Belt Squat Article (Translated from Italian to English poorly):
Walter L. Sword (from PLUSA March 1984)
The search for the BEST SQUAT ACCESSORY EXERCISE that does not overwork the lower back is over. BELT SQUATS are the exercise!
Accessory exercises are supplementary movements implemented in a training program to compliment and enhance performance of a major lift. In competitive powerlifting, the choice of accessory exercises is important to the success of the three powerlifts.
The most effective accessory exercises are those which most closely resemble the actual lifts. The list of current accessory exercises for improving squatting ability include: front squats, hack squats, leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls, etc. The shortcomings of most squat accessory exercises are that either the exercise is not specific enough to the squatting movement or the exercise overworks the lower back. Belt squats have proven to me to be the MOST SPECIFIC squatting accessory exercise WITHOUT OVERWORKING the lower back.
A special belt is needed to do belt squats. The belt must be long enough to fit around the waist, rest on the hips, and hang between the legs.
Belt squat procedure and performance is simple. Set up two benches or boxes spaced apart the desired width of the squat stance. Place a sturdy chair between the benches and put weights on the chair. Stand on the two benches and position the weight around the waist, resting on the hips and hanging between the legs. Attach weights to the belt and stand up. Remover the chair and begin squatting. When the desired number of reps are reached, replace the chair in between the two benches and unfasten the weights.
The arms are very important in balancing the body as the movement is very awkward at first. Spotting is done from the sides by placing a hand under the hamstring and a hand under the chest. Spotters should watch for "flying elbows" as the exerciser tries to balance himself. When the balance is developed, a wooden stick may be placed on the shoulders to simulate a squat bar.
Belt squats appear to be best implemented on the light squat day, opposite the heavy squat day. the best results seem to occur when performed with moderate to light weights and done for repetitions in the 10 - 20 range. A lifting suit can be worn but is not recommended and loose wraps are worn as it appears best not to depend on these training aids.
An interesting variation is incline/decline belt squats, where the squats are done on an incline of decline surface by setting two situp boards (or planks of wood) in a power rack. Incline belt squats tend to emphasize the hips and hamstrings; decline belt squats tend to emphasize the lower quadriceps. Flat belt squats tend to emphasize the hips, hamstrings, and quadriceps evenly.
In summary, there are some important reasons for doing belt squats. Belt squats are more specific to the squatting movement than most accessory exercises. Belt squats build neuromuscular coordination and balance, which machines fail to do. Belt squats do not involve the lower back significantly, thereby reducing the chance of overworking the erectors.
Belt squats were introduced to me by Louie Simmons, a top 50 all time ever powerlifter in the 198 and 220 pound class, and one of the top powerlifting minds around.
Belt squats have contributed to my performance of a 630 squat at 181 and my training partner Garry Benford's squat of 640 at 198. Belt squats are by far the best squatting accessory exercise I have ever seen.