Belt squat marches, sometimes referred to as belt squat walks, are one of my favorite ways to train the lower body using a belt squat machine.
Whether you’re using marches as a warmup, for conditioning, or as a strength/sport specific exercise, there’s so many ways to benefit from including these in your routine.
In this article we’ll take a look at exactly how to perform belt squat marches correctly and what modifications you should make based on your specific needs as an athlete.
We’ll also cover the benefits as well as a few awesome alternatives to this exercise for those of you who don’t have access to a belt squat machine.
How To Do Belt Squat Marches Properly
I’m going to run through a series of tips which should have you belt squat marching like a pro in no time.
Stand Directly Over The Attachment
When it comes to marches, you want to stand directly above the attachment.
Whether you’re using a lever arm or cable machine, we want to ensure our center of gravity is directly above where our belt is attached.
If you’re using a lever arm machine with multiple attachment points (Pit Shark or Hammer Strength), clip your belt onto the one closest to you.
Be Deliberate With Each Step
First of all, don’t even think about holding onto that hand rail!
You need to contract your core throughout the entire movement so your torso remains rigid.
Pick your feet up and stomp down in a marching motion – think about driving force through your heels.
There’s no perfect technique when it comes to marches as different athletes will use different variations depending on their sport.
Increase Knee Drive Appropriately
Sprinters, basketballers, football players, and MMA fighters may choose to lift their knees quite high up (around level with hips) in order to get more hip flexor activation.
Strongmen may opt for lower knees as their movement events don’t require as much hip flexion and they’d benefit from heavier weights.
One common mistake is when the athlete fatigues, they’ll start swaying from side to side or ‘teetering’.
This must be avoided at all costs and the athlete should focus on regaining composed, deliberate steps even if it means slowing the pace.
One solution is to hold a 5-10kg weight plate while doing the marches.
Just hold it comfortably around your chest but aim to keep it in the dead center of the belt squat machine.
This should help you avoid teetering.
Avoid Ballet Toes
Another problem people will encounter when marching is ‘ballet toes’ which is where each step produces very little force into the platform and it starts to look as though the athlete is jogging on the spot.
Avoid this by remembering to slam your feet into the ground forcefully as though you’re some sort of big bad ogre trudging heavily through the woods!
Choose The Appropriate Amount Of Steps
One way of approaching the number of repetitions is to go for a set amount of time.
I find this is best when training for endurance.
If you’re training for sports performance or for strongman, it’s best to use a number of steps that closely correlates to the requirements of your sport.
For strongman, replay footage of your old yoke walk and count how many footsteps it was. Use this number as the amount of reps in each set.
If you can’t think of a good number of steps to use, you can always just go for endurance/time and walk until you’re exhausted/almost falling over.
For Strongmen: Add A Broomstick
Since you’re training for the yoke walk with this exercise, a cool idea is to chuck a dowel or barbell on your back while doing your marches.
This will help simulate the upper body positioning you’ll use in that exact specific event.
Weight Isn’t Super Important
How much weight you use will depend on why you’re marching in the first place.
Are you an MMA fighter who’s going to march for 2-3 minutes (endurance) until they’re about to pass out?
Probably don’t want so much weight…
If you’re going for shorter durations, aiming to have close to your bodyweight on the stack is a solid target.
Belt Squat Marches – Muscles Worked
Belt squat marches primarily work the glutes but also involve the adductors, quads, core, calves, as well as the hip flexors.
You can increase the hip flexor usage by raising your knees higher.
Of course there’s all sorts of stabilizers also being used.
Benefits Of Belt Squat Marches
There’s no shortage of benefits when it comes to belt squat marches. Here are a few of my favorites…
Allows you to train lower body heavy while deloading the spine – This is the same reason that belt squats are great. When your lower back is gassed out from regular squats but you still want to get some training volume in for the glutes, marches are ideal.
It’s a very unique training stimulus – There’s very few exercises that effectively train the frontal plane movement pattern that opens the hips up like the belt squat marches do.
I’ve also heard of people using this as a great way to get the hips functioning properly again after really long flights.
One of the most effective ways to train the hip flexors – Hip flexors are notoriously tricky to train. My favorite ways include doing knee raises using MonkeyFeet or doing reverse squats.
But you might not have MonkeyFeet or a reverse squat strap, so belt squat marches with extra high knees are a brilliant alternative.
Excellent conditioning exercise – Typically people will do marches for 20-60 seconds each set, but it’s also perfectly fine to go for 2-3 minutes if you really want to work on conditioning.
It’s particularly effective for MMA fighters who might have upper body injuries but still need to work on their conditioning.
You can also just do sets til failure. Make sure you stop before teetering however.
Excellent as a warmup – Some athletes will simply jump on the belt squat machine and march for a minute with fairly light weight simply to get the blood flowing to the lower body.
Great strongman accessory exercise – This is the perfect exercise to practice the yoke walk as your CNS realistically can’t handle multiple heavy yoke sessions per week.
Taking a session away from the yoke to give your spine a rest is a great idea but you can always do marches to train the exact same movement if you’re looking for some extra leg volume.
Great for hip replacement patients – I’ve even heard of physical therapists prescribing this exercise to help hip replacement patients regain strength!
Belt Squat Marches: Alternatives
If you have a free weight belt squat machine, like the Squatmax-MD, you won’t be able to perform marches because of the swing of the load.
Or you might simply not have access to a belt squat machine in the first place…
Probably the best alternative to belt squat marches is to do suitcase carries.
This exercise involves carrying a single heavy kettlebell/dumbbell in one hand and walking back and forth while keeping your core super rigid.
It’s also a hip dominant frontal plane training exercise which requires a really steady core.
The suitcase carry requires a bit more upper body activation but should act as a fairly good replacement for the marches.
Banded Belt Squat Marches
You can also do belt squat marches using a resistance band.
Shout out to @queenbeepower for this idea.
Simply run a resistance band through a regular weightlifting belt and under your feet and start performing your marches.
You can also use the base of a power rack as your attachment point.
If that’s still too easy, you can elevate your foot platform with a couple of small plyo boxes either side of the power rack which will increase the tension on the band.
Not All Belt Squat Belts Work For Marches…
Whatever you do, don’t try to use a Rogue multi belt to do really heavy belt squat marches.
This belt will tend to dig into your crotch and is simply not a good choice for this exercise.
Instead, use a Spud Inc belt squat belt because it’s only got a single D-ring and won’t pull on your inner thighs!
Be sure to check out my comparison of the Rogue and Spud Inc belt squat belts for more information.