All About Lifting Belts: Why, When, How, Which Lifts
Learn how to use a lifting belt, why you should wear one, how it works, which lift to add it to first, when to add it in your workout and as you progress as a lifter, the advantages and disadvantages of a lever belt versus a prong belt, and how to put it on. Learn all about belts in the one belt video to rule them all.
How They Work
Lifting belts work by enabling he muscles around your “core”–the muscles of your abdominals, sides, and low back–to better stabilize your trunk and spine. A belt does not work in place of these muscles but allows them to exert more isometric force. Because of this, a belt is definitely not a crutch. It allows these muscles to work harder and for you to lift more weight and thus get stronger, which is why we recommend lifters wear a belt (though it is not absolutely required).
When to Add the Belt
We recommend lifters buy a belt during the first couple months of lifting. The belt is not needed initially as the lifts are relatively light and the lifters are focusing on improving form and adding weight. As the lifts’ difficulty increase, a belt can help extend a lifter’s linear progression. Adding it later also ensures the lifter can stabilize his trunk without the belt and the belt does not interfere with the lifter’s performance of the lift.
Don’t wear the belt for the entirety of the workout, but you also shouldn’t only wear the belt during your work sets. Ensure you wear the belt for enough warm ups that the belt does not alter the feel of the lift. Wear the belt for at least your last warm up and potentially your last few warm ups.
How to Use Them
You place the belt roughly centered around your navel. It should not touch your hip pointers or the bottom of your ribs as you perform the lifts. You’ll need narrower belt if you have a narrower torso. For most people, a 3″ belt is appropriate.
The belt should be tight and uncomfortable (you shouldn’t want to wear it the entire workout), but you should be able to put a finger in between your belly and the belt without sucking your gut in. Most beginners don’t put the belt on tightly enough.
Types of Belts
Two main options exist for belts: lever belts and prong belts. Prong belts allow more flexibility with less work. You tight the belt to the hole that works for you that day, and if your waist increases or decreases, you don’t need to adjust anything besides the hole the prong enters. Lever belts go on and off much easier, but if you lose or gain inches on your waist, you’ll have to adjust the lever with a screw driver.
Don’t purchase or use nylon belts or the belts that are narrow in the front but extremely tall in the back. The belt should be the same height all the way around.
Either belt option offers plenty of flexibility with weight fluctuations as long as you start near the middle holes. You shouldn’t need to purchase another belt due to weight loss unless you undergo a huge bodyweight transformation.
Adding a belt will feel weird at first, so we recommend you first add it to your press, because you don’t bend over during the press so it will feel the least uncomfortable. Next, add it to the squat, because you begin at the top, so, though you bend over, you do not spend a long amount of time bent over. Last, add it to the deadlift, because you set up in a bent over position the belt will feel the most uncomfortable. It should not, however, touch your hip pointers or the bottom of your ribs, so, again, you may need to get a narrower belt (3″ or maybe even narrower).
You can wear a belt on other lifts. A belt can help on the bench press, especially if you have perfected leg drive. Wearing a belt on other lifts, such as Olympic lift variants and rows, also makes sense. Finally, belts are usually worn during Strong Man events.