If you've just started powerlifting, or reaching the point where you're struggling to increase on your personal best lifts… there's a good chance you've already considered a weightlifting belt.
Do I need a weightlifting belt? If you haven't got a lot of time to read this post today, our short answer… is yes!
Weightlifting belts definitely aren't a ‘closed-case' subject though, as it's one of the biggest gym debates. Whilst advocates of these state that they're absolutely essential for making a heavy lift, others claim that weightlifting belts provide too much support, meaning that your heavy lifts are less effective than a lower weight, with no belt at all.
I've been in the gym myself with a Belt on, then my workout partner has said “You can knock 20kg off that lift, as you've got a belt on!”. However, intermediate training requires a belt in my opinion. I don't wear one for every workout, as there's definitely a time and a place to use them.
If you're considering a weight lifting belt, then I would certainly recommend you to continue reading this post. In addition to explaining when they should and shouldn't be used, I'll list the most supportive & durable weightlifting belts for your training needs.
When should I use a Weightlifting Belt?
Powerlifters and advanced bodybuilders don't wear weightlifting belts in the gym for the aesthetic benefits, as I'll be honest it's quite hard to look good in them!
They wear these belts because they provide many benefits, especially if the weightlifter is more advanced. Let's get stuck into these benefits.
- More Weight Can be Lifted
It's not placebo! When you're wearing a weightlifting belt, you'll be able to increase your maximum weight by around 20%. For experienced lifters, this can be a significant amount of weight. Although at the elite level end of the spectrum, Eddie Hall increased his 465kg deadlift to 500kg with a weightlifting belt.
Eddie Hall is a specimen himself though, your typical bodybuilders or power lifters won't be hitting these figures. It does show you exactly what's possible though, just from wearing an accessory!
The important thing to note with weightlifting belts, is that you shouldn't start using them before it's the right time to do so. You can limit your muscle development, by wearing a belt when it's not required.
- Less Injury Risk
A weightlifting belt can prevent you from suffering a serious injury. When squatting or deadlifting, it's easy to have a slip in your form. Fortunately, these weightlifting belts can provide you with the correct form, keeping you injury free in the process.
The general rule with weightlifting belts is that you should start using these when you're approaching 2x your bodyweight. So if you're 80kg, you should only consider using the belt when you're approaching 140kg+.
Do I Need a Weightlifting Belt?
Weightlifting is, in the literal sense, an uplifting experience. You get to test yourself and push your boundaries, achieving things that you never thought possible before. As you beat your goals one by one, you begin to think of items that could boost your performance. One such invention is the weightlifting belt. Sadly, the weightlifting belt is misused and misunderstood, yet many people wear them. To help you understand whether you need a weightlifting belt, we cover various aspects concerning its use and how to know if you are ready to wear one.
What is the Purpose of a Weightlifting Belt?
Belts are used when squatting, deadlifting, and pressing heavyweight. It helps your body communicate to your muscles to provide your torso with rigidity so that you do not have a pliable torso that makes you weaker. When you need to lift something heavy, you typically “brace yourself” by holding your breath and tightening your torso. With this kind of action, you lift efficiently and do not damage your spine. The weightlifting belt indirectly helps your core muscles to tense up when you are lifting. While it does not directly support your torso, it provides indirect support by providing a cue to your body so that your core becomes rigid and tight.
When You Need and Do Not Need a Weightlifting Belt
To help you understand how to use a weightlifting belt properly, we will discuss both instances where you will need one and when you will not.
When You Need a Weightlifting Belt
Intermediate and advanced bodybuilders are more suited to weightlifting belts. As you start, you will probably be doing barbell training, and this means that you can do without the belt for some time.
Generally, the right time to start using a belt would be when you can shoulder press three quarters of your bodyweight, squat double your body weight & deadlift up to 1.5 times it.
However, these rules aren't set in stone. You can experiment until you find what feels right.
A weightlifting belt will help you become stronger and lift heavier weights. Therefore, these belts can help you break through a plateau or lift to your maximum weight. With a belt, you can move up to 15% more weight for the same reps and sets and do more reps at the same weight.
Therefore, over time, you will become stronger and lift heavier through the process of progressive overload.
If you choose to wear your belt, understand how to wear it correctly. A good pointer is that you cannot wear it all the time. If you can, then you are probably wearing it wrong.
What I've noticed recently in my local gym, is that users are now also wearing compression clothing to help with their training. It's interesting, as they feel that tighter fitting clothes help to fix their torso in correct shape.
Times to Avoid a Weightlifting Belt
Just like some people need a weightlifting belt, some do not need a weightlifting belt and are considering getting them. Interestingly, some people and situations should serve as a warning to avoid using weightlifting belts. We discuss these instances below:
- Avoid using a weightlifting belt if you do not lift with a good technique.
Some lifters take up the belt, thinking that it can correct bad form. This cannot be further from the truth. What will be of help is to refine your form before trying on the belt for the best results. Wearing a belt with poor form will only make it worse instead of better.
- Avoid lifting if you have high blood pressure.
Safety is the primary focus with the lift bible, and if you have high blood pressure we don't think you should be lifting weights at all, yet alone requiring a weight belt to beat your personal best! Unfortunately, it is not advisable for individuals with health conditions to wear a belt.
You should also not wear a belt if your condition can be triggered or exacerbated by pressure being put on your abdomen. That means that if you have conditions such as hernia and high blood pressure, you should not be wearing a weightlifting belt. The belt raises blood pressure and raises intra-abdominal pressure, and this can be negative for you.
- Do not know how to brace your core.
Before learning how to use a belt, you should understand how to stabilize your body without it. If you start using a belt before you are ready, chances are you will not be able to stabilize your body for heavier lifting. Additionally, you may end up using the belt as a support, and this may mean injury to you if you decide to lift without it.
- Carry out exercises that do not require a weightlifting belt.
Consider the workout before you apply a weightlifting belt, there's no need for one if you're running on a treadmill!
You should not use a weightlifting belt if you only do exercises such as bicep curls, either. These are needed for exercises such as squats, overhead pressing, and deadlifts. You can take it off during regular exercise routines and have it on for near-maximum exercises. As a lifter, you know best when you need to put in the extra effort and need a belt for support.
For lifters who feel qualified to wear a belt, there are often questions regarding where the belt should be worn. They are best worn directly above the navel, but they can be adjusted according to the lift you are doing. For instance, you can lower your belt when you are doing deadlifts, and you feel like it is poking into your ribs. Also, ensure that your belt is tight enough, as most people who are starting with the belt do not make it tight enough. An excellent way to ensure that it is tight enough is to take a breath in and wear the belt and pull it, so it is as tight as possible but does not interfere with your breathing.
Are Weightlifting Belts Good? Our Conclusion
A weightlifting belt can be a worthy investment if you are seriously looking to up your performance. However, you need to understand when the time is right and how to use the belt for best results. By discussing both when you need to use a belt and when not to use one, we provide a clear explanation to help you establish whether you are ready to invest or not. Thankfully, this will be one of the best investments you make in the gym.