Battle of the belt squats!
Landmine Belt Squat vs. Free Belt Squat
Alec Enkiri | 5/13/22
Battle of the Belt Squats!
The belt squat is a fantastic way to push your legs to the limit, to build both size and strength, without stressing the spine. There is no weight on your back or shoulders so there is no compressive or shear force acting on the spinal discs. This is amazing and it makes the movement relatively low cost with a high stimulus to fatigue ratio. The problem, however, is that belt squat machines are very uncommon. Most gyms don't have them and they are not very practical for home gym owners as they take up a lot of space and cost a lot of money.
No matter! There are 2 ways to set the belt squat up without a belt squat machine. These 2 methods allow you to get all the benefits of the belt squat without having to purchase this piece of expensive, bulky equipment for yourself. Overall, the feel ends up being quite similar, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each of the methods that I am going to detail today.
The landmine belt squat vs the free belt squat! I have tried both versions and pushed both to pretty high intensity 20 set efforts, so I wanted to cover the pros and cons of each.
The Landmine Version
You don't actually need a landmine to do this. You just set the barbell up on the pins in the squat rack. It's easier to get into position for each set (compared to the free version) once you have everything set up. But finding the exact right setup is a bit tedious. There were a lot of little pieces I had to put into place to get it right and if I wasn't the exact proper distance from the pivot point on the barbell then it pulled me into all kinds of weird ways. Once I found the right setup it worked great, but the margins for that were pretty small.
Another pro is that you can take any stance you want, narrow or wide, and there is nothing impeding your ability to do that. With the free version the plates make it so you have to be standing at least wide enough for them to fit between your legs, which might be wider than you want.
Finally, the movement with the landmine feels more restricted, almost machine like. Depending on what you're going for this may be a good thing or a bad thing.
The Free Version
You have more margins with the set up. It's not so tedious to get everything all set up and you can be situated in many different ways without turning the movement into an awkward shitfest. However, getting into position for each set is cumbersome and potentially dangerous. You have to be elevated high enough that you can squat down freely with plenty of ROM but you also have to be able to get yourself up there & back down safely with 300+ pounds. This can be a tricky thing to navigate.
Lastly, the stance width is dictated by the width of the plates. This forces me to stand wider than I really want to be standing. But the plus side is the movement feels more natural. It's not rigid or machine like and this creates a smooth squat pattern minus the axial loading.
Overall, I love them both! They satisfy the same general requirement but they do so in different enough ways that both variations should be used!