When is the Right Time to Start Wearing a Weightlifting Belt?Strength Training 6 min Read
A friend from high school asked this question recently. I sent her a short response, and I promised to…
Powerlifting belts are awesome when you are ready for them.
They will absolutely increase your PRs on the squat and deadlift.
*IF* you have the right belt.
That’s what this article is all about.
Weightlifting belts come in a few different materials, but the most common are leather and nylon.
Nylon belts usually don’t offer the same level of support that leather belts do, but some can come close.
However, they aren’t useless.
Nylon belts can be great for olympic weightlifting, and they tend to be cheaper. This is because they provide enough support to engage your core without being as bulky as leather belts. This is mainly an issue on the clean and snatch because you need to keep the bar close to your body. Nylon belts are lower profile and reduce the chance of catching the bar. They’re also easy to put on and take off. That can be very nice for submaximal lifts.
Leather belts increase the transmission of force around your core and provide a more solid surface to press against. The harder you can press against the belt the harder the belt will press back.
For heavy lifts at max effort like the squat and deadlift you definitely want a leather belt.
Belts generally come in two different cuts or shapes: tapered, or untapered.
A tapered belt is more narrow in the front and is wider in the back. This is foolish when you consider how a weightlifting belt works.
Untapered belts are what you want.
Early in my strength training career when I was doing my own research on belts I read a quote that stuck with me.
“No one has ever set a world record [powerlifting world record] in a tapered belt.”
Untapered powerlifting belts come in a default size of 4″. This is a great size for most men of average proportions.
If you are a smaller framed individual (most females) you will find a 3″ belt to be much more comfortable. This is because a wider belt will dig into your hips and/or ribs as you descend into a squat/deadlift leading to discomfort and sometimes bruising.
Most leather powerlifting belts come in 10mm or 13mm thickness. These belts are made of a solid leather core, and are incredibly rigid.
So rigid that there is no benefit to the extra thickness of a 13mm belt. Get a 10mm belt. It will be easier to break in, lighter, and easier to put on or take off.
These powerlifting belts will typically come in a single prong, double prong, or lever action.
Double prong belts are more trouble than they are worth. 10mm leather belts are so thick and transmit force so evenly that two prongs just becomes a hassle to get on or off. I once got stuck in a double prong belt for 15 minutes and it took the assistance of two other trainers, all six of our arms, a foot, and a pole to get the belt off.
This leaves single prongs, and lever-action belts.
Lever-action belts are popular because they are easy to get on and off. It is as simple as flipping a lever. The drawbacks are that your belt is not as easy to resize so it makes it more time-consuming to share the belt with a friend, and more moving parts mean increased chances of breaking.
The main issue with lever-action belts, and the reason I advise against them, is because they are uncomfortable. Instead of bringing the two ends together like in a prong belt, a lever-action belt brings one end of the belt underneath the other. This can press into your stomach and be distracting.
Single prongs win because they are easy to get on and off once you know the technique. They can be easily shared with a friend, and they do not break like lever belts are known to.
At this point you should be looking at a leather, untapered, 4″ (or 3″ if you are smaller) wide, 10mm thick, single prong belt.
Now you need a reputable brand.
These belts usually run ~$100. That can seem pricey at first, but consider that this belt will last the rest of your life. You will never need to buy another.
Inzer is the most well-known brand and the maker of my belt. But I don’t recommend them. This is because their customer service is terrible (can be downright rude), their build times can be slow, and their popularity comes from being a pioneer in the field. In today’s market there are better options.
Best Belts makes the 3″ belt we use for smaller framed clients, and their 4″ belt is quality as well.
Pioneer Belts does a lot of custom work, but again, their build times can be slow.
If you’re looking for a nylon belt then I suggest going with a 2POOD belt. 2POOD is the brand that changed my mind about nylon weightlifting belts. They’re an even thickness all the way around, easy to get on and off, provide a good level of support, ship quickly, and priced cheaper than leather belts.
Well, now you need a great strength training program.
I advise waiting until you have reached intermediate status in your strength training journey before employing a belt.
If that’s you then you want a program optimized for intermediate trainees.
Click the link below to download a free intermediate strength program.Download The Seriously Strong Intermediate Program