Immensely popular, the barbell back squat is a staple of the majority of athletic programs. Most training regimens provide alternative and supplemental movements such as the belt squat for lower leg development. Unlike the back squat the belt squat places load on the pelvis rather than shoulder and does not require the lifter to support the load with the trunk and upper extremities.
Research shows there is no difference in muscular activity of the knee extensors, knee flexors, hip adductors, hip abductors, plantar flexors and dorsiflexors when comparing the two lifts. There is a marked difference in the level of activity in the lower back and trunk stabilizers when placing a bar on the shoulders.
What still remains unclear in the research is the gluteus maximus activity. Much of the research indicates that the glutes may not be strengthened as effectively when belt squatting compared to a parallel barbell back squat, indicating the barbell squat is a greater stimulator. Yet the key word is parallel or slightly below when examining the studies.
An advantage of belt squatting is deep squats are easily achieved without necessitating a great deal of coaching and technique work. With a belt squat an athlete once struggling to complete a rep can continue the exercise by pulling themselves up holding on to the handles that the apparatus provides. Depth not only requires more gluteal work and being able to assist oneself during a lift augments overload. Arguably, the gluteus maximus engagement during training would then be equivocal or greater for development when compared to squatting with a barbell to parallel.
Belt Squatting on the Pit Shark attached to the Pendulum Rack