By Malia Warren
Weightlifting belts have been around since the beginning of time. Well, weightlifting time.
Did you know that Thor, the legendary Norse God of Thunder, wielded a belt in addition to his Hammer? Also known as Megingjord, the belt when worn, doubled his strength.
Could the same be said for modern weightlifting belts?
Walk into any gym and you’ll see a plethora of people wearing belts, lifting weights, but do YOU really need one?
The super-educated answer that will blow your mind is:
Yes! At some point during your lifting endeavors, you might need a belt.
But because we like to provide you with legit details, we spoke with Jim Royce, USAW Weightlifting Coach and CrossFit Level 2 Coach at BackCountry CrossFit, and head coach for BackCountry Weightlifting Club, to get the low down.
Think of all the times your coach yelled at you to get those ab exercises done.
They were on to something.
A strong core can help get a strong lift. And that’s exactly what a weightlifting belt will help you embrace.
NOTICE: We said help – a weightlifting belt won’t do the work for you!
You have to have the foundation work there, even if you have a “weak” core, you can still hold your breath and flex your abs right? Try it.
Do you remember when we were younger and you would ask friends to punch your abs to see how strong and hard they are? That is the feeling we're going for here. You want to create intra-abdominal pressure. A belt would help your core brace and create this pressure by preventing the core from a significant loss of that pressure.
According to Jim, "Belts are a very useful tool aiding in the core and midline stabilizers being overwhelmed by the force of heavy loads"
But what is heavy? No worries, we'll discuss that later on.
How to choose a weightlifting belt
There are pretty much 2 different types of belts: Leather and Neoprene/Nylon.
Both will essentially get you prepped to bear down for a lift, but each has its recommended uses.
Leather Belts are the stiffest on the market. Of course, more stiffness can definitely make you feel more protected and stable, but they can get uncomfortable in a CrossFit or Metcon-style workout.
The alternative is more flexible and can be adjusted easily, while allowing for more flexibility of movement.
Just FYI, you'll want to have a leather belt, less than 3" on reserve if you ever plan on participating in any kind of powerlifting meet. My friend, Kris and I found that out the hard way when competing at a Super Total Meet at Denver Barbell Club.
When choosing a belt, you want to think what a majority of your time spent with the belt strapped up will be.
Sure, you can head straight to Amazon and buy the cheapest belt on there. But will it serve Its purpose for you?
The average nylon belt on the market is anywhere from 3-6” wide. Anything over 4.72 inches is too wide for a USAW-sanctioned meet.
Certain rules exist in these sports to create a standard of size. Current requirements for Powerlifting require no bigger than a 3” width or a 10 cm width, depending on the federation you are lifting in (see the IWF rulebook and the USA Powerlifting rulebook).
Essentially, both of these federations use the same rules in regards to belts, wrist wraps. and knee sleeves.
Alternatively, USAW allows for a 4.72” belt (IWF rulebook) and a little bit more flexibility on the allowances in your outfit.
This basically means you will not be allowed to compete wearing a belt that doesn’t fit these guidelines. If you don’t plan to sign up for a sanctioned meet, then the width of your belt isn't the biggest concern, as long as it’s:
1) Not too big. Or too small.
2) Gets you PRs.
3) Creates intra-abdominal
Bonus if it’s got a rad design on it.
Scientifically Kidding about #2.
Your belt should be tighter than you think it should be. Take a normal breath in, THEN strap the belt in place. You should feel your core pushing on the front of the belt.
Maybe you’ll also feel like a stuffed sausage. That’s ok too. Just make sure your stuffed-sausage-feeling-self can breathe.
To get the correct size belt for your body, you’ll want to measure the area in which you’ll wear it, which is right over your navel. Our size chart provides the measurement reference here.
You can adjust placement as needed depending on the lift, and depending on how you feel.
We understand, you’re kinda wondering if you even need one.
Do you lift weights? Deadlift? Squat? Snatch? Clean and Jerk?
Then a belt could help you on your way to greatness (in my best Sorting Hat voice).
Once you’ve started using a belt in your training, you’ll WANT to use it all the time, because it’s badass. Or cute, if you get one of ours. But, you should exercise a little caution and only use it when you NEED it.
For example: you probably don’t need your belt while warming up, or really until you’re hitting about 80-90% of your max lift. I find myself holding off on using the belt until about 90% and up, or my 90% for the DAY.
I delay using the belt for as long as possible because I KNOW it helps brace and lift better at my 90% and up, but if you're feeling good hitting 90% (good position, strong lifts) then you can wait to use it. Or some days you will need it sooner than 90%, and that is A-OK.
Our belts are designed first and foremost with COMFORT in mind.
Leather (faux leather, duh) wasn't our first choice in designing our belts because a majority of our customers use them for weightlifting competitions and met-con workouts.
We wanted them to meet the standard of comfort first.
It wasn’t hard making sure our belt designs matched some of our most popular designs for knee sleeves and wrist wraps, but we also wanted to be in compliance with USAW guidelines.
As it stands, the sport of weightlifting requires certain items of lifting gear fall under certain guidelines, such as: Belts may not exceed 120mm in width, knee sleeves may be worn as long as they don’t cover your whole leg, and wrist wraps may also be worn.
At this time, lifting gear can be of any brand or color, so long as no other rules are broken.
And we're damn stoked about it.
We have to commend the sport of weightlifting for encouraging members to be expressive in what they wear on the platform, rather than requiring a certain brand or outfit to be worn.
So to sum it all up, yes, if you want to be just like Thor, throw on your magical belt and double your lifting strength*.
Seems Legit, right?
*seems silly, but we have to put the asterisk because we will, inevitably, get messages about how the belt did not double your lifting strength. So sorry, but if you become a Norse God, this might be possible.
Did you know that we now offer custom belts? Pick your fabric and color scheme and we'll make your belt dreams come true!
If you have any questions or you would like to be a guest blogger, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you use a weightlifting belt for your training?
Malia is the force behind Lifting the Dream and a proud mompreneur. When she's not lifting heavy weights, she's probably at the beach or Disney with her family. She is a Cali girl born and raised, with salt water in her veins and sunshine in her heart. She and her family now reside in Florida soaking up the sun, heat, and all the amazing outdoor activities this state has to offer.