Are You Using A Lifting Belt Too Early? (Or Late?)
April 1st 2020
It has already been proven time and time again that wearing a lifting belt results in increased strength in the squat, deadlift, and overhead press.
On the flip side, there are some lifters who adamantly believe that wearing a lifting belt is considered cheating or that it makes your core weak.
These are the same people who believe in lifting “naturally” without the use of any equipment.
While it may be true that there are some lifting products out there that can be used as a crutch to artificially increase your strength, for example, knee wraps. The truth of the matter is, wearing a lifting belt does not fit into this category.
Lifting belts help you to lift more weight not by giving you an artificial advantage during the lift, but by allowing your body to stay tighter as well as giving your brain a sense of security so that you can push yourself more.
We will discuss the benefits more later in the article.
But the main thing to take away is that lifting belts will result in increased strength for most lifters and more often than not, it is a better idea to train with one than without one.
With that being said, where do beginners fit into this equation? When should they start using a lifting belt? What should you look for in a lifting belt?
All of these questions and more will be answered up ahead.
Benefits of a lifting belt
Increased Intraabdominal pressure
As mentioned earlier on, a lifting belt helps to increase your strength by allowing your body to remain tight throughout the entire lift.
If you are following the proper steps to perform a lift, you start by taking a deep breath into your belly and you hold this breath for the duration of the rep.
The reason for doing this is to increase your body’s intraabdominal pressure (pressure that is within the abdominal cavity) which acts to help protect your spine and to keep your body nice and rigid throughout the entire lift.
The next time you are in the gym, try lifting without taking a deep breath into your stomach and lifting with a deep breath.
The difference in stability and easiness is night and day.
And by wearing a lifting belt, this intraabdominal pressure can further increase to its maximum potential.
This works because when you take in a deep breath into your stomach, while your stomach expands, the expansion is limited by the belt.
By preventing your stomach from expanding all the way outwards, the intraabdominal pressure in your body is increased allowing you to stay even more tight and rigid throughout the entirety of the lift.
This will help you lift more weight.
In addition, by wearing a lifting belt, you are also enhancing your body’s proprioception system, the system that tells your body where it is positioned which has the added benefit of giving you feedback to improve your form.
Similar to how knee sleeves work, by placing something wrapped around your trunk, you can feel what position your lower back is in a lot better.
This increased awareness allows you to make the appropriate micro adjustments in order to correct any form deviations such as rounding of the lower back.
Wearing a lifting belt will help you to increase your maximum strength with and without the belt.
It is a tool used to help overload your body and push it to its limits.
By lifting more weight, you will get more stronger. It is as simple as that.
All in all, by using a lifting belt, you are able to lift more weight, and lifting more weight will result in increased strength gains.
What to look for in a lifting belt
There are many different types of lifting belts all suited for different purposes, but for the purposes of powerlifting or increasing your strength in the main 3 lifts (Squat, overhead press, and deadlift), you will want a belt that is both wide and thick.
A wider belt will cover more surface area on your abdomen, and a thicker belt increases the amount of pressure you exert which will help keep you tighter throughout the lift.
Because of this, we will want a belt that is 4 inches wide, and at least 9 mm in thickness.
Another factor to take into consideration is the type of locking mechanism you want for your belt.
There are two different locking mechanisms for lifting belts, using prongs or levers
Prongs are traditional weightlifting belts and are very similar to normal belts.
It uses 2 prongs which you have to fit into the holes each time you put on the belt.
This works well for keeping your body secure, but it can be a pain to take on or off.
The benefit is that you can easily change the tightness of the belt if you use a different tightness during the squat or bench press.
A lever belt is a newer belt that uses a lever as a locking mechanism.
This makes it easy and fast to put the belt on and take it off.
However, the downside of it is that you are limited by only one size.
In order to adjust the size, you will need to use a screwdriver to re-adjust the belt which can be a pain if you prefer your belt to have a different tightness during the squat or deadlift.
Or, if you are on a diet (or bulk) and have a variable waist size. It can be something annoying to have to change week by week.
This is why we recommend most beginner lifters start off with a pronged belt and see how they feel from there.
Now that you know that factors you should keep in mind when selecting a belt, here is our recommendation for the best lifting belt for beginners that has the greatest quality, will last you a long time, and gives you the most bang for your buck.
Recommended lifting belt
Our recommended lifting belt of choice is the RDX double-pronged powerlifting belt.
It fits all the specifications we explained earlier on what you should look for in a belt (4” width, 10mm thickness, leather so that it doesn’t degrade, and double-pronged so you can adjust how tight you want the belt very easily.
In addition, RDX is a very reputable brand in the powerlifting and strongman industry and is known for its durable and high-quality products.
The pros of a double-pronged belt?
- More natural feeling
- You can adjust the width if you are bloated or not
This belt should last you for years on your weightlifting journey.
For those who are fans of the lever locking mechanism, RDX also makes the same exact belt but with a lever system.
Benefits of the lever belt?
- Easy to snap on and off
However, lever belts are more prone to wear and tear and can be broken over time. Especially if you are lifting heavy weights or are wearing it very tight.
If you are looking for something that can last you an even longer time, the double-pronged belt will provide you with more durability.
Should beginners use a lifting belt?
I would not have a beginner use a belt until they spent at least a few months consistently training.
Once they have some training experience, adding a belt will definitely help support any lifter’s goal of getting stronger.
A lifter should strategically use a belt as well, depending on their goals and aspirations.
For instance, if you are powerlifting, learn how to use a belt during your heavy sets.
If you are bodybuilding, you may not place so much emphasis on using a belt but using it once in a while to get through tough workouts can be a tactic you opt to use.
Depending on your situation, you will choose to utilize a lifting belt in order to get to your goals faster.