off the hooks).
  • One of the first considerations you are going to want to make is what grip you want to use to perform the front squat.
  • Later in the article, I will talk about different grips and the reasoning behind each grip.
  • For now, I am going to assume you are using a two-finger clean grip. (Most commonly used by athletes).
  • Walk closely to the barbell and place it very close to your neck.
  • Bring your elbows up and the barbell should be resting on the raised anterior deltoid muscles. You are now holding the bar with what’s called a “front rack position”.
  • With your front rack, lift the bar off the hooks. I recommend a staggered stance to lift the barbell off the rack.
  • Take 2 steps back and set your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Toes slightly pointed out.
  • Maintaining a strong front rack, take a deep breath, and brace the core.
  • Initiate the squat by hinging the hips back and bending the knees simultaneously.
  • Descend into the squat with control until your hip crease is slightly below the knee. (Most professionals consider this to be parallel or just below parallel).
  • At this point, the core should be braced, the front rack strong, elbows up, and the lifter is ready to drive out of the “hole” and stand the weight back up.
  • Keep a balanced foot with a strong arch, drive through the heels, and drive the hips until you are back at the top of the movement and ready for the next rep.


  • Clean grip with 1 or 2 fingers. This is the most common grip used by Olympic lifters and athletes. This trains the specific position the bar would be in at the catch of a clean and therefore very advantageous for these athletes.
  • Crossed arms. This is a common grip for athletes that want all the benefits from the front squat but may not have the flexibility or need for a finger grip.
  • Lifting Straps. This allows the lifter to get the front rack position, engaging the upper back musculature, and takes a lot of stress off the fingers and wrists.

Coaching Points

Be patient with your flexibility. Persistence and working hard on your flexibility will pay off with Front Squats. Remember to always warm up prior to any lifting session. Work on flexibility drills during warm-up sets as well. After your session, use cool-down techniques, foam roll, stretch, and hydrate.

Hack Squat

Hack Squat

A Hack Squat is a bit of a hybrid between a Back Squat and a Belt Squat. It is a machine like a Belt Squat, but Hack Squats are done standing with the weight loaded on the shoulders.

They’re still not as good as a free-weight squat in my opinion, but if you’re able to do them they can be a good alternative to a Belt Squat.

Equipment Needed

  • Hack Squat machine

Muscles Worked

Will vary slightly depending upon the machine, but the legs and glutes should always be heavily involved:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Position yourself on the hack squat machine*, with your back against the pad and your shoulders under the shoulder pads.
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart on the platform, with your toes pointing slightly outward.
  • Grasp the handles on either side of the machine (if available).
  • Breathe in and brace your core.
  • Slowly lower your body by bending at the knees and hips, keeping your head up and your back straight.
  • Continue lowering your body until your thighs are parallel to the platform that your feet are standing on.
  • Then drive through your feet to raise your body back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for your desired number of reps.

Coaching Points

*Not all Hack Squat machines are the same. Technique, muscles worked and more can and will vary depending on the specific machine you’re using. If in doubt, make sure to speak with someone about how to use the machine in your gym.

You should always start light (especially as a beginner) with any exercise and gradually work toward using heavier weights. This is even more important if you’re working with a machine that you’re unfamiliar with. Always get a feel for the machine first before adding any weight.

Trap Bar Deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift Setup

Trap Bar Deadlift isn’t a squat, but it is a Belt Squat alternative that can still develop a ton of lower body strength. Using a trap bar (instead of a barbell) makes this variation a little more beginner-friendly.

Equipment Needed

  • Trap Bar (also known as a hex bar)
  • Plates (Preferably bumper plates, but iron plates can also be used if necessary.)

Step-by-Step Instructions


  • Step inside the trap bar.
  • Place feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  • Slightly turn their feet outward (engaging the glutes).
  • Take a deep breath to brace the abdominal muscles.
  • Hinge at the waist and bend at the knee simultaneously until you’re able to grab the bar handles.
  • As you pull yourself down into the setup position, maintain a neutral head posture, with eyes fixed on something about 1-2 feet in front of you.
  • In the final setup position, pull the chest up, and shoulder blades back, while still maintaining a brace in the abdominal muscles and get ready to lift.


  • Start by pulling the “slack” out of the bar. This is where the lifter needs to create tension by slightly pulling into the bar and pushing their feet into the floor before maximal contraction/attempts.
  • Once this tension is created, the lifter drives their feet through the floor, drives the hips forward, keeping tension in the abdomen and upper back (DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK), maintaining the hand position over the midfoot, the lifter stands tall with the barbell, and locks the repetition in.
  • It is important that each repetition is locked in and controlled at the top of the movement. This is considered an isometric hold. This hold generally only needs to be about 1 second.
  • After locking in the repetition for about 1 second, the lifter is ready to lower the weight. Take in a big breath, maintaining a braced core and shoulder blades pulled together. The hips will push back and the knees will bend simultaneously.
  • The weight should be maintained in a position over the midfoot. The athlete will continue to lower the barbell until the weights rest on the floor and prepare for the next repetition.

Coaching Points

Easily the most common mistake for Trap Bar Deadlifts is allowing the back to round, placing unnecessary stress on the back. Keep the back flat throughout the movement and the core braced.

Do not bounce the bar off the floor between reps. Yes, bouncing the plates off the floor into the next rep may make the lift easier to do, but it’s also a good way to allow your technique to break down. Reset for each rep.

Unlike barbells which have a standard weight, hex bars weight can vary from one bar to the next. Keep this in mind if using set weights off of your training program.

Single Leg Squat Off Box

Single Leg Squat off a box barely requires any equipment at all let alone a Belt Squat machine. It’s also an incredibly challenging exercise that is much harder than it looks.

It’s a great Belt Squat alternative that, like Belt Squats, doesn’t require any axial loading (placing a bar on your back). 

Equipment Needed

  • An extremely stable box or bench
  • A partner who will hold down the side of the box if needed as a counterweight.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall with one leg down and the other straight drifting off the side of the box.
  • Initiate the squat by hinging at the waist and bending at the knee simultaneously.
  • Descend until the hip crease is just below the knee.
  • Keep the heel flat and center of mass over the mid-foot.
  • Keep the torso as vertical as possible. Sometimes holding the arms straight out from here will help with balance and torso positioning.
  • Once you reach depth, drive through the heel, keeping the foot flat, and stand tall.

Coaching Points

Single Leg Squat Off a Box is by far one of the most difficult variations of single-leg training. A proper progression needs to be followed in order to prepare the athlete for a movement like this.

Barbell Step-Up

Barbell Step-Up is another single-leg movement that can make a great Belt Squat alternative. If the barbell is an issue you can always use dumbbells instead.

Pro Tip: The height of the box plays a huge factor in what muscles are emphasized. A higher box will target the glutes and hamstrings more whereas a shorter box will target the quads more.

Equipment Needed

  • Squat Rack
  • Barbell
  • A very stable surface to step up to. (Ideally, a box or bench that is stable, heavy, and well balanced)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Set up the barbell at the height you would normally use for back squatting.
  • Use the high bar back squat position for this exercise.
  • Use a box height that is going to allow your hip and knee flexion to be as similar as possible to your stride while sprinting or bounding.
  • Unrack the weight, place one foot on the box, and drive the other leg’s knee up.
  • The leg drive should be fast and explosive. (Quick note: keep the up leg’s foot pulled up toward the shin).
  • Engage the glutes and pause for a brief second at the top of the movement.
  • Carefully lower the leg back down and prepare for the next repetition.

Coaching Points

A stable box cannot be overstated here. If the box is not stable, do not do Barbell Step-ups.

Dumbbell Lunge

DB Lunges

You’re probably already familiar with Dumbbell Lunges as they are one of the most popular lower-body strength exercises. They are popular for a reason, though, Lunges are an extremely effective movement for developing strong legs.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells


  • Grab two dumbbells, one in each hand
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades and engage the lats to create a stable back to help with bracing the upper body
  • Once you’ve created enough room for yourself from the dumbbell rack (or wherever you pulled them from) you can begin the movement.
  • Step forward with one leg, giving yourself enough room to be able to drop into a lunge comfortably without feeling overextended.
  • Keep the chest as upright as possible and drop the back knee to roughly one inch from the floor.
  • Now drive through the heel and midfoot of the front foot to drive yourself back up tall.
  • Repeat on the opposite leg and alternate back and forth until all reps have been completed.

Coaching Points (Fixes to Common Mistakes)

When you step out for Dumbbell Lunges, make sure to keep the feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re feeling very off-balance in your lunge there is a good chance that you are stepping the lead foot directly in front of the back foot (essentially placing yourself on a tight rope).

Bulgarian Split Squat

The final single-leg Belt Squat alternative is the Bulgarian Split Squat. Bulgarian Split Squats are a great movement that takes most of the opposite leg completely out of the movement so all effort is focused on the front leg.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells (or Kettlebells)
  • Bench, Box or Stack of Bumper Plates (essentially anything stable enough and tall enough to place your foot on)


  • Grab two dumbbells, one in each hand
  • Get set up in front of your bench, reach one foot back and place it on the bench. Make sure you feel comfortable and balanced before proceeding.
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades and engage the lats to create a stable back to help with bracing the upper body and to keep the dumbbells from swinging unnecessarily.
  • Keep the chest as upright as possible and drop the back knee to roughly one inch from the floor.
  • Now drive through the heel and midfoot of the front foot to drive yourself back up tall.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed on that leg and then switch sides.

Coaching Points (Fixes to Common Mistakes)

When you step your front leg out on a Bulgarian Split Squat, make sure to keep the feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re feeling very off-balance in your set up there is a good chance that you are placing the lead foot directly in front of the back foot (essentially placing yourself on a tight rope).

Keep the front foot flat on the floor when in the lunge position. One of the most common mistakes is raising up onto the ball of the front foot. One of the reasons for this is often the next most common mistake that I see with Dumbbell RFE Lunges…

Make sure to take a big enough step. Often times I see athletes give themselves way too little distance from the bench. This leads to lunge being extremely cramped and can lead to a whole host of other issues (like coming up on the ball of the foot as mentioned above).

Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat

Goblet Squats are a great tool for teaching how to do Back Squats and Front Squats. Using Goblet Squats to learn proper technique can help a beginner become less reliant on the Belt Squat machine if they’re only using it because of a lack of technique with traditional squats.

Equipment Needed

  • Kettlebell (Dumbbell can be used as well)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a kettlebell and hold it at chest level, cradling the bottom of the bell in both hands*.
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, chest out, lats engaged, eyes straight ahead.
  • Before descending into the squat, fill the abdomen full of air and brace the core.
  • Start the start by pushing the hips back first.
  • Bend the hips and knees, keeping the chest up and knees pushed out until the thighs become parallel to the floor.
  • Now push the feet through the floor and drive yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

*It’s also acceptable to hold the kettlebell on each side of the handle (as shown in the image above).

As with any squat, the most important aspect of Goblet Squats is to keep the core braced to protect the spine and to maintain proper posture – chest out and lats engaged.

Wall Sit

Wall Sit (1)

It doesn’t get much simpler than a Wall Sit. But, if you’ve ever done them before you know full well how quickly Wall Sits can light your legs on fire. Wall Sits are great at the end of a workout as a finisher or part of a competition.

They’re also an extremely versatile Belt Squat alternative because they don’t require any equipment (outside a wall) so you can do them anywhere at any time.

Equipment Needed

  • A Wall (any object that is tall enough, flat enough and sturdy enough to hold you can also work)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find a good, sturdy wall that will be able to safely support your body weight
  • Lean back against the wall and place your back flat against the wall.
  • Walk your feet out and plant your feet firmly into the ground, shoulder width apart, a few feet from the wall (how far exactly will depend on limb length)
  • Slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Shin angle should now be vertical, ankles just below the knees.
  • If you need to quickly reset to adjust the distance your feet are from the wall, do that now.
  • Once you are in the sitting position, hold that position for the designated amount of time (or as long as possible)
  • Keep hands off legs throughout the sit. They can be held in front or placed on the sides.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistakes I see with athletes when doing Wall Sits all come from the setup. The thighs should be parallel to the floor with the ankles directly below the knees.

Having the hips too high or the feet too far in front of the knees will take strain off of the quads. Athletes inherently know this because these are two of the best ways to try to ‘cheat’ if it’s a competition. (If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’, right?)

Tire Flip

Tire Flips

Here is a Belt Squat alternative that is a little more ‘outside-the-box’. Tire Flips can be an amazing exercise (if you can do them safely) to develop lower body strength and power. If you have a giant tire sitting around, put that thing to use!

Equipment Needed

  • Tire

How To

  • Make sure you have plenty of space to be able to safely flip the tire.
  • Start with the tire laying on the ground on its side.
  • Stand with toes almost against the tire, feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  • Drop the hips and reach under the tire.
  • Once you have a good grip under the tire flatten your back and brace your core.
  • Drive the feet through the ground and aggressively begin to extend the hips.
  • If the tire is heavy, you can slide one knee under the tire to help with leverage once the tire is high enough.
  • When the tire gets above stomach height, flip your hands around so you can begin to push the tire.
  • Push the tire forcefully forward – extending with both your arms and legs.
  • The tire should land on its side. Repeat for the designated amount of distance or reps.

Coaching Points

The biggest key to Tire Flips is perhaps in finding the right tire.

Every school I’ve ever worked at had big tires that were used for Tire Flips. However, the size and weight of these tires have all been drastically different. They’ve ranged from tires that were barely heavy enough to be worth using to tires that took two and sometimes even three football players to flip.

Just like with Deadlifts and Power Clean, it’s extremely important to drop the hips, use the legs and keep the back flat. Once fatigue starts to set in I generally see athletes resort to using more back than legs. If form reaches this point then it’s time to stop flipping the tire.

Prowler Push

Prowler Sled

Prowler Pushes are another ‘outside-the-box’ lower body developer that can add some variety to your workouts. They can also build more strength than they are often given credit for – without any loading of the spine.

Pro Tip: Use a lighter weight and quicker tempo to incorporate more of a conditioning component or go slow and heavy to really emphasize strength.

Equipment Needed

  • Prowler sled
  • Bumper or iron plates
  • At least a 20-yard stretch of turf
  • Proper footwear. Shoes with a good grip or cleats (if turf is available) are ideal.

Step-By-Step Instruction

  • Set your prowler in an area where you can push it at least 20 yards without hitting anything.
  • Load the prowler with weight.
  • Get behind the prowler and grab the high handle position.
  • Hinge at the waist, bend the knees and extend your arms.
  • Drive your legs and push the sled forward.

Coaching Points

The Prowler Push is a full body movement. Keep the core tight, nice neutral spine, and keep those arms extended (Arms can be bent when focusing on heavier loads).

Focus on a strong knee drive and pushing through your feet to keep the prowler moving. Your body angle will be very similar to how you start a sprint. So the lower body action should be very similar to running.

Final Thoughts

The Belt Squat is a great exercise that can be a game-changer for lifters who are not able to do a traditional Back Squat. However, many of us don’t have access to a Belt Squat machine. And, if you’ve been stuck doing only Belt Squats for a while you may be looking to add some variety to your workouts.

Having said that, if you are Belt Squatting due to back issues, make sure you clear any new exercises with your doctor or athletic trainer.

As for the list of exercises above, hopefully, at least one of these Belt Squat alternate exercises can work as a replacement for Belt Squats in your strength training program.

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