Westside Barbell Belt Squat
In this article I am going to talk about the westside barbell belt squat and the overall benefits of belt squats for leg training. Westside barbell is an elite training facility in Colombus, Ohio that has produced some of the strongest lifters in the world. It is owned by strength expert Louie Simmons, who is often referred to as “the godfather of powerlifting”.
Background To The Belt Squat
I will start by outlining the background to the belt squat and how it came to be. For that I have to talk more about Louie Simmons as he is the genius behind the belt squat. In 1973 Louie Simmons had one of the highest totals in the powerlifting world and he thought he was indestructible.
However later in that year he broke his lower back doing bent over good mornings. He had to find a way to get back into training and rehab his lower back. This is how he came up with the belt squat idea. Louie invented the belt squat machine in 1975.
Benefits Of The Belt Squat
The biggest benefit of the belt squat is that it allows your legs to get very strong, at the same time your lower back and upper back have virtually no compression. So if you have someone with a shoulder issue, neck issue, upper back injury or lower back injury they can still work their legs hard using a belt squat machine.
It is also therapeutic on the spine and provides traction. So if you are beat up from barbell squatting, have injuries or want to get more volume leg work in without the compressive forces on the spine then the belt squat is one of the best exercises you can do.
You can work all the musculature in the legs and glutes by varying your foot position. Going with a wider stance and a focus on sitting back more when squatting will work the glutes and hamstrings a lot more. If you want to emphasise the quads then you would go with a closer stance with slightly more forward knee travel, very much like an olympic squat.
Who Should Use The Belt Squat
Anyone who has an injury that is preventing them from doing a normal barbell back squat should use the belt squat if they have access to a belt squat machine in their gym like the Westside Barbell belt squat. If they don’t have access to this machine there are other alternatives that they can do which I will discuss later.
Also people who want to get more reps and sets of quality leg work into their routines that have a high carryover to free weight squatting but without putting too much stress on their spines, should definitely consider adding belt squatting into their training programmes.
Alternatives To Belt Squatting
I am well aware that very few gyms have a belt squat machine in their facilities for members to use. If you are in a gym that doesn’t have a belt squat machine don’t despair. There are alternative variants of this exercise that don’t rely on a dedicated machine. They may not be as good as a proper machine but you can still get a lot of benefits from them.
The first variant is a belt squat using a landmine. Landmines can be found in the majority of gyms and are generally used for T bar rows and other forms of rowing. Simply wear a dipping belt around your waist and hook yourself onto one of the weight plates that is on the barbell. You can then do belt squats from there, use smaller plates on the bar if you want more range of motion. Alternatively you can use bigger plates on the bar and stand on some plates to elevate you in the starting position and allow for a deeper range of motion.
Another variation is to perform belt squats using a low cable attachment in a cable station at the gym. Wear a dipping belt and hook yourself on to a low cable setup. Then step back four or five steps until you feel the full tension of the cable and squat from there as normal. You will get some good traction of the spine and can focus on sitting back to activate the glutes.
Another way is to do belt squats standing on two plyo boxes with a dip belt attached around your waist. Load up the dip belt and squat down. This way of doing the belt squat works well, however from a safety point of view you have to be careful. If you slip you could easily strain something so you should exercise great care if performing this variation. Make sure that you start off very light and get a lot of practice in with higher reps.
For the last variation it would be better to use a loading pin to hook yourself onto. This would work a lot better than loading without the loading pin.
To conclude, in this article I have talked about the Westside Barbell belt squat machine, it’s origins and the benefits of the machine. The belt squat is a great tool for being able to squat without compressive forces on the spine, making it very accessible to people who have injuries or find squats too taxing on their lower bodies to do them often.
If you don’t have a belt squat machine in your gym then I have also discussed alternative ways of doing the exercise. The best way which most closely resembles the belt squat machine is to squat while standing on two 12-14 inch plyo-boxes. Use a loading pin to hook your dipping belt onto and you can add weights to the pin as desired.
If you have any questions about anything in this article please leave me a comment below. Have you ever tried belt squatting? If not, are you now going to consider adding it in to your training regiment?
As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!