A lot of the gear you see guys sporting at the gym simply isn’t necessary.
Take weightlifting gloves and chalk, for example.
They definitely give off that “this guy means business” type of vibe.
But there’s no unwritten gym rule that says you need to use them or that your gains will stall without them—they’re simply there to make your workouts a bit easier.
So what about weightlifting belts….do you actually need to wear one?
Let’s find out!
Table of Contents
What are Weightlifting Belts for?
Most serious lifters will wear weightlifting belts during heavy sets of snatches and squats, primarily because they provide extra intra-abdominal pressure.
Here’s the true weight lifting belts purpose explained in simpler terms.
When you’re doing heavy sets of exercises like squats, you hold your breath and flex your core for the sake of form, stability, and power.
A weightlifting belt can provide an extra artificial layer of pressure to push up against.
This takes excess pressure off your spine, helps to keep the spine in a more natural position with each rep (lower risk of hyperextension), and can even boost your power output.
Increased safety during heavy lifts and the potential to lift a little heavier than usual.
What Weightlifting Belts Can’t Do
Weightlifting belts can help you to keep good form during exercises like snatches and deadlifts.
But there are some things that weightlifting belts just can’t do.
For example, you shouldn’t expect to see a massive increase in your PRs on day one.
The extra support can help with power output, but you’re only as strong as your weakest muscle. Some nylon on your waist won’t add 50 or 100 pounds to your squat or clean and jerk.
Also, while weightlifting belts can make lifting safer, there are no guarantees.
Injuries in the gym happen all the time, and you shouldn’t be dependent on your belt to keep good form. If you need a belt to maintain form, you’re probably not ready for that weight yet.
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What Kind of Weightlifting Belt Should I Get?
With so many different types of belts out there, terms like “weightlifting,” “powerlifting,” and “bodybuilding” will be enough to leave your head spinning.
So first, what makes a belt a weightlifting belt?
Weightlifting belts are usually at least 4” wide around the back—sometimes up to 6” wide—and taper off around the sides and the front.
These belts are popular because they’re less likely to dig into your hips and ribs like powerlifting belts. The tapering also limits the material at your core, allowing for a greater ROM.
You’ll also notice that weightlifting belts are typically made of a softer material like nylon, boast some extra padding along the spine, and have a velcro or roller buckle closure system.
So here are some tips for selecting the best weightlifting belt for you:
- If you choose a velcro belt, find one with two velcro connections—on the inside and on the outer strap—for double security and a lesser risk of the belt popping open.
- Go for a leather powerlifting belt if you’re looking to keep your sets to five reps or fewer, need more pressure around the core, or are nearing lifts of 400 pounds or more.
- Regardless of the type of belt you choose, prioritize the more reputable brands in the industry—these include ProFitness, Harbinger, Dark Iron Fitness, Schiek, and Inzer.
- Consider the length of your torso to figure out belt width—shorter guys should lean toward 4” belts and taller guys toward 6” for adequate support and little discomfort.
Still, feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure of which belt’s for you? Take a look at some of our favorite lifting belts.
Exercises to Use with a Weight Belt
As cool as a weightlifting belt may make you look, there’s no need to wear it during every single exercise. It’ll look ridiculous if you’re relying on a weightlifting belt during preacher curls.
First, stick to only wearing your weightlifting belt during heavy sets.
Your body will naturally produce intra-abdominal pressure during moderate lifts, and wearing a belt for your whole workout can cause you to become overly reliant on this external pressure.
When lifting heavy, these are the exercises you should be wearing a weightlifting belt for:
If you’re jumping between squats and barbell curls in the same workout, you don’t necessarily have to take the belt off for curls and put it back on for squats.
You can simply loosen the belt’s tightness and leave it around your waist.
What Size Weight Belt Do I Need?
If you’ve spent some of your time reading user reviews for weightlifting belts, you may have picked up on a theme.
Sizing always seems to be a pain.
All manufacturers have their own size chart. But even then, sometimes these charts are inaccurate, and the belts either tend to run large or small.
Why make it easy, right?
We can’t tell you whether you’re a small or a medium. But what we can tell you how to measure your belt size properly—after that, it’s on you to compare it to the manufacturer’s chart.
Here’s how to size for a weight belt.
- Get a cloth measuring tape. You can find these in the aisle of pharmacies or grocery stores with random household items that don’t seem to fit into other aisles.
- Take off your shirt. Never measure over your shirt. It’s also a good idea to take your measurement before you eat that massive 2,000-calorie meal.
- Wrap the measuring tape snugly around your core at belly button height. Don’t pull the measuring tape too tight, just so that it’s snug.
- Take note of the closest inch and compare this to the size chart. Most size charts offer a range (like 35 to 40 inches), so choose the size belt that your measurement is in.
We have yet to see a manufacturer determine belt sizing by pants size.
So don’t make that rookie mistake.
Should You Use a Belt for Weightlifting? Is it Necessary?
Weightlifting belts aren’t necessary, but they can be useful in specific scenarios. Consider buying a weightlifting belt if:
- You take your weightlifting seriously and crank out really heavy sets.
- You value good form during exercises like squats and deadlifts (and more importantly, you’re looking to keep good form).
- You want to take your heavy compound lifts to the next level.
- You’re actively working to build strength and not just relying on the belt for gains.
And of course, weightlifting belts can also make you look pretty cool. That has to count for something, right?
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