If you’ve been around the gym for long enough, you’ve probably seen more than a few people walking around with a weight lifting belt on. There are several reasons to use one of these, but whether you need one or not will depend on your level of fitness and what type of lifting you decide to do. Follow this buyer’s guide to decide which weight lifting belts are right for you.
How Do I Know If I Need A Belt?
There are essentially two reasons why someone needs to use a weightlifting belt. The first reason is that a belt provides lower back support. Many people who have had prior back injuries need to use belts to make sure that they don’t further injure their back. However, back injuries are always tricky and tend to be easily reinjured. If you have a back injury, make sure that you consult your doctor before you begin lifting again. Make sure that your back is strong enough to support the lifting and get his recommendations on both belts to use and what exercises you are allowed to do.
Belts are also useful for people that are doing extremely heavy weight training with Olympic movements. This is why you see many people using them when they are doing powerlifting workouts. Here, belts help support your lower back against the monster weights that are being moved. If you’re lifting heavy enough, they’re almost a necessity. Some of the exercises that you might need to use a weight belt for are dead lifts, squats, Romanian dead lifts, standing military presses, clean jerks, and clean pulls.
If you aren’t performing these exercises or aren’t lifting very heavy weights, weightlifting belts most likely won’t help you too much. Instead of helping you, they’ll actually prevent your core muscles from growing as strong as they should. Focus on maintaining good technique until you get up to heavier weights if this is you.
The second reason to use a workout belt is to place more weight on body weight exercises like dips, pullups, and chinups. These are great exercises that involve your entire body, however, most bodybuilders outgrow them fairly quickly. If you want to keep doing them you can use a weighted dip belt, which will add the weight you need to make those reps add thickess.
Choosing the Right Thickness
The Pros Use Belts to Lift
Once you’ve decided that you need a weight belt, the first thing you need to decide is the thickness you need. Weight belts are thick in the back to support the lower back and then taper down around the sides and the front. The back is generally between four and six inches thick. Generally a thicker lifting belt will be more comfortable for a taller person, but there are exceptions to the rule.
The belt you choose should be thick enough to cover your whole lower back while closely hugging your back. The belt should sit right on the top of your hips.
While taller people can use bigger lifting belts, using the biggest belt that you can isn’t always the best solution unless you’re lifting for a competition. Larger belts can cause a little bit more discomfort. Choose the belt that is most comfortable for you while at the same time giving you the functionality that you need.
Type of Buckle
Weight belts for lifting also come with two different types of buckles. For most people, the standard one or three prong buckle should be good enough. Make sure to try on the belt before you buy it to make sure it fits you snugly.
However, if you’re doing very heavy lifting or the best fit possible, a belt with a quick release buckle is the best bet. These belts allow you to either set the buckle yourself to the right fit just around your body or even have a partner yank the belt tight around your body so that you get the tightest fit and most back support possible. This is only recommended for really heavy lifts though.
Nylon or Leather
The final decision that you have to make when you choose a lifting belt is whether to go with nylon or leather weight lifting belts. Nylon is a great option for beginners that don’t want to spend that much money. It costs less and is much more comfortable than a leather belt. However, you get the comfort that the price of ruggedness, and these belts don’t give you nearly as much support as a leather weight lifting belt.
If you’re serious about lifting and are moving heavy weights, you can’t go wrong with a leather belt. These are the belts the pros use and if you’re doing lots of weight, you should be using them too. They give you the most amount support possible from a belt and they also won’t give away no matter how hard you’re lifting. They’re a little more pricey and less comfortable, but the benefits far outweigh these minor objections.
If you’re focusing on heavy Olympic weight lifting work or incorporating squats, deadlifts, and other exercises in your routine, you can’t be without a belt. They’re essential to help you lift the amount you need to and will protect your lower back from injury. Decide what thickness and type of buckle you need and pick out the right nylon or leather belt for you.