The Complete Guide to Lifting Belts
We are back to talk about another important accessory you should purchase – a lifting BELT!
Though we recommend purchasing shoes utmost and foremost, most lifters who have been training through the Novice Linear Progression will want to look into getting a lifting belt after the first month or two. The one exception to this is if you have a significant history of back injury or pain. We definitely recommend a belt and using a belt sooner for this type of individual.
One of the most important things to learn as you begin to lift weights is how to set your back in isometric contraction to safely protect the spine and transmit the force of the weight into movement of the barbell. Once you have learned how to do this, a belt can help to increase the ability of our trunk muscles to brace. It is not cheating! It is giving your abs and trunk something to push against which helps increase tightness.
The belt should also not give you a false sense of confidence. The belt can make things feel tighter and it can be easy to think you have your back set, when it is not. This is why belts are not recommended for brand new lifters. It is best to take the time to learn to control your low back position before beginning to use a belt. And even when you begin to use one, you need to do the hard work of setting your back. If you let your back flex into the belt on a squat for example, you can really make your ribs sore later. You are still in control of your spine!
What width should my lifting belt be?
Not all belts are created equal! Because of the way we are using the belt to brace our entire trunk, we want to choose a belt that is uniform in its width. A belt that is tapered in the back will not lend itself to giving uniform tension around the trunk.
A belt that is leather and about 10 mm thick is ideal, as it is rigid enough for the abs to push hard against without a lot of give.
You can purchase a custom made belt, which come in a variety of colors and can even be personalized from companies such as Best Belts, Bob’s Belts, or Pioneer Belts. These belts usually take about 12 weeks to get made and sent to you, so plan accordingly.
You can also purchase a belt by size from Dominion Strength, Inzer or Titan. These belts have a much faster turnaround time and still are a good quality belt.
If you’re interested in an amazing deal on a high quality belt, use our code “FAHVEOFF” at checkout for Dominion Strength.
One of the big decisions to make in purchasing a belt is the width. Belts come in 4 inch, 3 inch and 2.5 inch widths. The width of belt that is right for you depends on your build, particularly the length of your trunk and the width of your hips. In general taller people can wear a wider belt, but this is dependent on trunk length.
Many females with curvier hips may need a 2.5 inch belt to not be sliding around the hips.
It is also common for many people for a wider belt to be the best for squats, presses and perhaps bench, but for a more narrow belt to be needed for the deadlift. This can be true especially if you are newer to wearing a belt.
Lever Belts and 2 prong belts work well too, though they can be harder to get on and adjust for exact tightness. A good belt for a beginner is a one pronged variety.
How tight and where do I put this thing?
The belt should be worn tightly. Right around your belly button or natural waist. Way too many folks are wearing the belt too loose. In fact, if you don’t want to take your belt off as soon as you finish your set, it probably isn’t tight enough. The belt isn’t comfortable and it is typical to get a little sore from starting to use one, especially to experience soreness in your abs. This doesn’t mean you did something wrong! If you are someone who bruises easily, you may notice some bruising after the first week or so that you use it. That being said, the belt also should not be too tight, that it makes you feel light-headed to take a deep breath or that you really have to elongate your trunk to put it on.
Once the belt is on, you are going to set your back as you normally would for your lifts. Bracing the abs as though someone is going to punch you. You don’t want to push your abs out actively into the belt, as this will cause flexion of the low back and make it hard to maintain a neutral spine.
For most individuals, it is best to begin your warm ups without the belt and add it on the last warm up set or two before the workset.
An exception to this would be for someone who has a history of back injury and may want to wear the belt on any warm up that is not the empty bar.
When worn correctly, the belt will make the bar feel lighter because you have reached a new level of tightness, and therefore your spine is going to transmit force more efficiently. You can get very strong without a belt though, and this is why if finances are an issue, choose shoes first!