The Definitive Weightlifting Belts Guide (2020)

Everything you need to know about weightlifting or lifting belts. What are weightlifting belts, their types & uses, how to use along with their benefits & drawbacks?

Weightlifting belts or lifting belts are quite an essential piece of equipment in most of the gyms and training centers. In most places, institutes themselves provide this necessary piece of equipment to professional trainers & athletes. Due to its increased popularity, a majority of trainees and weightlifters of all classes use the lifting belts.

Weight lifting belts are used by athletes from gyms to weight lifting competitions and even Olympics. These belts provide circular stability and support to spine & core muscles while lifting the heavyweights. They help with lifting heavy weights which are not possible otherwise.

What is a weightlifting belt?

weightlifting belt is kind of a wrap that is worn around the waist when lifting heavyweights. Different belts are made from different materials depending on their type, purpose, and use.

Weightlifting belts typically are made out of thick leather, or there are also nylon belts available. Leather belts are more commonly used because they are long-lasting, durable, and strong. The weightlifting belts are typically kept thick approximately between four inches to six inches. They end at a metal buckle which secures them after wearing on the waist.

What is the purpose of the weightlifting belt?

The first question that comes to mind when reading about a weightlifting belt is what does a weightlifting belt do? So let us share what the purpose of the weightlifting belt is?

As a common practice, a majority of the people use lifting belts to lift the extra weight which they are unable to lift without wearing a belt because a weightlifting belt provides additional support to the body.

A weightlifting belt has two significant purposes:

It decreases the level of stress applied to the lower back while lifting a weight. This stress decreases as the belt compress the abdominal cavity creating Intra-abdominal pressure (IAB). This pressure gives added support in front of the bones of the lower back, which allows the spinal erector muscles to exert decreased force while carrying out a lift.

It also suppresses the chances of hyperextension while carrying out overhead lifts. Hyperextension is an abnormality in which the joint moves away from its normal position creating an increased or decreased angle than the normal.

Weightlifting belts are meant for protecting oneself from injury or damage.

How do weightlifting belts work?

Before knowing the mechanism of working of a weightlifting belt, it is first necessary to learn how the body moves while you are carrying out squatting, deadlifting, or pressing heavyweight. In normal conditions, the core, also known as the torso is soft and very flexible the same as a sponge.

This characteristic makes it easier for the person to bend sideways, forwards and backwards and also twist easily. But this flexibility makes it difficult during squatting because you do not want a spongy core that would collapse earlier. Instead, everyone looks for a core that is hard and rigid enough.Abdomenal muscle

Image csource Repke Fitness

To get a hard and rigid core, bracing it is an essential requirement. Which typically occurs while you lift or push something substantial. Think about pushing a stalled car, for that you have to breathe deeply and hold it along with keeping your core muscles tight, that is how you brace your core.

 

Taking a deep breath and keeping a hold of it, simultaneously keeping your torsos tight leads to a rapid rise in the internal pressure of the core. This practice ultimately transforms your spongy center into a hard structure. This tightening of the muscles enables the weightlifter to lift or push more weight without causing any damage to the spine.

You must clear one thing in your mind that a weightlifting belt itself does not serve to anchor your back. It is not some kind of exoskeleton that strengthens your back just by wearing it on. It only gives a contraceptive cue to your torso to contract and tighten the core muscles firmly while you are lifting a heavyweight. 

A weightlifting belt facilitates the core muscles with the push back to tighten up to an added extent and indirectly anchors the torso by keeping core muscles hard and rigid enough.

What are the different types of weightlifting belts?

The types of weightlifting belts based on their use

1. Bodybuilding belts

  • The bodybuilding belts are made up of leather.
  • These belts are thick on the back & thin on the front.
  • Bodybuilding belts are wider on the back and comparatively narrower on the front.
  • These belts are a hybrid of Velcro belts and power lifting belts.
  • Double prong stainless steel roller buckle for added security & adjustment.
  • They give more pressure than a Velcro belt but lesser pressure than a power lifting belt.

2. Powerlifting belts

  • The powerlifting belts are made rigid and thick.
  • Their width is kept constant throughout the belt.
  • Power lifting belts provide an extra surface area on the abs that have direct contact with the belt.
  • Most of the belts are double prong stainless steel roller buckle.
  • They give a lot of internal pressure that ultimately gives added stability that lets the lifter carry extra weight.

AQF Sports Power Lifting Belt

3. Velcro belts

  • The Velcro belts are made up of synthetic material.
  • These belts bear limited force that is as long as the Velcro pops.
  • They provide a minimal amount of infra-abdominal pressure as compared to a power lifting belt or a bodybuilding belt.
  • These belts are not that good to give you efficient and elevated performances but are sufficient for recreational lifting.

AQF Sports Neoprene Weightlifting Belt

4. Dipping Belts

  • Dipping belts are available in both leather & synthetic material.
  • These belts Useful for gaining Chest, Triceps, Back & improve stamina.
  • Ideal for chin-ups and pull-ups

What are the different materials used in Weightlifting belts?

The types of weightlifting belts based on their material of construction

1. Leather belts

  • Design: These leather weightlifting belts are available in contoured, cylindrical or cone shape.
  • Activities to be used in: Leather belts are ideal for powerlifting, weightlifting, or even in recreational lifting.
  • Quality of belts: These belts are long-lasting, tough, and heavy.

AQF Sports leather weightlifting belt

2. Nylon belts

  • Design: These nylon weightlifting belts are available in cylindrical or cone designs.
  • Activities to be used in: Nylon belts are beneficial for weightlifting, recreational lifting, or even functional workouts.
  • Qualities of nylon belts: These belts are very versatile, light-weight, and comfortable to use.

AQF Sports Neoprene Belt

What are the benefits of weightlifting belts?

Advantages of using a weightlifting belt

1. A weightlifting belt causes an increase in the intra-abdominal pressure

A weight lifting belt is good to use because it leads to an increase in the intra-abdominal pressure created inside the abdomen. This makes it easier for the lifter to carry out heavy and strenuous weight lifting exercises.

2. A weightlifting belt provides stability to the spine

As we have already mentioned that a weightlifting belt increases the pressure in the abdomen, thus it ultimately leads to stabilizing the spine.

The increased pressure helps the spine to maintain stability and strength even while carrying out hard exercises involving the lifting of heavyweights.

This ultimately prevents the fall of the spine and saves it from collapsing over during weightlifting.

3. A weightlifting belt provides a pushback to your stomach

By wearing a weightlifting belt, the stomach of the weightlifter gets something to be pushed against. Due to the availability of an obstacle to be pushed against, the abdominal pressure is increased, further causing the weightlifting to be more fruitful and efficient.

One can also increase the intra-abdominal pressure by making a little effort on his own. For doing so, you have to take in a deep breath and take hold of your breath inside.

After that, do not exhale the breath in the normal manner as it will only take the air out of your lungs without providing you with any extra benefits. Be very careful while exhaling the air and take it out with the help of your stomach muscles. This specific movement is known as the Valsalva maneuver.

4. A weightlifting belt restricts the range of motion of lumbar movement

Wearing a weightlifting belt is very advantageous for a weightlifter in a number of terms. One of the great benefits of wearing a weightlifting belt is the restriction of the range of motion of the lumbar movement.

This allows very little movement of the lumbar range of motion, which gives extra protection to the weightlifter while lifting heavyweights.

5. A weightlifting belt enables the user to carry out a squat lift in a better and improved way

A weightlifting belt is very good to use and makes it easier for the user to carry out hard and strenuous weightlifting exercises in a reliable and improved way, ultimately showing elevated results. Wearing a weightlifting belt encourages the carrying out of a squat lift instead of carrying out a back lift.

The benefits of wearing a weightlifting belt while carrying out heavy weightlifting exercises 

  • Increases the Intra-abdominal pressure between 15-40%.
  • It decreases the spinal atrophy between 25-50%.
  • A weightlifting belt increases the bar speed by 6-15%.

Benefits of wearing weightlifting belt

6. A weightlifting belt reduces the stress being inserted on the lower back while carrying out weightlifting exercises

By taking into account the use of a weightlifting belt, one can carry out weightlifting exercises in a more protected and secure way. By wearing a weightlifting belt, the pressure inside the abdomen of the user undergoes a remarkable increase, which causes the stress being exerted on the lower back to undergo a measurable decrease.

7. A weightlifting belt helps in the maintenance of the proper position of the back

A weightlifting belt provides the user with a lot of benefits, including the maintenance of the appropriate structure of the back. This means that wearing a weightlifting belt will improve and enhance the back posture of the user which will ultimately maintain the back position and form of the weightlifter.

8. Weightlifting the muscles of the weightlifter to stay warm

While carrying out hard and strenuous weightlifting exercises, it really gets difficult for the weightlifter to remain consistent and continuous in his practice. This happens because the muscles of the body get cold, and due to tough physical exercise, it gets difficult for them to continue.

As a better option, it is recommended that weightlifters wear weightlifting belts because these belts keep the muscles of the weightlifter warm and help in smooth carrying out of the exercise.

9. A weightlifting belt improves the performance of the spinal erector muscles

By wearing a weightlifting belt, the performance of the spinal erector muscles is increased, which further supports the lower back of the weightlifter while lifting heavyweights. This enhanced performance of the spinal erector muscles enables the lower back to produce a decreased quantity of force while performing a lift.

10. A weightlifting belt reduces the level of spinal shrinkage

Using a weightlifting belt is very beneficial as it gives a lot of advantages to the user. One who wears a weightlifting belt is less likely to become a victim of the lower back compression than the one who does not wear any such belt. The spinal compressor is a significant issue during circuit weight training.

11. Wearing a weightlifting belt makes you feel more comfortable and improves the performance

It has been observed that some people find themselves more comfortable and protected while carrying out weightlifting practices if wearing a weightlifting belt than those who do not wear any such belts. This feeling plays a significant part in improving their performance and raising their results.

The effectiveness of weight-belts during multiple repetitions of the squat exercise View

12. A weightlifting belt leads to the production of improved biomechanics of the body

As per research studies, it has been found out that those who wear weightlifting belts are less likely to suffer any abnormal spinal flexion, spinal extension, and spinal lateral flexion. These movements basically refer to the forward bending of the spine, backward bending of the spine, and sideward bending of the spine, respectively.

Other than this function, a weightlifting belt causes a rise in hip flexion and knee flexion. This makes it possible to lift the weight by using your legs more than by using your back, which is the correct biomechanical position one must opt for while lifting anything from the ground.

13. A weightlifting belt improves the activity of the muscles ultimately promoting muscle growth

According to some research, it has been concluded that by wearing a weightlifting belt, the quadriceps muscles and the hamstring muscles become more working and active.

Having increased muscular activity while carrying out heavy exercises will benefit the user in the long run. This happens because it will lead to better muscle growth in the future.

How to use weightlifting belts?

The art of using lifting belts

1. Always choose the appropriate weightlifting belt

Always keep one thing in mind that using a weightlifting belt is only required while carrying out heavy powerlifting practices. When you wear a weightlifting belt, it enables you to lift heavier weight and also improves your results of practicing deadlifts, cleans, snatches and squats.

You do not require a weightlifting belt if you are doing any other exercises in which there is no heavy lifting. In addition to this, a weightlifting belt can also be used in case of heavy standing overhead press lifts to add stability to your spine and decrease the stress applied to it.

Weightlifting belts and back braces are both quite different from each other.

2. Go for a weight belt that has a uniform width

Go for a weightlifting belt that has uniform width all the way around. Keep one thing in your mind while buying a weightlifting belt that it must have an equal width throughout the belt. You must have seen belts that have narrower fronts and much wider backs, which lead to unequal support during weightlifting.

This imbalance of width gives imbalanced support to the user, which causes an error in his stability. Always choose a belt that has a standard width ranging from approximately 3-4 inches throughout the whole belt. Also that this belt size is most appropriate and admired because it gives extra comfort to the user.

Also, keep in mind that the thickness of the belt matters. The thicker the belt, the more comfortable it is. This is because a thick belt provided extra padding to the core of the athlete and adds an obstacle level to be pushed against.

3. When to use a weightlifting belt?

One must wear a weightlifting belt only during lifts where the attempt is close to his maximum bodyweight. You must wear a belt if you are going to carry out more than three repetitions. Keep one thing in mind that a belt is only required if carrying out heavy lifts that exert pressure on the spine.

Also, try to avoid using a belt in case you have to lift light weights that are less than 90% of your one-repetition maximum. But before you go for using a weightlifting belt, it is necessary that you actually know the right procedures for performing the exercise. And also that you are already good at stabilizing your back even without using a belt. Then gradually, you can jump down to using a belt in order to enhance your performance.

A weightlifting belt is only useful to be used while practicing heavy compound power lifts where there is actually the need to use the support. You might not get any improved results if you use a weightlifting belt during an isolation exercise, for example, bicep curls.

How to measure weightlifting belt

4. Where to tie the belt?

Wrap your belt around your waist, but make sure it is placed above your belly button. This is because the belt must rest above the muscles of the abdominal wall.

Never should you place the belt below the stomach as it will not cause you any benefit. Or even if you feel more comfortable this way. Also, the position of the belt may vary according to the type of lift you are going to carry out.

5. How tight should the belt be?

Tie the belt tightly but only to the level that does not affect your breathing. For this, breathe deeply and keep your abs flexed while wearing the belt. Now start tightening it until you feel your abs pushing against your belt. This way, you will be able to gain maximum benefits while carrying out weightlifting.

Do not wear it too tight so that it suffocates you or makes you feel uncomfortable. However, with regular use of the belt, you will get an idea of the appropriate level of tightness that you have to maintain.

A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to get your hand between your belly and the belt. Breaking Muscle

You may loosen the belt if it feels too tight while you are carrying out the exercise. It should only be tight enough that makes you feel comfortable and provides you with added anchorage.

Breathe deeply and hold your breath before you start repetition, then expel the air as you push to brace your abs. The right method of breathing is a must to gain the real benefits of a weightlifting belt.

6. When to remove the belt?

After you are finished with heavy weightlifting, take out your belt even if you have to carry out smaller exercises later. Wearing a weight belt for too long can affect abdominal development, so try to stabilize your body without relying upon the belt.

When should one use a weightlifting belt?

One should only use a weightlifting belt if he knows how to do weightlifting without using a belt. To get the real benefits from a weightlifting belt, it is a must that you know the right way and timings to carry out weightlifting and also if you are already a pro at weightlifting.

Image source Instagram

You should only go for using a weightlifting belt if you carry out hard and heavy exercises. Light exercises or even weightlifting using light weights do not require wearing the belt. You should only use one if you are to lift heavy weights or perform squatting.

Before switching to use a weightlifting belt, you must consult your trainer and doctor in order to get clean chit whether you are eligible for wearing one or not. If you are a victim of any serious medical issues like hernia, high blood pressure, etc. then you must not go with using a weightlifting belt.

Should beginners use a lifting belt?

As per many experts, using a weightlifting belt is not recommended for beginners, there stand a number of reasons behind this statement. The major reason is that a weightlifting belt works only if you already know the appropriate method to carry out weightlifting training without relying upon the belt. This is because a belt gives you no benefit if you are not carrying out the exercises in the right way.

Another reason for not recommending beginners to use this belt is that weightlifting belts cause an effect on the motor system of the user. So a beginner should not use any such belts as their use will affect his learning, and he may not be able to perform excellently during his career.

Weightlifting belts for women

In the present time, women have started taking an interest in keeping themselves fit and healthy. For this reason, they are into carrying out exercises that keep their body active and strong. Weightlifting has sought much attraction from women because of its numerous advantages. Like men weightlifters, women also prefer using weightlifting belts because these belts give extra protection, support, and anchorage to the spine, which enables the lifter to lift more weight.

Weightlifting Belts for women

Harms of using weightlifting belt by women

A weightlifting belt especially affects the pelvic floor of a woman’s body. A pelvic floor is a group of muscles that rest at the base of the pelvis. This area helps in providing a site for baby development and also includes the placement of other organs like bladder, uterus, etc.

Wearing a weightlifting belt increases the intra-abdominal pressure, which directly affects the pelvic floor resulting in its weakening. For this reason, it is recommended to women to use weightlifting belts as less as they can in order to keep their body healthy and fit.

How to choose the right weightlifting belt?

Shopping for a weightlifting belt

Shopping for a weightlifting belt is quite a hard task. It is so because you have to search through the whole market and find out which one is better for you and which not. You look for something comfortable, long-lasting, and very efficient in use.

While selecting a belt, one feels excited and concerned. Always remember But you also have to keep in mind that the type of exercise for which you will be using the belt limits your desires. And you only have the option to choose the belt as per the requirements of the situation.

A thick belt does not necessarily mean a better option

The average width of the most widely used belts ranges from 10 millimeters to 13 millimeters. A better thickness of the belt means better support and anchorage to your spine. But it is not always a good point to go with. One must keep his comfort and ease in mind before choosing the right belt. And should gradually keep on increasing the thickness as the practice proceeds ahead.

Go with the belt that is made from the material that suits your lifting style

Weightlifting belts are made from a variety of materials like leather, Velcro, or suede. But the belt you should choose is completely upon your purpose of using the belt. Powerlifting belts are preferred to be leather made as these belts last for a longer period of time, and they are stronger.

Talking about the suede belt, it is softer and feels more comfortable to wear. Also, a combination of both these materials is also put together to form a belt that is both good and comfortable to use. For Olympic lifting, one can opt for a Velcro belt as it is most appropriate.

Choose a belt that is comfortable

Firstly measuring your waist at the navel and then choosing the right size of your belt is the wisest option. Make sure you take the measurements appropriately because wrong readings can put you in trouble while carrying out heavy weightlifting.

Precautions:

For heavy lifting always opt for a leather belt instead of the nylon belt because leather belts last longer than the nylon ones. Also, leather belts are more durable, and they provide better support.

Also, make sure that the belt you choose has a prong buckle closure. Do not go for a belt that has a Velcro strap at its terminal. This is because a Velcro belt can easily get unstrapped while carrying out weightlifting. This happens because of the tension created by the core while doing a heavy lift. And of course, no one wants his weightlifting belt to come off in the middle of lifting the weight.

Another precautionary measure which is a must consider, is that if you are suffering from high blood pressure should not go with using a lifting belt. This is because tightening the belt leads to a rise in blood pressure.

To wrap it up!

Weightlifting belts help protect the body from injuries while heavy weight lifting. They add stability and strength to back muscles but can also weaken your core strength or cause problems for people with blood pressure . Weightlifting belts are just a tool like any other tool & only it's use can determine the effectiveness of the instrument. Lifting belts can add to your natural game as well as become a hindrance to your growth if they are not correctly used.