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Why Does Your Lifting Belt Pinch You? 4 Reasons Why

man wearing lifting belt that pinches him

When you begin using a lifting belt, you may experience frequent pinching and bruising on your stomach, mainly during squats. This issue is quite common among new lifters. The primary reasons for bruising while wearing a lifting belt are often attributed to its tightness or newness without proper breaking in, especially noticeable with thicker leather belts of 10mm or more.

Thankfully, there are practical solutions to minimize or prevent bruising altogether. Below, I'll share some practical tips to help alleviate this discomfort.

Why Does Your Lifting Belt Pinch You?

1. Wearing Your Belt Tightly

The most common mistake I see new lifters make, which can cause a lot of bruising and discomfort, is that they cinch theirweightlifting belt too tightly and wear it like a girdle. It is a common misconception that tighter is always better for your lifting belt. Fortunately, this is just not true. Tightening your belt can have many downsides. The most obvious is that it will pinch and bruise your skin but can also hurt you in other ways. Mainly, wearing your belt too tight may limit your oxygen, hurt your ability to get a full brace, and limit your squat depth.

Ways to Fix it:

The ideal tightness of your lifting belt can vary depending on the individual and the type of lift, such as squats versus deadlifts. However, a basic guideline suggests that when your belt is fastened, there should be enough space to slide a couple of fingers between the belt and your abdomen. It's crucial to find a balance where the belt is snug enough to stay in place without shifting during lifts, yet not so tight that it restricts your ability to take a full breath. Your abdominal muscles should have room to expand and contract naturally against the belt, especially during heavy lifts.

Related:Do Lifting Belts Make You Stronger?

2. You Have Not Broken Your Brand-new Belt Just Yet

Breaking in a new leather powerlifting belt is a process that takes time and patience. 

Unlike other materials, new leather belts tend to be rigid and stiff because they haven't yet conformed to your body's shape. This initial stiffness can lead to discomfort, including pinching and bruising, especially during the first few months of use. It's essential to be aware of this before purchasing a belt and to research what to expect during the break-in period. It's worth noting that not all belts are the same regarding break-in time. Some may require several months of regular use to become comfortable, while others may adapt more quickly, possibly after just one session of squats.

Ways to Fix it:

The primary solution to this problem is consistently using your belt over time. Regular wear will naturally break in the belt, causing it to soften and conform to your body shape gradually. This process is particularly noticeable with belts made of less rigid materials like inexpensive leather or nylon with Velcro closures. Such belts typically have a shorter break-in period, often achieved within a few gym sessions. However, if you prefer to expedite the break-in process or achieve a higher degree of flexibility faster, there are specific strategies you can employ.

  • Rolling your lifting belt tightly: It can help accelerate the break-in process, akin to treating it like a new baseball glove. To do this effectively, roll the belt tightly in both directions and store it in a snug space for an extended period. This method can aid in softening the material and adapting it to your body more quickly.
  • Utilizing heavy objects:This is another method some people employ to expedite the break-in process of their lifting belt. Additional pressure is applied by placing heavy items on the rolled or folded belt, which can help soften the leather more rapidly. This approach involves combining the use of heavy objects with rolling or folding the belt tightly for optimal results.
  • Put something oily or jelly-like on your belt: Some individuals use substances like olive oil or a mixture of rubbing alcohol and petroleum jelly. The idea is to apply the mixture evenly to the belt using a cloth and rub it in, which is believed to increase the belt's flexibility by conditioning the leather.

Related:Is Using a Lifting Belt Cheating?

3. Incorrect Belt Position

Regardless of whetherthe best lifting belt is used, a common mistake among novice lifters is incorrect body positioning. Placing the belt too high or too low can lead to unnecessary pinching during movements involving torso bending or maneuvering. A lifter should knowhow to wear a lifting belt, but finding the correct position for your belt may require some trial and error. It's essential to ensure that the belt is correctly and comfortably positioned for each movement you perform during your workout.

Ways to Fix it:

Finding the correct positioning for your lifting belt is a straightforward process that involves experimentation. A good starting point is to position the belt right under your ribcage, covering your belly button. After tightening it appropriately, perform a bodyweight movement such as a squat or deadlift. If you experience discomfort or anticipate bruising, adjust the belt up or down accordingly. It's crucial to address any discomfort during bodyweight movements because this discomfort can intensify when you add weights. Patience in finding the right position is key to avoiding pinching and bruising. 

Additionally, some individuals wear their belts differently for squats and deadlifts based on their body mechanics and leverage. It's essential not to overlook this aspect if you're experiencing bruising in squats but not in deadlifts. Tailoring the belt placement to each lift can help optimize comfort and performance.

4. Your Belt Is Either Thick or Too Wide

If you're experiencing bruising despite addressing other potential causes, your lifting belt may be either too wide or thick for your body. Even after breaking in the belt, and ensuring proper tightening and placement, persistent bruising may indicate that the belt is not the right size for you.

Ways to Fix it:

Check the belt manufacturer's website for sizing information to find the right length. Unintended leather overlap from a long belt can squeeze and bruise flesh when lifted. Most powerlifters don't need belts wider than 10.16cm or thicker than 10mm. Women may prefer a 7.62cm or tapered belt, which narrows along the sides and front. Belts larger than these are usually for elite powerlifters or larger people. If you don't fit these categories, a thinner, more flexible belt may improve lift comfort and performance.


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