The belt squat is a highly underrated lower body movement which develops strong quads, hamstrings, and glutes. 

But what happens if you don't have a belt squat machine or simply want to mix things up a bit?

Throughout this detailed guide I'll reveal 9 of the best belt squat alternatives that you can perform to grow your legs. 

Read through the list below and add 2-3 of them to your leg day. You won't regret it, number 5 is a favorite of mine.

Below are some of the best belt squat alternatives that you can add to your leg workout to give you tree trunk looking legs. 

1. Banded Belt Squats (Belt Squat Without A Machine)

Man Doing Banded Belt Squats

A banded belt squat is a good alternative if you do not have a lot of equipment available to perform a proper belt squat.

Instead of using plates or dumbbells, all you need is a couple of resistance bands that you can attach to the belt, which will help you work the leg muscles.

Don't underestimate how effective using a resistance band can be for growing your legs. 

I've used this movement many times when the belt squat machine isn't available, and each time my legs have felt incredible. 


  • Minimal equipment required.
  • Suitable for all ability levels.

How To perform this Movement: 

  1. Take a single band and have it on the floor right in front of you.  
  2. Place the right foot inside the right side of the band, then do the same with the other side.  
  3. While you are still standing on the band, pick it up in the middle and pull it to the waist. 
  4. Attach the band to the weight belt. You can just close the loop on top of the band.  
  5. Perform the squat as you usually would, lowering the hips to the floor.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you need additional depth, stand on two weight plates to raise your starting position. Doing so will allow you to achieve a greater range of motion.  

2. Front Squats 

Man Doing Front Squats

The front squat is a barbell squat alternative that involves placing the weight load on the front of the shoulders rather than the back.

Not a simple workout to perform, this workout is best suited for those who have had some experience with squatting in the past.

This barbell squat alternative is great for targeting the quads and is usually performed with low repetitions. 

As it's a front loaded squat, your back is in a more upright position which places less stress on the lower back. Some of my clients who suffer from lower back issues find the front squat easier and more comfortable to perform. 

However, if you can't perform the front squat exercise due to wrist mobility issues or discomfort, there are front squat alternative exercises that can target similar muscle groups and provide a challenging workout.


  • Less lower back strain.
  • Develops your quads.

How To perform this Movement: 

  1. Set the rack and barbell to shoulder level and put the barbell on the front of the shoulder.  
  2. Place the hands shoulder-width and allow the barbell to rest on the first and second knuckles.  
  3. Drive the elbows up so that the arm is parallel to the floor.  
  4. Set the stance for the squat, and then crack the knees and hips to start the movement.  
  5. Squat down deep while staying upright in the torso. Drive the feet through the floor and work on the quads to stand up.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you're struggling to put your hands in the front rack position, try using the cross arm position. By crossing your arms is easier to achieve if you've got wrist or shoulder mobility issues. 

3. Goblet Squat 

Man Doing Goblet Squat

Goblet squats are performed just like the front squats; only instead of using a barbell, you will use a single dumbbell or kettlebell to perform the workout.

The workout is also much easier on the wrists than the front squat while still targeting the same muscles.

Whenever I perform the goblet squat my abs and core is used a hell of a lot. More often than not most of the DOMS I get are in my abs (I'm not complaining though, this exercise is great).

I like the simplicity of this belt squat alternative, all you need is a dumbbell and a small amount of floor space. 


  • Minimal equipment needed.
  • Suitable for all abilities.
  • Low wrist strain.

How To perform this Movement: 

  1. Grab one dumbbell but put it in two hands with the handles vertical.  
  2. Place the hands under the top of the dumbbell with the palms inward, keeping the dumbbell close to the body.  
  3. Crack the hips and the knees at the same time and bring the hips down below parallel. Do not bounce or lose the tension.  
  4. Push the floor away and go up as fast as you can to go back to standing.  
  5. Repeat to get done 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Keep your elbows elevated during the entire goblet squat movement. By keeping your elbows pushed forward, you'll keep your body in a far better squatting position.  

Related Article - Kettlebells Vs Dumbbells

4. Cable Hip Belt Squat 

Man Doing Cable Hip Belt Squat In Gym

Cable Hip Belt Squats are one of the most complicated belt squat alternatives to perform as they require a lot of balance.

For this workout, you won't need a chain but instead will need a cable station and a belt that will allow you to blast your legs without putting pressure on your spine.

This one will require a cable crossover machine. These machines can be kind of pricey, but you can find a few budget best cable crossover machines in our review guide.

While it's a brilliant belt squat alternative, I think it might be too complicated for beginners. This is largely because of the amount of balance and control you need to prevent yourself from moving forward.

If you're new to training, give this alternative a miss and try the goblet squat instead. 


  • Places constant tension on your legs.
  • No spinal pressure.

How To perform this Movement: 

  1. Move the cable machine to its lowest setting and place a dip belt on your waist.  
  2. Add the carabiner from the cables to the rings in the belt. 
  3. Walk back so that you are a minimum of 2 feet from the machine.  
  4. Place the arms out in front to add some balance as you squat low to the floor.  
  5. Ensure that you sit back on the heels to help you get the good squat.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Stand on two weighted plates to elevate your starting position. This will allow you to achieve a greater range of movement. 

5. Landmine Belt Squat 

Man Doing Landmine Belt Squat In Gym

The next belt squat alternative in our line-up is the landmine belt squat. This killer workout is a good one if you would like to get the belt heavily loaded and really put some pressure on the legs.

It's one of my favorite belt squat variations on this list as it allows me to add a lot of weight to the bar. By doing so, my legs take a beating (in a good way). 

While all ability levels can try this movement out, if you're new to lifting I'd focus on developing your base strength using another movement on this list (like the front squat).  

It's also worth noting, you'll need a landmine attachment to make this one work.


  • You can overload the legs with a lot of weight.
  • Large range of motion used.
  • Develops your quads.

How To perform this Movement: 

  1. Put the chosen barbell inside the landmine that you choose.  
  2. Load the other end with some plates. You should stick with the 10 to 25-pound plates because the 45 pound plates are too big for the squat.  
  3. Attach a chain to the lifting belt and then wrap the other end under the barbell.  
  4. Squat down to the floor and then return to standing. Repeat to finish the workout.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Stand on two sturdy blocks or weighted plates to allow you to hit extra depth with the squat. Doing so will activate more muscle fibers. 

6. Hack Squat 

Woman Doing Hack Squat In The Gym

The hack squat is performed with a special piece of gym equipment called a hack squat machine (it basically looks like a standing leg press).

This exercise allows you to do a squat down along a rail fixed to a 45-degree angle, which is great for engaging the quads.

When I think of the hack squat machine, it always reminds me of Sly Stallone training for the first Expendables movie. And it inspired me to try this quad killing exercise, needless to say I loved it. 

One thing to note is that it can sometimes place too much pressure on the knees. So if you've suffered knee issues in the past be careful with this belt squat alternative. 

If you're unable to perform the hack squat exercise for various reasons such as limited access to equipment or discomfort, there are hack squat alternative exercises that can effectively target your lower body muscles.


  • Loads your quads.
  • Suitable for all ability levels.

How To perform this Movement: 

  1. Place the shoulders under the pads and grab the handles right outside your head. Make sure the legs are slightly outside shoulder-width.  
  2. Squat down with a controlled tempo to make sure the heels are not going to lift up.  
  3. Focus on pushing the knees forward to get more motion.  
  4. When ready to drive up, make sure the shoulders go back into the pads and then push up. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  •  Focus on getting your form right before you begin loading the hack squat with weighted plates. 

7. Safety Bar Squats

Woman Doing Safety Squat

Safety Bar squats are a great belt squat alternative that uses a specialty bar called a safety squat bar.

But don't let the name fool you; it's a killer exercise when performed correctly. 

This piece of equipment has built-in shoulder pads to protect your shoulders as well as rubber or padded handles. Like most squat alternatives, this workout targets the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. 

My local gym got a new safety bar last year and my clients enjoyed the new challenge using this barbell brought to their workouts.

It placed them in a more upright position and the new loading pattern gave there legs new stimulus to grow.


  • Develops strong legs.
  • Easier on your wrist and shoulder joints.

How To perform this Movement: 

  1. Place the barbell on the back with a foam pad for protection.  
  2. Grab the safety bar and drive the elbows up and forward.  
  3. Keep the back and core engaged before you squat, and have the chest up.  
  4. Bring the hips down below parallel before driving back to standing to finish up.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Keep your elbows pushed forward during the squat. If they drop to your sides, the barbell will become uncomfortable and you won't be in an optimal position. 

8. Leg Press 

Man Doing Leg Press Exercise

The leg press is a good alternative to the belt squat because you will not place any load on the back, and it isolates most of the same muscles while letting you sit down.

However, the angling can also make it more challenging to do than some of the other exercises on this list. Therefore, you can check out leg press alternative exercises.

I like the leg press as it was one of the first leg exercises I performed during my teenage years. And, it has the ability to develop all areas of your legs depending on your foot placement. 

Best of all, it's suitable for all ability levels. I've had 16 to 80 year olds using the leg press, and they all loved it.


  • Suitable for all ability levels.
  • Adjustable to target specific leg muscles.

How To perform this Movement: 

  1. Lie down on the machine, making sure the feet are spaced about shoulder-width apart.  
  2. Brace the core and get the glutes tightened to start this one.  
  3. When ready, take the weight from the safeties and lower it to the chest. You want the thighs to be at or below parallel here.  
  4. Bring the hips down below parallel before driving back to standing to finish up.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Don't allow your hips to round at the bottom of the movement as this will cause lower back strain. If they round, you're likely going too deep on the leg press. 

9. Dumbbell Belt Squats 

Man Doing Dumbbell Belt Squat Exercise

The dumbbell belt squat is the closest variation to the standard belt squat.

This belt squat alternative will work essentially all of the same muscles as the belt squat, without needing a machine. 

As you don't need any complicated machinery, you can perform this movement almost anywhere. So long as you've got room to squat, you can do the dumbbell belt squat.


  • Doesn't require a lot of space.
  • Minimal equipment required.

How To perform this Movement: 

  1. Attach a chain to the lifting belt.  
  2. Allow the chain to hang between the feet. Add the dumbbells to the end of that side.  
  3. Place the feet on some risers and then place the feet into a squat stance. 
  4. Lower the hips down to the floor until the thighs are at or below parallel.  
  5. Stand up quickly, making sure that you maintain your balance on the midfoot.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Don't attach the dumbbell too high... The last thing you need is the dumbbell to swing and hit you in the private parts (or worse... pinch them between the chain). 

Benefits Of The Belt Squat Exercise (Are They Worth It?)

You can get several benefits when you choose to use a belt squat as part of your workout routine. Some of these benefits are related to the actual ease of the workout, and others are regarding the health benefits.  

One of the primary benefits of belt squats is that you are able to load up your squat with weight to work the legs out while making sure this weight is not put on the spine. This makes it an excellent workout for anyone worried about their upper body or back but still wants the benefits of performing squats.  

Additionally, the belt squat also works the same muscles as the barbell squat while providing some additional benefits, including the following: 

  • Makes it easier to lift with a vertical spine 
  • Can reduce hip pain in experienced lifters 
  • Emphasizes hip extension 
  • Fires up the glutes 
  • Improves power position 
  • Reduction in elbow and wrist tension 

Like many of the best workouts, belt squats may seem a little awkward to perform at first, but once you have the proper form down, you’ll be glad you have this explosive squat alternative a try.

What Muscles Do Belt Squats & Substitute Exercises Work?

The belt squat is going to be a solid workout to help you work most of the muscles in your lower body. Some of the muscles that this workout will engage includes: 


The quadriceps are a big muscle group of the lower body. There are not a lot of lower body exercises that you can do without bringing in the quadricep to help get the work done.[1] Each time you bend down and then push up with the squat, the quadriceps will get to work, providing that extra power you need.  


All types of squats are going to be good for the glutes.[2] When you are able to add some weight to the squats, especially when they are added to the waist rather than the back, you can really work out the muscles of the glutes to keep them toned and tightened.


It is possible to also work out the core muscles when you do a belt squat. Holding the correct form the whole time is good for the core. There is also a good amount of balance involved in maintaining the weights at the right level and doing the squat, which can call on some of those core muscles too.


The hamstring muscles are found at the back of the thigh. When you do workouts that target the hamstrings and the glutes, you will be able to tone and lift the butt, making it look better than ever before.

How To Make Your Own Homemade Belt Squat Equipment

A traditional belt squat machine can cost upwards of $3,000 to purchase, which can seem expensive when you are trying to build up your own home gym. However, it is possible to create your own belt squat for much less money, making it more affordable for any home gym.

One method has you use your lat tower and add a cable to it to help with the squats and keep the weight steady throughout it all. The cables can be useful for helping you to keep your balance each time you do a squat.  

You can also do one without a cable setup. To do this, you can get two box stands of equal height. You can make your own or find another option that will give you equal height on both sides.

You can then stand on these with the belt squat around your waist, and begin the workout. Make them tall enough that the weight will not fall completely to the ground, but be ready to bring in the balance.

Common Belt Squat FAQs

Are belt squats bad for your back? 

No, the belt squat isn't bad for your back. This is because the belt is placed around the hips, so there is little to no stress on your lower back or spine. 

Can you build big legs with belt squats? 

Absolutely, you can build your legs with belt squats. The belt squat works your quads, hamstrings, and calves while also helping strengthen the glutes and core.

How much weight should I use for a belt for squats? 

When choosing the weight for belt squats, you should always start off lighter than you think you'll need. Listen to your own body and determine how much weight you feel comfortable lifting on the belt.


We've seen that belt squats are brilliant muscle building exercise with many excellent alternatives (each have their own benefits). 

With these belt squat alternatives on your side you won't need to perform the traditional belt squat. 

Now that you're armed with these belt squat alternatives, it's time to hit the gym and see what you're made of.




Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.