Trying to figure out when to wear a weightlifting belt and whether or not you should even be wearing one can be confusing. Some ponder if it’s necessary and if it provides any benefit. Well, no matter the query, we are here to answer all questions!
Weightlifting belts help provide support around your midsection, improve the form and execution of compound lifts, as well as reduce back stress for heavy lifting. Understanding these factors is essential in knowing when to use your belt.
While strength training is essential and beneficial, it can also be dangerous. One way to stay safe is by using a weightlifting belt – but when exactly should you use one?
In this article, we will take a deep dive into the world of weightlifting belts: when they can help improve your performance, how they work, and why they are so important in keeping new and experienced lifters safe from injury.
So read on if you want to find out all about the amazing potential these humble pieces of equipment have for serious lifters.
We will break down the most common scenarios on when to wear a belt – from low-intensity exercises and daily activities to powerlifting and maximum-performance training sessions. You’ll be able to make an educated decision after reading our comprehensive guide.
What Are Weightlifting Belts For?
Initially, only Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting involved the use of weightlifting belts. In recent years, however, even recreational lifters with different levels of strength and experience wear belts. However, is a weight belt useful for leisure lifting?
Weightlifting belts are an essential piece of gear for powerlifters and other strength athletes, especially when lifting heavy loads. The main reason for using one is its added external stability and bracing ability in your core area.
The belt helps stabilize your ribcage over your pelvis which is critical for safely handling large weights.
A belt alleviates low back strain by compressing the abdomen cavity. This increases intra-abdominal pressure (IAP), which provides additional support for your spine.
This extra support helps promote proper posture and technique, maximize each rep’s efficiency, and reduce injury risk.
During the lift, the spinal erector muscles, which usually offer support for the lower back, can generate less force. Enhanced IAP can help lessen the amount of lower back compression experienced by a lifter during circuit training.
Additionally, wearing a belt enhances the lifter’s awareness of the posture of their back. The feeling of a belt against the body compels the lifter to notice their back position and the muscles that must be engaged to maintain excellent posture.
In this case, wearing the belt too tightly is unnecessary for the desired effect. Even though IAP and muscle activity are unaltered, some lifters report feeling safer and more confident when wearing a belt.
The belt inhibits hyperextension of the back by generating a solid wall across the lower torso, linking the ribcage to the hip. This not only restricts back movement but also prohibits lateral bending and twisting.
Weightlifting belts are a great tool in the gym – they act almost equivalent to external obliques, but outside of your body. However, they should be used carefully and with caution. While it’s alluring to put one on each time you lift, this could easily become counter-productive.
If you wear them too much, you might end up relying on them and not utilizing the stabilizing muscles in your core which are so important for lifting heavy weights safely and correctly. In other words, weightlifting belts should only be used when needed.
Otherwise, their effectiveness will diminish quickly. Remember, they should be seen as a tool and not a necessity! Even if you’re not a competitive lifter and are just in the gym for general fitness, a weightlifting belt can improve your gains and help ensure you train safely.
What Do Weightlifting Belts Do?
Here are a few additional good reasons for using lifting belts:
When you’re carrying something heavy, a lifting belt can help you avoid serious orthopedic injuries. Make no mistake about it. When you’re squatting or deadlifting 80% or more of your one-rep max, a belt can help you keep your form and not get hurt.
Many people would say that you need a belt if you can squat or deadlift twice your body weight or more. Your legs will grow faster and respond better to training than your abs and lower back. So, a belt can make up for any differences in your leg strength and your core strength.
Why do so many people use weightlifting belts? Because you can lift more weight with them! When athletes train with a belt for one to two weeks, their max weights usually go up by 5–15%. That’s a lot of weight added.
A man who weighs 80 kg and can squat twice his weight can increase his one-rep maximum by 24 kg by increasing his squat by 15%. Just using a gym accessory for a week made that much of a difference.
There is a catch, though. If you use the belt before it’s time, you might not make as much progress unless you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter. Don’t rush things, you young grasshopper. Don’t let your gains make you greedy.
Getting Off Plateaus
Weightlifting belts are always helpful for natural athletes who are stuck on a plateau. Putting on a belt for a few workouts is the fastest way to beat a one-rep max PR.
A belt not only makes you physically stronger, but it also tricks your mind into thinking you can lift the weight. Mental plateaus can also be broken through with the help of a belt.
Researchers have found that a belt makes sure that squatting and deadlifting are done with the best biomechanics. A weightlifting belt will force you to use your legs more than your back when you lift. This is good because your legs can get used to heavy work faster than any other muscle group.
Biomechanics are improved by the belt because it limits spinal extension, spinal flexion, and, to a lesser extent, lateral flexion.
Less Strain On The Back
When you wear a belt, the pressure inside your belly can go up by more than 40%. By doing this, the pressure on the discs in your lower back can decrease by up to 50%. This makes a huge difference in how much your lower back hurts.
But not all of it is because of the belt. Your spine isn’t being supported by the belt. Your abs are supported by the belt. When you move heavy things, the extra pressure in your stomach keeps your back straight. The belt helps your back and adds weight to your main lifts because of how your body reacts to it.
What Are The Different Types Of Weightlifting Belts?
Weightlifting belts are essential for heavy lifting and power-based workouts. Depending on the level of support you need, there are three main types of weightlifting belts to choose from: Neoprene Weightlifting Belts, Powerlifting Belts, and Lever Belts.
Velcro Belts provide support while remaining comfortable around your waist during exercise. These belts usually come with a Velcro closure that can easily be adjusted for the perfect fit.
Velcro Belts are ideal for lighter weights and beginner lifters who need help stabilizing their core muscles without feeling overly restricted by a belt.
If you’re an experienced lifter who’s looking to take your strength and body to the next level, then a powerlifting belt made from heavier materials is just what you need.
Typically constructed from leather, powerlifting belts employ a prong or lever fastening system. These belts usually measure 10-13mm in thickness and 10cm in width.
Lever belts are typically used by experienced lifters who need maximum support during their lifts. Lever Belts feature a buckle closure that can be easily adjusted to your desired tightness level.
The buckle also helps to keep the belt securely in place while you lift, ensuring maximum safety and stability when doing heavy exercises.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter, having the right weightlifting belt can make all the difference when it comes to improving your performance in the gym. Make sure to do your research before purchasing one that fits your specific needs.
How to Wear a Weightlifting Belt?
As was already stated, a good lifting belt will help you exert more intra-abdominal pressure, which adds stability to your midsection and keeps your back from rounding during a heavy squat, deadlift, or Olympic lift.
You can’t just put on a belt and think it will do magic. In other words, a belt is not enough. It would help if you rightly put on the belt. It takes practice, like any skill worth learning. Here are some steps to show you how to utilize a lifting belt correctly.
Step 1: Position The Belt Around Your Waist
The ideal placement for a weightlifting belt is just above the hip bone, allowing for complete contact across the back, sides, and front of the torso.
If the weightlifting belt is constricting or pinching you in some areas, likely, it is not in the correct position. If the problem persists, you may need to use a different belt thickness or change the belt’s tension.
Step 2: Slightly Inhale And Tighten Belt
The belt should be snug but not so tight that you feel like exploding. You should provide sufficient space for your stomach to expand so that you may generate tension and brace. Your belt should be tight and snug, though it will expand as you brace.
You should be able to insert your index finger through the back of the belt. Anything more than that, and the belt may be overly loose or improperly positioned.
Step 3: Expand And Inhale Into The Belt
The purpose of a weightlifting belt is to stabilize the back. Your core is your first line of defense against a weak back. If you contract your core muscles, you should be tight.
The belt simply enables you to brace more fiercely. To achieve this, you must inhale deeply into your abdomen and contract your abs and lower back. Then, hold this posture during the lift.
A weightlifting belt is not a quick fix for improper breathing and bracing techniques. It is a performance enhancer for individuals who are already able to brace themselves and breathe properly under pressure.
Be sure to examine and master bracing and breathing techniques strategies in later phases.
How to Brace a Weightlifting Belt When Lifting?
Whether or not a lifter uses a belt, they must learn to acquire effective bracing and breathing techniques for submaximal and maximal lifting efforts.
Without the ability to properly brace and breathe, a belt is merely a band-aid and not an efficient supplementary training tool. Here is how to brace yourself for any lift, belt or not.
Imagine Getting Punched In The Stomach
If someone were to wind up and send you a knuckle sandwich, you’d have to flex every stomach muscle, right? This is the first step to making sure your back is safe and stable.
Take A Deep Breath
Think about breathing into your stomach as you get ready to take a (fake) hit in the gut. Every time you take a breath, the tension should get worse.
Imagine that your ribcage is pulled into your body, and your pelvis is perfectly stacked under your ribcage. Stay tight and focus on bringing your ribcage closer to your body.
Flex Your Obliques
The obliques are important for keeping the pelvis stable and aligned and reducing rotational forces at the hips and spine when the body is moving with weight on it. As you breathe into the core, try to think of puffing them out, almost as if you were puffing your cheeks.
When to Wear a Weightlifting Belt?
So what do belts have to do with all this? When you brace your body and breathe like this, you’re making your weightlifting belt. In reality, your breath should be your natural “weight belt” that keeps your core stable when you move with your weight on it.
Weight-bearing movements include everything from exercises with barbells and dumbbells to push-ups and other exercises that use only your body weight.
All of the good things about wearing a belt come down to the idea of force or pressure inside the abdomen. Miyamoto, et al. did a study and found that “Intramuscular pressure of the erector spinal muscles increased significantly by wearing the abdominal belt during Valsalva maneuvers and maximum isometric lifting exertions.”
In short, increasing the pressure in your abdomen can better stabilize the whole area. This makes the spine safer and can help you lift heavier weights.
As a general rule, you should start wearing a belt when your max is between 80 and 85% of your max. It’s helpful to keep that number in mind so you can tell if you’re way off, but one should prefer to go with how you feel.
When things get hard, people who are strong wear belts. That does not mean you should wear a belt for every warm-up set. But when things get rough, put on the belt.
You should wear the belt before the sets that count. It takes practice to learn how to breathe hard against the belt, especially when doing a lot of repetitions in a row.
Related Article: Wrist Wraps For Lifting: Everything You Need to Know
When Should a Weightlifting Belt Not be Used?
Belts can improve your workouts if you’re an intermediate or advanced athlete. If you’re a beginner, a belt is just a band-aid for back pain or extra weight.
It’s not quite as simple as that. So, we wanted to get to the bottom of it. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t be using weightlifting belts:
You Don’t Deadlift or Squat
Sure, weightlifting belts can be helpful for a few other lifts as well. So what’s the primary source? The deadlift and the squat. Belts are helpful for serious lifters who want to add kg to their big lifts. You do NOT need a weightlifting belt if you only use weight machines to work out.
Even athletes who train with their bodies or dumbbells won’t get much out of using a belt. You should only need a belt when moving a lot of weight on a barbell for squats, deadlifts, push presses, etc.
Heavyweights And Perfect Form
There’s a reason why some of the biggest, toughest guys in the gym wear belts. Why? They move heavy weights with an almost perfect form. If they didn’t have perfect form, they could get hurt.
People like this need a belt to break through plateaus and break their records. Belts won’t help fix bad manners. A belt might let you add more weight. And it’s never a good idea to put on extra weight with poor form.
Even worse, this bad form can be made worse by the belt. So, you shouldn’t use a belt until you can consistently move the heavy weight with good form.
Core stabilization is one of some people’s main problems with weightlifting belts. If you’ve never lifted heavy things without a belt, your core muscles may be much weaker than those in the rest of your body.
So, when you take the belt off, you won’t be able to lift nearly as much weight. That’s a surefire way to hurt yourself. Instead, if you want to learn how to lift, don’t use a belt. Once you’ve gained as much as you can as a beginner, a belt could be a good idea.
Injury History and High Blood Pressure
Last but not least, people with a hernia or high blood pressure shouldn’t wear belts. Weightlifting belts can worsen these problems and even worsen old injuries.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Weightlifting Belt
Numerous considerations must be taken into account while selecting the ideal weightlifting belt. We must consider the material, thickness if our belt employs prongs, velcro, or leather, and whether you should go with a mass-produced or custom-designed model.
Belts for weightlifting are composed of leather, suede, or nylon. The optimal material will depend on your comfort and preferences, as well as the length of time you intend to wear and use the item.
Velcro makes nylon belts generally more adaptable, whereas leather and suede provide stiffer support. The majority of weightlifters use leather. In addition to its extended lifespan, the material is sturdy and rigid, making it a trustworthy support.
Thickness and Width
The extra thickness provides rigidity that prevents the spine from bending. Some contend that a thicker belt is more durable and dependable. While this is true, another viewpoint argues that a thicker belt is not necessarily preferable due to comfort concerns.
A thicker belt can be uncomfortable for beginners, which may discourage their use and weightlifting as a whole.
Thickness and width must always be proportional to the weighing activity and the quantity of support required by the wearer. It is, therefore, essential to achieve a balance between utility and comfort.
Prongs, Velcro, or Leather
You are correct in assuming that Velcro Belts provide the least support compared to other weightlifting belts. The advantage, though, is that you may adjust the belt’s tightness to your exact specifications, and they are quite easy to put on and take off.
They are not perfect for squats or deadlifts, but they are excellent for CrossFit-style workouts in which you remove your belt between exercises.
To summarize, a weightlifting belt is not an accessory but a tool to have in your gym bag that certainly has its place. It can be used to provide extra bracing ability and stability in the core, which can help you lift heavier and reduce the risk of injury.
Knowing when, how, and why to use a belt can make a world of difference in personalizing your training program. Every person is different, so every individual’s experience with wearing or not wearing a belt will vary too.
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. Weigh up the pros and cons for yourself before making an informed decision about whether this seemingly small tool should give you that extra ounce of motivation – when it counts.
After discussing the key aspects of using weightlifting belts, it is important to remember that these tools are not only for those who train hard and often. Used correctly, they can be an essential piece of kit to ensure good form and build strength over a longer time.
Practicing proper risk management is essential when planning your workouts so that you can maximize the potential of your gains while avoiding injury. When used in conjunction with regular exercise, you’ll get stronger safely and optimally.
By recognizing when to use weightlifting belts and how to properly wear them, you’ll be able to make the most out of their benefits while protecting your body from harm.