Weightlifting is a popular form of exercise that involves lifting heavy weights to build strength and muscle mass. However, lifting heavy weights can put significant stress on the lower back and core muscles, leading to potential injuries. To mitigate these risks, many weightlifters use a weightlifting belt.
Today, we will explore the purpose of a weightlifting belt, its benefits, the different types available, how to wear one correctly, and when it is appropriate to use or avoid using a lifting belt.
What is the Purpose of a Lifting Belt?
A lifting belt has two purposes. It stabilizes the core by alleviating stress on the lower back as the person performs lifts. Lifting belts also keep backs from hyperextending during dynamic lifts.
By providing intra-abdominal pressure, lifting belts support the spine and act as a tool that core muscles can brace against as your abdominal wall expands. This allows weightlifters like you to lift heavier loads safely without risking potential injuries.
Some exercises that lifting belts help with are bench presses, deadlifts, squats, and more.
Benefits of a Weight Belt
There are plenty of reasons to wear a weightlifting belt. Below are seven reasons why powerlifters, bodybuilders, and strongmen alike all wearing lifting belts during their workouts:
- Enhanced Core Stability: When lifting, the core muscles are pressed against the wall of the belt, leading to improved stability during lifts. This increased stability allows weightlifters to maintain proper form and reduce the risk of injuries caused by improper movements.
- Increased Intra-Abdominal Pressure: The belt's tight fit increases intra-abdominal pressure, acting as a support system for the lower back. This pressure supports the spine, reducing the load on the intervertebral discs and minimizing the risk of compression injuries.
- Lifting Heavier Loads: With better stability and support, weightlifters can lift heavier weights with more confidence. The belt allows them to focus on the targeted muscle groups, leading to better overall performance.
- Increased Awareness of Lower Back Position: The feeling of your lifting belt scraping against your lower back lets you know what muscles are being engaged. This allows you to maintain good posture throughout your lift and adjust your position to get the maximum effort out of each rep.
- Prevents Back Hyperextension: Lifting belts force your lower torso to remain rigid by building a stiff wall that connects your hips and rib cage. This prevents bending and twisting on the front and side planes.
- Injury Prevention: By reducing stress on the lower back and spine, weightlifting belts can help prevent common weightlifting injuries, such as strains and sprains.
- Great for Beginners: A belt cannot replace good core work, but it is great for helping beginning lifters learn how to squeeze their abs correctly. Still, you should not solely depend on using a weight belt. Instead, focus on technique, form, and stabilizing the body so that you can have the fundamentals down as well.
Types of Weightlifting Belts
There are several types of weightlifting belts that you can use, but each type of belt has a different build and purpose. Here are the four most popular types of lifting belts you’ll wear when you perform your exercises:
- Powerlifting Belt: This belt is usually wider in the front and tapers towards the back. It provides excellent support for heavy lifts, making it a favorite among powerlifters. Check out our powerlifting belts.
- Olympic Lifting Belt: Olympic weightlifting belts are narrower and more flexible, allowing for a more excellent range of motion during dynamic lifts like snatches and clean and jerks.
- Velcro Closure Belt: These belts use a Velcro strap for fastening instead of a buckle. They are quick to put on and take off, making them a convenient option for some lifters. If you are looking for a quick and functional option, then Velcro belts are a great choice.
- Leather Belt: Leather weightlifting belts are durable and provide excellent support, but they may require some breaking in before they become comfortable.
Lifting belts can also vary in size, with two of the most popular thicknesses being 10mm and 13mm. Not sure which one to pick? We wrote a guide comparing 10mm belts versus 13mm belts.
How to Wear a Lifting Belt
Wearing a lifting belt is incredibly easy. It’s all about the placement of the belt and how you utilize it before you lift weight. Here’s how to wear a lifting belt if you’re a first-timer:
- Place the belt around your waist, just above the hip bones, and align it with your lower back.
- Tighten the belt until it fits snugly but allows you to breathe comfortably. Avoid over-tightening, as it can restrict your range of motion.
- Before lifting, take a deep breath and hold it, pushing your abdomen against the belt. This creates intra-abdominal pressure and adds support to your core.
The lifting belt's tightness will largely depend on the thickness and type of lifting belt you're using. For example, thicker weight belts will put more pressure on the abdomen and lever belts typically come in a fixed size.
Figure out your preferences first before purchasing a lifting belt. Once you've identified the right type of belt for you, this will make finding the ideal fit 10X easier.
When to Wear a Lifting Belt
Because of its specific build, there are only certain times you should wear a weightlifting belt. Typically, the best times to wear a lifting belt are when you’re doing heavy lifts like squats, deadlifts, and bench press or have lingering lower back issues.
Whenever you’re doing strength training, wearing a belt will help you keep the spine in a neutral position so that you don’t move out of your range of motion. Furthermore, a weightlifting belt can provide additional support and relief to those whose lower back might not be able to support the load it once was able to.
When to Not Wear a Lifting Belt
It’s not always necessary to wear a lifting belt. From a general standpoint, you shouldn’t wear a weightlifting belt whenever you’re doing warm-up sets, working on form, or doing lighter exercises like cardio or bodyweight workouts.
In these situations, you are not focused on core stability and support. In fact, using a lifting belt whenever doing warm-up sets or cardio could hinder your workout performance.
Furthermore, your blood pressure can increase over time if you use a weightlifting belt consistently. If you suffer from heart disease or blood pressure problems, take considerable caution when using your belt.
Another thing to consider is your bracing technique. While belts can help with the lift, they can also make it hard to identify a good or bad brace. Training without a lifting belt will allow you to focus on bracing properly. Once you’ve figured out your bracing, you can add a belt to work on PRs.
The purpose of a weightlifting belt is to increase your core stability and intra-abdominal pressure while helping you safely handle heavier loads without the risk of injury. However, before using a lifting belt, you should understand when and how to use it correctly.
Remember that a weightlifting belt is not a substitute for your technique. If your technique is poor, your lifting will suffer. Instead, get the form down and use your lifting belt to help you push through the exercise.
At TuffWraps, we understand that weightlifting is more than just a physical activity—it’s a lifestyle. That's why we offer a wide range of lifting belts built to provide the support that you've been looking for. Check them out today!