Over the past two weeks, I’ve spent 50+ hours comparing every belt squat machine I know of in 16 quality categories – from steel and capacity to weight ratio and versatility beyond squats.
As a personal trainer and gym owner of 20+ years, I’ve watched every single one of these machines burst onto the market.
That’s my not-so-subtle way of saying that I know these machines belt-to-bolt.
Long story short, the Rogue Monster Rhino is the best belt squat machine for most people. It’s the most versatile and closer to a true squat than its competitors.
Only one other machine compares in the latter aspect but misses the mark on other stuff.
Our budget pick is the Bells of Steel 2.0 – it’s a basic lever design but does a decent job.
In the guide below, I cover it all:
- Top picks in different budget ranges – premium, budget, cheap.
- Reasoning and data behind them (the picks, that is).
- Other good machines that didn’t make it into the Top 5.
- Essential questions to ask yourself before spending a buck.
It’s a short read that can save you a lot of headache, money, and injury risk down the road.
Let’s get to the brass tacks…
Titan Belt Squat Machine
Rogue Monster Rhino
Bells of Steel 2.0
- 3 Best Belt Squat Machines
- Buyer's guide to choosing a good belt squat machine
- Methodology – how we assess and rate belt squat machines
- FAQs about belt squat machines
- Other belt squat machines – close-but-no-cigar
- Best belt squat machine – resume and key takeaways
3 Best Belt Squat Machines
Below is a quick overview of our top picks in three categories – overall, budget, and cheap.
|Name||Best in category||Rating out of 100||Defining feature / characteristic||Price|
|Rogue Monster Rhino||Overall||88||Premium build, high capacity||$$$$|
|Bells of Steel 2.0||Budget||72||Great value||$$|
|Titan Belt Squat Machine||Cheap||65||Budget-friendly||$|
1 – Best belt squat machine overall – Rogue Monster Rhino
Rating: 88 out of 100
Rogue Monster Rhino belt squat machine is the top overall pick for three main reasons:
- It’s biomechanically accurate – the weight forces are vertical, so you can blast through personal bests without risking a knee injury.
- It’s versatile like no other – the cable design allows for more than squats…much more – from cable deadlifts and low rows to high pulls and curls. This means more bounce for the ounce and better use of space.
- The build, tolerances, and finish are top-tier – the steel is thicker, so the max load capacity is higher. It also feels premium and looks cool.
It’s not the cheapest machine among our top picks. You can get a decent unit for less than 50% of the Rhino’s cost.
But you can also spend twice as much and get an inferior machine…so there’s that.
It’s all about value
If you’re new to Strong Home Gym, we’re all about finding value. We stress that time and again.
So, when an expensive machine dominates the ratings, it means the difference in quality is so massive that it supersedes the price gap.
When an industry legend like Louis Simmons of Westside Barbell teamed up with Rogue’s engineers to design this machine, expectations were high.
And they were met….and then some.
We got a more home-gym-friendly version of the ATP machine.
Who is the Rogue Rhino for?
This is the machine for you if you belong to one of these three groups:
- You want the absolute best and most versatile unit (and you’re willing to spend more to get it).
- You don’t have the space for a standalone. Instead, you’re looking for something you can mount onto your rack.
- You’re not OK with trading off injury risks.
Let me clarify the third point– most people looking for a belt squat machine want to minimize the toll on their spine.
All belt squat machines do that.
But some of them do it at the cost of taxing your knees because they pull you forward.
There’s none of that with Rogue Rhino.
You might think ‘yeah, but I can adjust my body position to counteract the forward pull’, but past a certain weight, you just can’t. When the weight exceeds your ability to straighten up, you’re at risk.
And, well, why take the risk? Because this means there are no newly-introduced injuries…
|Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)||53 x 56.5 x 78.5|
|Weight capacity||1500 lbs (estimate)|
|Warranty on the frame||Lifetime|
- Premium engineering and build – precise tolerances, smooth motion, and a fine finish. It will add a touch of high-end awesomeness to your home gym.
- The cable design closely mimics a squat – the vertical force is closer to a classic squat than lever designs.
- 1-to-1 weight ratio – you actually lift the weight you load.
- Cable belt squat machine is the most versatile type – you can use it for anything from rows to curls. Unless you own an all-in-one, this will be the most versatile machine in your home gym.
- Guiding rollers on the “Rhino” post – the minimal contact between the rollers and the central post makes for a smooth motion. It also requires minimal to no maintenance.
- Fixed handles – you know exactly what to do with your hands when squatting (which is not always the case with these machines).
- The Rogue multi belt is well-made and highly adjustable – it’s made to be snug and not roll down onto your hips. It’s made for Rogue by Spud Inc…easily the best belt in this guide.
- Light trolley with long weight horns – without any weight on it, it’s only 27 lbs, which makes it more welcoming to beginners and those recovering from an injury. The long horns allow you to pack more weight, even using bumper plates.
- Comes as both a standalone and drop-in – you can save space by getting the drop-in, which mounts onto your existing rack.
- It’s adjustable top-to-bottom– from the belt to the jammer-arm handles, everything adjusts. This makes it a great option for family use.
- The platform could be bigger – if you’re a pro who needs sport-specific footwork drills, this will be too small.
I don’t think making the platform bigger would make the machine better, but offering an optional upgrade would.
That being said, the smaller platform would be helpful for those where space is at a premium.
- Rogue recommends bolting it down – drilling into the floor might be a problem for you. Granted, this is more about using it off the platform than squatting on it.
- Cables don’t feel the same as free weight – if you expect a feeling identical to classic squats, you’re in for a disappointment…at least while getting used to it.
2 – Best budget belt squat machine – Bells of Steel 2.0
Rating: 72 out of 100
If you’re looking to save money and still get a solid belt squat machine, Bells Of Steel 2.0 is the obvious choice.
It gets the basics right, allows for surprising squat depth for a lever machine, and does it all on budget.
At this price range, you can’t ask for much more.
It’s surprising how little competition exists in this price range.
You’d have to spend 2-3 times more to get a better belt squat machine.
To get another machine in this price range, you’d have to either give up some features or settle for a sub-par build and warranty (in most cases, it’s both).
Who is the Bells of Steel belt squat machine for?
It will be the choice of the conservative buyer who’s primarily looking to squat safely and save money.
For this guy, functionality beyond squats is secondary and not worth spending extra on.
|Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)||75.4 x 50.67 x 41.7|
|Weight capacity||700 lbs|
|Warranty on the frame||Lifetime|
- Great value – it’s gentle on your home gym budget but maintains high build standards. This means you get a good machine and have more money for other stuff.
- The only machine with adjustable footprint/size – you can choose the convenience of side-loading if you have the space or choose to save space and increase the range of motion with top loading (the width is 53″ with pins up and 81 “ with pins down).
- Solid platform – it’s fully welded, which feels safe and stable. This allows you to go heavier without feeling unsafe.
- 6 commercial grade bushings – minimal friction on pivot points translates to a smooth motion.
- Comes with top and bottom band pegs – you can add resistance beyond the listed capacity. It’s a cheap way to lift more.
- Assembly can be tricky – some areas not accessible for bolting, which means a few extra hours invested on arrival.
- Lever design with a fixed fulcrum – this means it has some mechanical advantage (you’re lifting less than you load), and there’s a forward pull at the hips, which can be a problem if you have sensitive knees and lower spine.
- Flat platform – not as grippy as patterns, which can be a problem on some exercises like marches or calf raises.
3 – Best cheap option – Titan belt squat machine
Rating: 65 out of 100
Titan Fitness belt squat is the cheapest machine that’s still good.
In other words – it’s the most you can save on a belt squat machine without major functionality sacrifices.
And the savings are not to be shrugged off; the Rhino costs 3-4 times more.
Go cheaper than this, and your only options become attachments.
Who is it for?
If you’re on a tight budget, your focus is squatting, and you can live with minor flaws, this is the machine for you. Titan is one of the few budget names you can trust – most produce cheap garbage, but Titan is consistently reliable.
|Dimensions (L x W x H, inches)||83 x 52 x 38.5|
|Weight capacity||1000 lbs|
|Warranty on the frame||1-year|
- It’s cheap and solid value – more money left in the home-gym piggybank.
- Diamond pattern on the platform – allows for a better grip that won’t wear out over time.
- 4 storage posts for extra weights – besides the extra storage space, these balance out the used weight, so the machine feels stable.
- High weight capacity for the price – lift heavy without breaking the bank.
- Highly adjustable – from the depth point on the bottom to the lever arms, the multiple adjustment points give you more control of the position and intensity.
- It’s light – used without weight on the storage posts; it will move on explosive reps.
- The belt needs more heft – it will dig into your hips on heavy lifts/high reps.
- Assembly can be tricky – if you’re not tool-savvy, you’ll need a friend to help or more time to begin with. Some of the separate pieces would be better off welded.
- Storage horns are at an upward angle – this makes it harder to load/unload the plates. Using spacers is a good idea here.
Buyer’s guide to choosing a good belt squat machine
I wrote the guide below to be super-practical.
It’s for two types of people:
- Like-minded fitness nerds that like the same stuff as me – the science behind the lifts and the machines.
- The conservative buyer who likes to sift and re-sift his options before spending money.
If you belong to one or both groups, I like you.
9 primary factors of choosing a good belt squat machine
The buyer’s guide below is crafted to be specific and actionable.
I’ll get straight to the point with – who, what, why?
If I do this well, you’ll know more about choosing a great belt squat machine than 99% of folk out there.
1 – Type of belt squat machine – cable, lever, and free weights
(no specific number of points)
There are three main types of belt squat machines – free weights, lever-based, and cable.
Cable designs will be the best for most people because they’re the least taxing on the knees and most versatile beyond squats.
If you get one thing right when choosing between belt squat machines, it must be the type.
That’s why I’ll take my time here.
Bear with me…
Free weight squat machines – most muscle activation, close to classic squat – little beyond that
These are best for muscle activation because the load “hits” similarly to a classic squat.
Once you unlock that weight, it’s up to your quads and stabilizers to keep everything in line.
When a guiding mechanism enters the picture, the activation of the stabilizers goes down.
Sometimes, that’s true for the primary muscles worked, too.
The Gulick & Gulick study
In 2020, Coleen and Dawn Gulick conducted a study comparing muscle activation in the three belt squat machine types.
The free-weight Squatmax MD came on top.
If I’m being politically correct, hard scientific data is always helpful.
If I’m being honest, I could’ve predicted the results if you had just asked me.
Is that as important as it sounds?
It is if your sole aim is to mimic a traditional barbell back squat.
For most home gym owners, that’s not the case.
For us, it’s about finding that balance between efficacy, versatility, space, and cost.
Looking at the results, you’ll notice that Rogue Rhino is a close runner-up in almost all muscle activation categories.
The versatility beyond squats more than makes up for the difference in muscle activation.
Cable machine – the most versatile by far
Louis Simmons knows what’s up.
When he designed the ATP machine and then worked with Rogue on the Monster Rhino, the focus extended to functionality beyond squats.
The ATP is more professional-oriented because the massive platform allows for sport-specific footwork drills.
With the Rhino, it’s all about efficient use of space and versatility for exercises that a “typical” home gym owner needs.
Let’s imagine you want to do curls.
Attaching handles and pulling on the Bells of Steel or SquatMax MD would make little sense.
With the Rhino, you step off the platform until the angle is just right and do curls just like you would on a functional trainer.
Room for improvement and a moment to fantasize
I might be overstepping here, but entertain me for a second.
Imagine, if you will, higher posts on the Rhino. Then imagine top pulleys on those posts.
You now have a functional trainer on steroids.
Sure, you’d have to make the thing wider. And you’d be paying even more, but what a machine you’d have!
Rogue Rhino is 53 inches wide between the post, and you need at least 60 inches to make the top pulleys fully functional.
You could do that by either making the whole machine a peg wider or adding lateral arms at the top.
The result would be crazy useful
I might be rambling here, and I’m sure there are engineering challenges I’m unaware of.
But this would give us the second most versatile machine you can bring into a home (after an all-in-one like Force USA).
For people suffering from back pain, a machine like this would be superior to an all-in-one.
Lever-based belt squat machines – not for everyone
These are the simplest design and are usually cheaper. Manufacturers can rely on simplicity to produce them quickly and easily, which is why the price is lower.
The trade-off is on the effectiveness.
Some simple physics
The fixed fulcrum limits the use beyond belt squats and introduces a forward-pulling force at the hips, which is taxing for the low back and knees.
If you’ve suffered issues here before, think about it before clicking the buy button – a little extra investment may be worth it.
Most of these also give you a “mechanical advantage,” which means you lift less than what rests on the horns.
I said “usually cheaper” because there are machines like Matt Wenning’s that cost about 3 times more than Bells of Steel…and that’s for the base unit.
Don’t get me wrong, Wenning is an awesome machine. In many ways, it doesn’t fit the “lever-machine mold.”
Still, it’s too expensive for most home gyms.
- Free weights – high muscle activation, not very versatile
- Lever – simple design, usually cheap, not very versatile
- Cable – the best for homes, most versatile
2 – Size/footprint of a belt squat machine
(0 to 8.8 points in our ratings)
If space is limited and you still want a standalone machine, go for a top-loading unit or horns incorporated into the footprint.
I like the approach Bells of Steel takes here.
They allow you to choose between top-loading and side-loading.
Side loading is more convenient, but you’ll need more space. The 8-10 extra inches will indeed make a difference for small home gyms.
Consider the drop-in version of the Rogue Rhino as a space-saving alternative to the standalone.
This mounts (drops in) to your existing rack.
Three rules of thumb:
- A machine with side horns (like the Wenning) takes up more space to begin with, but it also requires more room to maneuver around.
- To choose a machine that works for your space, add a minimum of 5 feet to the side if the horns protrude out of the footprint. If they don’t, you can make do with 3 extra feet.
- For top-loading machines, make sure to account for the diameter of the weights.
- Free-weight units like Squatmax-MD are more compact but have higher platforms. That means you should consider the ceiling height, too.
Below is a reference graph comparing the footprint of the few top-rated belt squat machines.
3 – Overall build quality and craftsmanship of a squat machine
(no specific number of points)
We try to steer clear of opinions and subjectivity.
Even with categories like this, we aim to make our evaluations data-based.
When we have the machine, that’s easy.
It takes more elbow grease when we don’t because it means compiling pesky statistics.
That includes stuff like the % of owners complaining about paint chipping at the 1, 2, and 3-year mark, and so forth.
In the case of the belt squat machine, “build quality” refers to the following:
- Gauge of the steel
- Diameter of the frame and the weight post
- Welds, bolts, and finishes
- Wheels, pins, and other moving parts
- Paint/powder coating
On your end, build quality is best reflected in the warranty and the max load.
4 – Maximum weight capacity – max load and sleeve length on belt squat machines
(0 to 25.1 points in our ratings)
Regarding the maximum weight capacity, keep these two points in mind when choosing a belt squat machine:
- The absolute weight capacity (the number listed in the specs) tells you more than the weight limit – it speaks to how well the quality of the welds and the steel used.
- You should look at the loading length of the horns right alongside the listed max load. Sometimes you’ll max out the space before maxing out the spec capacity (see the graph below).
- You can go beyond the capacities listed below by choosing a machine with bang pegs for extra resistance.
I’ll illustrate my point in the three graphs below – the first compares the absolute capacities. The second and third graph show how much weight you can pack onto the horns using iron-cast and bumper plates.
Note: The 1500 lbs capacity for the Rhino is a conservative estimate.
5 – Standalone machines vs. drop-ins and attachments
(no specific number of points)
We did not award points in this category because no sub-type is universally better – it’s all about your current home gym and how much space you can spare.
These are my rules of thumb:
1 – Drops in save space but have downsides
Drop-in machines attach to your rack.
For example, the standalone version of the Rhino takes up 35% more space than the drop-in.
That sounds like the drop-in is the obvious choice, right?
Well…yes and no.
They save space compared to standalones but also close one side of the rack.
At 445 lbs of weight, attaching and removing it every time isn’t really an option.
So, the best way to go around it is to attach it to the “back” of the rack. It will make it non-walk-through but won’t mess with the rack’s functionality.
Bottom line – to use the drop-in like this, you need one massive chunk of space.
2 – Standalones are bigger but might work better for your space
That’s because you choose where they go. You might finally use that awkward corner packed with junk right now.
I’m not a fan of attachments like the Sorinex JˣSquat™.
I say that for two reasons:
- You’d have to add boxes or platforms to go beyond parallel and get proper squat depth. I always say I hate buying stuff that I need other stuff to use.
- There are many ways to improvise and get the same movement – from using lever arms to a barbell on the landmine attachment.
6 – Load-to-weight ratio of squat belt machines – “felt weight”
(no specific number of points)
Unless it’s listed in the specs as 1-to-1, you’re probably lifting 60-70% of the loaded weight. That’s an educated estimate.
You’ll notice how the total weight you can lift gradually declines as we drill down into what’s-what.
We first had to account for the limited horn space, and now the mechanical advantage enters the equation.
Do the math
Theoretically, a machine with a listed capacity of 800 lbs can “become” a 500-lbs machine if you use bumper plates.
From there, it can go down to 300 or less if it’s not a 1-to-1.
This sounds complicated, so let me give you a roadmap to the proverbial minefield.
- If you’re squatting heavy and using bumper plates, choose a machine with a 1-to-1 ratio (like the Rogue Rhino).
- You can do the math if you’re using iron plates, but you’re probably OK either way.
- If you don’t lift heavy and use bumper plates, getting a machine that’s not 1-to-1 will involve some math. Calculate the max weight you can load and multiply that by a factor of 0.7*.
- If you squat more than that and the machine has no band pegs, move on. If you’re also near to those numbers, move on – you’re likely to make progress and get stronger, so bear that in mind. It’s basic future-proofing.
*0.7 is provisional and based on experience. The better way to do it is to contact the seller and ask about the ratio.
7 – How good is the belt?
(0 to 10 points in our ratings)
There are two key criteria of what makes a good belt on a squat machine:
- Craftsmanship (should be hefty but flexible)
#1 means the belt is comfortable and can take a beating for years to come. Comfort is key – if wearing the thing hurts more than the heavy reps, you’re not going to want to use it. Place a lot of emphasis on the belt – wider, thicker and more padding is never a bad thing here, especially when the weights climb.
#2 means it’s compatible with different heights and waist sizes.
The best belt I know that comes included is the Rogue Multi Belt.
8 – Warranty on a belt squat machine
(0 to 12.5 points in our ratings)
If you’re paying more than a grand for a belt squat machine, only settle for a Lifetime warranty on the frame.
The minimum acceptable warranty for the cheaper machines is 1 year.
9 – Price of a good belt squat machine
(0 to 31.3 points in our ratings)
To start with belt squats, you’ll need to spend anywhere from $500 on a simple attachment to $5K+ on a premium standalone machine.
Value-wise, the best machines are in the $1-2.5K range.
Below is a price-comparison reference graph. It doesn’t list the exact price because they’re subject to change, but it gives you an idea of how the top machines compare.
Methodology – how we assess and rate belt squat machines
Below is a step-by-step outline of our process of rating belt squat machines.
The goal of the whole thing was to reach a list that meets our core principles – data over subjectivity and value over frills.
Here’s what we did:
1. We compiled a list of all the best belt squat machines that deserve to be considered.
2. We manually searched through 30+ sources (both stores and manufacturers).
3. We consulted users and industry experts on what they think makes belt squat machines worth it. The goal here was to go beyond my experience when choosing the best and make a list of the data we need.
4. We gathered all the data we needed to rate the machines based on step 2. Some of it we used for the ratings (like steel gauge, capacity, weight ratio, etc.), and some of it is subjective and can’t be quantified. We use the latter as fairy dust to explain the bits that aren’t in the specs.
5. We created a rating formula and tweaked it through a few iterations.
6. I believe this step is what makes us different in the space of home gym reviews.
We don’t just eyeball stuff.
7. We defined the categories to present – like an overall winner, budget, and money-no-object pick. This step is harder than it sounds. It’s about balancing what’s objectively high-rated and what would make the list most accommodating to different budgets.
8. We present the picks to an industry expert for a final revision before we make them public. The goal of this step is to make sure we’re not missing anything. We have two personal trainers and a fitness teacher in-house, but we go beyond that whenever possible. The more eyeballs, the better.
9. We update the guide on best belt quat machines to keep it fresh. This is to make sure that what you’re reading is relevant.
FAQs about belt squat machines
Does a belt squat machine work?
Yes, a belt squat machine works, provided you get one that hits the correct angles, like the Rogue Rhino. It’s a great option to challenge the legs in a different way, and it’s protective of many back injuries.
Studies like this one from the Journal of Novel Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation show that muscle activation depends on the type of machine.
The whole story goes beyond muscle activation – it’s a combo of versatility, build quality, and accurate geometry.
What is a belt squat machine good for?
A belt squat machine like Bells Of Steel 2.0 is good for working your legs without burdening your spine.
It’s also a great way to minimize upper-body involvement if you have mobility issues or squatting around an injury.
As shown in this 2020 study, belt squatting decreases lumbar extensor activation with similar activation of the quads, hamstrings, and flexors.
Simply put, you load the hips without taxing your spine.
How to use a belt squat machine?
To properly use a belt squat machine, follow these 12 steps (we’ll use the Rogue Rhino as a reference):
1. Load the weight onto the “horns.”
2. Stand close to the platform but don’t get on just yet.
3. Loop one side of the belt into the carabiner.
4. Squat down and wrap the belt around you.
5. Holding the belt, choose the loop that feels comfortable, tight, and secure.
6. Attach the other side of the belt to the carabiner.
7. Get onto the platform.
8. Position your legs carefully, with your toes slightly outward.
9. Pull the arms towards you to release the weight.
10. Squat up and down, aiming to at least break the parallel (thighs-to-floor).
11. Push the handles forward to lock the weight.
12. Squat down, unhook the belt, and dismount.
Other belt squat machines – close-but-no-cigar
This section of our guide is typically rich in good picks, and that’s not really the case here.
Because very few companies make good machines for belt squats…ones that would fit a home gym budget, at least.
- Matt Wenning belt squat machine – good machine, but too expensive for the features. The Rogue Monster Rhino is the better value.
- Westside Barbell ATP machine (Athletic Training Platform) – I’m not sure if they still make this, but it’s an industry classic.
I can’t find it anywhere – new or used. It is possible that discontinuing the ATP was part of the deal between Rogue and Louis Simons when they joined forces to make the Rhino, but that’s just my speculation.
Whatever the case, this industry-grade steel belt squat machine would not make it to the Top 5 anyway.
It’s great but expensive, and its advantages over the competition (massive platform) were niched down to a small group – pro athletes who need loaded footwork drills.
- SquatMax MD – good (best, actually) if your sole priority is getting the most out of every rep because it hits you with free weight. It’s not as versatile as the Rhino.
- Pit Shark machine – a popular unit that finds itself in no man’s land. It’s solid in every aspect but not the best in any of them. The comparison study with it, the Rhino and the Squatmax MD, showed by far the least muscle activation. I’m still OK with lever machines, but not at this price.
- Legend belt squat machine – known among trainers, less so in the home gym community. And with good reason – it’s too big and too expensive for most home gyms. Kudos for the cool colors, though.
- The DB Method Perfect Squat – this one’s all about the glutes. The resistance is in the downward part of the movement. Again, a good machine for a niche (female) audience.
- Hammer Strength belt squat machine – great for commercial gyms, overkill for homes. You know what’s up when you see a button that says “Speak to a consultant” instead of the price…I’ve spoken with her, and she says we need money for food.
- Elite FTS – these guys make good cable belt squat machines that are too expensive for the features. The bigger platform and flashy colors don’t justify the price bump.
Best belt squat machine – resume and key takeaways
The best option for most people is the Rogue Monster Rhino belt machine because it’s the most versatile and gets all the angles right.
Working against vertical weight forces is the closest to mimicking a classic squat without taxing your spine and upper body.
Introducing those forces through a cable rather than free weight adds versatility because you can mix the angles up.
When they made the Rhino, Rogue and Louie Simmons understood the two points above.
Our top budget pick is the Bells of Steel 2.0.
It’s leverage-based, which means it’s less versatile than a cable belt squat machine like the Rogue Rhino.
However, it will still blast the legs, spare the spine, and keep a few (dozen) Benjamins in your wallet.
The Titan machine is the lowest you can go in price, and still get a good standalone unit.
To skip back to the top picks table and re-evaluate, click here.