Weight lifting belts are the one thing that anyone who takes working out in the gym seriously owns. Here’s how to choose the best one.
If you are confused by the styles and types of weight lifting belts available, or even unsure of if you need a weight lifting belt, this article should help. We’ve covered all the basics such as what to look for, and have also reviewed some of the best weight lifting belts on the market. More about that later on though. For now, let’s answer some FAQ.
What Do Weight Lifting Belts Do?
There is a lot of bad information out there regarding weight lifting belts. For example, some people think that they are used by people who are injured, or that using them weakens the core body muscles. Both of these assumptions are wrong.
What a weight lifting belt actually does, is create stability for your spine, allowing you to lift more and get bigger in the process. It does this by increasing the intra-abdominal pressure, which in turn keeps the spine stable. Of course, it isn’t as easy as simply putting a belt on. You also have to adopt the correct weight lifting breathing technique at the same time. This is called the Valsalva Maneuver, and we have more detailed information about this elsewhere in the site.
What Should I Look For In A Weight Lifting Belt?
You will probably already have realised that there is a bewildering array of weight lifting belts available to buy. Some of these are general purpose, some specialized to individual exercises, and some are to be honest just plain crap. That’s why we have put together our own guide to weight lifting belts, so you can select the one most suitable for you from the best of the best.
Generally speaking though, there are a few things you should look for in a good quality weight lifting belt.
- It should have an equal width all the way around. You will find some people go for a tapered design, but a more regular width is better for lifting.
- It should be made of leather. Whilst there are powerlifting belts made out of other materials available, a good leather weightlifting belt will quite literally last you a lifetime.
- Go for a single prong buckle where possible.
- Thicker is generally speaking more comfortable.
- If you know what you want, a custom weight lifting belt may be worth the extra investment.
How Wide Should A Lifting Belt Be?
A 4 inch, or 10cm powerlifting belt is almost (but not quite) standard, For most people this size fits comfortably between the hipbone and the ribs. For competing powerlifters, this is the most common maximum width allowed.
Are There Women’s Weight Lifting Belts?
Yes there are women’s weight lifting belts, although these are sometimes harder to come by. They are generally smaller and less wide than a standard lifting belt. We have included some great samples of women’s weight lifting belts in our indepth belt review.
What Material Should A Belt Be Made Of?
We have already touched on this briefly. However, we will say again that a leather belt is vastly superior to belts made of other materials. They are not super-expensive either. A weight lifting belt between 60 and 120 dollars will last you decades if you treat it right.
What Fastening System Do Weight Lifting Belts Have?
Powerlifting belts have three basic ways of fastening. These are a single prong, a double prong, and a lever fastening. In terms of effectiveness for fastening, they are all more or less equal. However, ask anyone who has worn a belt for along time which one they prefer, and they will always say a single prong. This is because it is just so much easier to adjust and less frustrating overall.
When Should You Wear A Weight Lifting Belt?
Have you ever seen someone doing curls while wearing a weight lifting belt? We have, and we have no idea what they are doing or why. A weight lifting belt offers no benefit when doing arms curls. Don’t even start us on the occasional person we have seen trying situps while wearing a belt!
A weight lifting belt should be worn for those big exercises such as deadlifts and squats. Unless you are Mr T and like wearing one all the time, take it off for the exercises that don’t need one!
How Tight Is Too Tight?
Finding the sweet point of where a belt is tight but not restricting may take a while at first, but will soon become second nature. The basic rule of thumb, is that the belt should be tightened to a point where you can still take a full breath and not raise the shoulders as you are doing so. When you try to exhale with your mouth closed, your abdomen should push against the belt.
What Angle Should You Wear It At?
Everyone has their own angle when it comes to where a weightlifting belt feels the most comfortable. One way to find it, is by having the belt tight, but not as tight as you will when exercising. Then, go down in a squat. The position it ends up in is normally where you should angle it. Some people also have the belt angled differently when squatting and deadlifting. Most prefer it to be higher when deadlifting. You will quickly find out where it is most comfortable for you.
Are Weight Lifting Belts Comfortable?
The answer to this is not really, but the thing to keep in mind, is that they are not supposed to be. Lifting belts are a practical item that serves a purpose. They are not fashion accessories or comfort aids! In fact, if a belt is too soft, it may not be doing you any good.
Where Can I Find Out More About Lifting Belts?
This article has given you the basics. Now, it is time to choose the best weight lifting belt for you! To help, we have put together a useful guide. We review the best weight lifting belts, and compare them side by side so that you can make an informed choice. Take a look at our guide to how to choose a weight lifting belt here.