The hunt to find the best weight lifting belt is inevitable at some point in a lifter's quest for strength. Often, a belt will be one of the first purchases made when you decide you are getting serious about getting strong.
However, finding the right type from the start can be tricky. It certainly pays to get a quality belt that's right for you and made to last.
This article will offer guidance and recommendations to help you choose the right belt from the very start.
No messing around with flimsy, vinyl belts that do nothing but cut into your wallet and the flesh below your rib cage. I want to make sure you get the real deal from day one and keep it for years to come.
The purpose of a weight lifting belt
The main purpose of wearing a belt for weight lifting, powerlifting, strongman or any other type of strength training is two-fold.
The first element is of course safety. The belt is there to provide extra stability around your trunk and lower back.
However, the belt doesn’t just “prop” your lower back up and support it that way. It works alongside your breathing and bracing techniques, which I will cover later, to increase the amount of pressure around your mid-section.
That extra pressure is what actually stabilizes your spine, not just the belt itself.
The second purpose for wearing a belt is the boost in performance that you can gain out of it. Due to the increase in pressure around your trunk, also known as intra-abdominal pressure, your core is essentially stronger when wearing a belt. Since the belt is artificially making your core stronger, it should allow you to lift more weight than usual when you are wearing it.
Who should wear a weight lifting belt?
A tough question to answer indefinitely. There are quite a few individual nuances that come into play, so all I can give are some factors to take into account and my own suggestions.
Firstly, I will tackle the easy part. The easy part is giving advice to individuals that compete in a strength sport that allows the use of a weight lifting or powerlifting belt.
To these guys, I say you should certainly be using a belt on competition day if it increases the amount of weight you can lift.
In training, it’s a slightly different matter. I don’t think it’s a good idea to become dependent on the belt all of the time.
You will need to wear it and practice using it but I feel that training belt-less for periods of time is a good idea. You can still be insanely strong without the belt, just ask Clarence Kennedy:
Ditching the belt for a while and training belt-less is hard work but if you can get stronger without it, when you put it back on you are likely to even stronger than before.
I don’t recommend too much belt-less training leading into a competition, though. You need to get used to wearing the belt and learning how to get the very most out of it.
For the non-competitive trainee, I think the belt is a very useful tool to push yourself past your limits in training at time. Obviously, it has its safety benefits too so you may want to throw a belt on for your very heaviest sets.
However, the guidelines are similar to the above. Be sure to train belt-less and get stronger without one for periods as well.
Becoming over-reliant on any training tool is not good. You never know when you might forget it or not have access to it for whatever reason.
You should also demonstrate solid technique before using training aids, like a belt, to increase your numbers. To make sure your squat is up to par, you can brush up on your technique by reading my squat guide.
For my own training, if anybody even cares, I tend to treat belted work almost like a variation of a movement. I feel that using the belt is a skill in itself.
Wearing a belt, for me, changes the lift and the amount of weight I can handle enough to warrant treating it separately from the belt-less variations of a lift.
So, I will have training phases of belted squats, for example, and then phases of non-belted squats.
It's the same kind of principle people use for working with variations for phases of training, such as box squats or pause squats. That's how I see it in my mind anyway, feel free to disagree.
How to use a belt properly for lifting
I already alluded to this earlier, it isn’t enough to just chuck a belt on and expect it to magically support your back and increase your lifts. You need to know how to use one correctly.
Here are the quick steps to using a weight lifting belt correctly:
- Take a deep breath into your stomach. Your stomach should expand as you inhale and create a firm “belly”
- Force your belly out hard against the belt.
- Tense your abs as if something is about to hit you in the stomach.
- Hold this pushing out and tensing of your stomach throughout the rep.
- Exhale and reset at the start of each new rep. Do not hold your breath for more than a single rep.
To illustrate these points further, here is a video that explains it by squat university.
Types of lifting belts
I’m just going to cover what I feel are best variations of weight lifting belt for you to consider. Anything that I don’t cover here probably isn’t worth your while, unless there is an awesome type of belt that I haven’t even heard of yet.
Firstly, avoid Velcro belts. In my opinion, it’s just too easy for them to rip open and come undone or loosen under the pressure you should be exerting into the belt.
I used to use a Velcro belt and the little tearing noises I could here as I descended into a squat paranoid the heck out of me. I was too worried about the belt coming on to concentrate on a proper squat.
If your belt resembles this one, it's time to throw it away and get a proper one.
Some strongmen competitors may wear Velcro belts underneath their main belts just for some added support. But they still feel the need to wear a stronger belt on top.
Now that's out of the way, on to the types of belts that you can consider.
Proper powerlifting belts follow pretty much the same styling throughout. They should be the same width all the way around, that will normally be 4 inches as that is the thickest allowable by most powerlifting federations. Have a thickness of either 10mm or 13mm and made from very stiff/rugged materials. Usually leather or suede coated leather.
Powerlifting belts, in general are going to be the go-to belt style if you are looking the get the very most out of squats, deadlift, bench presses and overhead presses. If you want a belt for Olympic weightlifting, they are probably going to be too thick, uncomfortable and restrictive for you.
There are then three main sub-sets of powerlifting belts.
1. Single prong belts
These are the standard kind of belt you are likely used to seeing. They feature a single prong, just like a regular dress belt, that you can use to tighten or loosen as you see fit.
The single prong makes the fairly quick to take on and off. The only downside for some lifter is the fear that the single prong may break. This shouldn’t happen if you buy a quality belt but the worry is enough to steer people towards the next type of powerlifting belt.
2. Double prong belts
Exactly the same as the single prong in design. However, as you may have guessed, they have two prongs that slot into a double row of adjustment holes on the belt.
The two prongs can be an absolute pain to get in and out of those holes properly. Especially if the belt is tight.
I don’t really like using ta double-prong, I trust the strength of the single-prong enough to go with that instead.
3. Lever belts
Lever belts have no prongs for tightening and loosening the belt. Instead, they have a quick-release leaver. The lever does make them very quick and easy to get on and off.
The lever is also fixed in the same place each time so you can set it to whatever level of tightness you want and have no trouble getting it on very quickly.
There are some drawbacks to the lever belt design. firstly, is that there is always going to be a higher chance of something breaking when more individual parts are involved. I have seen a couple of videos of levers breaking during lifts but this isn’t a common occurrence.
The second drawback is that you have to unscrew and move the entire lever if you want to adjust the size of the belt. Very annoying for individuals that use different levels of tightness for different lifts.
SBD has recently released a very nice looking lever belt that combats that problem by allowing quick adjustment whenever you like. It looks like an awesome belt but is certainly at the higher end of the pricing spectrum.
Olympic weightlifting belts
Obviously, these belts are geared more towards those that compete or practice the Olympic lifts regularly.
Original Picture source: http://www.roguefitness.com/rogue-oly-ohio-lifting-belt
The difference with these belts is that they feature a tapered design to allow for the extra mobility that the clean and jerk and snatch demands.
These belts will also be made of a thinner and softer material. Again, in an effort to allow for higher degrees of mobility while still providing extra support for the lifts.
There is a bit of a divide among lifter on whether a belt should be worn for Olympic weightlifting or not. Many will wear it for the clean and jerk but find that wearing a belt for the snatch inhibits their mobility and limits the amount of weight they can lift.
You will have to find that out for yourself.
In my opinion, the powerlifting and Olympic lifting belts are pretty much the only types of belt you should consider.
Powerlifting belts should be looked at by everybody that isn’t performing Olympic lifts. Olympic lifting belts should be the go-to for individuals that are completing the Olympic lifts regularly.
As a side note, crossfitters that wish to wear a belt will probably be better off looking at the Olympic weightlifting style belts. They provide much better and more reliable support than Velcro belts, which seem to be popular in crossfit, but they still allow for extra mobility that is usually required in crossfit workouts.
What makes a good weight lifting belt?
A good belt must be suited for the purpose you intend to use it for. You can use the information above to decide which kind of belt best suits your needs.
You must then ensure that whatever belt you choose is allowable in any competition you may currently or wish to compete in down the line.
For example, the IPF only allows belts up to 10mm thick in their classic powerlifting divisions. Check the rules of your federation.
10mm IPF approved thickness belt
A belt should last you a very long time if you go for quality. High quality belts are going to cost you more but, like I said, they will last a very long time so the investment value is actually pretty good.
All of the belts I have included in this article are of high quality and should certainly be with you for many workouts to come.
The best weight lifting belt - Belt reviews
I have decided to choose my favourite two belts from each of the categories. Two weightlifting style belts and two powerlifting ones. Out of my suggestions, pick the belt that you think looks best or fits better in your budget and you will be more than happy with it.
Best powerlifting belt picks
Winner(s): Texas Belts Longhorn and Toro Bravo Powerlifting belts
The Longhorn is a 10mm belt that is available as either single prong, double prong or lever.
The leather on the Texas Belts does seem to be a bit more pliable but still just as supportive as other belts on the market.
This is a bonus as it means that it shouldn’t take quite as long to break the belt in. So, you should be getting the most out of it a bit quicker than some of the stiffer belts.
I would highly recommend the Longhorn belt if you have the budget for it. It is a very good belt and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
If you do not quite have the budget for the Longhorn, Texas Belts cheaper alternative is the Toro Bravo belt. This is not quite as high quality as the Longhorn, as reflected in the lower price, but it still is an excellent belt.
In fact, the vast majority of people won’t notice the minor drop in overall quality. The Toro Bravo does only come with a year’s warranty but should still last many years.
I feel the Longhorn is the best belt in terms of overall quality.
But, due to the lower price yet still high quality, I have actually chosen the Toro Bravo as my overall top pick.
Casual lifters and competitors that aren’t at the elite level will do just fine with this one.
Inzer Advanced Designs Forever Belt
A super popular belt from an extremely well-respected manufacturer. These belts also all come with lifetime guarantees, hence the “forever” in the name.
You can buy the same belt in either a single prong or lever variations and in 10mm or 13mm. As with many lifting belts, they come very stiff and will require some time to “break in”.
The 13mm versions will always take longer to break in than the 10mm but that’s all part of buying a thicker and more supportive belt. I would say that the majority of people should be going for a 10mm belt anyway.
A 13mm should only be considered by competitive lifters in geared lifting federations for the most part.
The Inzer belts are available from Inzer's website, click here to view Inzer's power belts.
A huge choice of colours is available from Inzer. Although, certain colours can take a while to arrive.
Which brings me on to my next point. I have heard that delivery times can be very long from Inzer and that their customer service isn’t always the best.
Not something I have experienced but I thought it would be worthwhile to relay what I have heard from a few separate people.
If you get the belt from Amazon, delivery should be fast but you don't have all of the colour options.
Best Olympic weightlifting belts picks
Rogue are a giant in lifting equipment and have been cranking out some quality products in all areas of strength training over recent years. This belt is no exception.
10mm thick, it is super supportive and durable.
Made from vegetable-tanned leather and, this makes the leather firmer and, in my opinion, makes looks pretty nice too.
The front of the belt tapers down to just 2 inches so there isn’t as much material for the bar to get caught on during the Olympic lifts. I also like the addition of the buckle guard, which is just an extra piece of leather that slides in front of the buckle to stop anything from hitting that.
These extra features do make for a superb lifting belt. On the downside, you will have to pay for that quality.
If you don't mind spending a bit extra for the quality and longevity you will get out of this belt, this is the one to go for.
Eleiko Weightlifting Belt
Eleiko are a huge name in weightlifting. They know how to construct equipment of the very highest quality. Usually Eleiko gear comes at a highly premium price point so I was surprised to see how cheap this belt is.
The belt is made from leather and only comes in a white colour with the large Eleiko lettering on the back. There is a suede version available in blue but it is pretty much double the price. The suede version is padded in the back for some extra comfort during your lifts.
Both versions are IWF approved so you have no worries for competition.
These belts feature a double prong design. Great if you want some extra strength in the buckle but can be a slight pain to get on and off.
The one thing that I think lets the white version of this belt down a bit is the thickness. It isn’t as thick and therefore not quite as supportive as it could be.
If you want a perfectly good weight lifting belt at a very good price, then grab this one.
If you want a bit more support and aren’t worried about paying for it, The Rogue Ohio belt is the one.
I know there are a bunch of good belts that probably could have been included on this list. I feel that the ones included really are the best to serve the vast majority of this site’s audience.
There is a chance that I may have just completely missed an absolutely perfect belt, though.
If you do feel that one of my picks could reasonably be replaced by a better belt, let me know in the comments and I will take a look at it.
I want to keep all of my articles up to date with the latest and greatest training gear, so I’m always open to suggestions.