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It’s an important garment, worn around the waist to coax your core into contracting to its max, to support heavy weights during the big moves – squats, deadlifts and overhead presses in particular.
However, some lifting belts are for more dynamic workouts like CrossFit, while others are more general, worn to support the back in the gym during everything from barbell rows to bicep curls.
Which is better for which activity? What should you look out for when buying a new belt? When should you actually wear a belt? All these questions and more are answered in this guide!
Before that, we will run you through seven of our favorite lifting belts on the market, highlighting their good and not-so-good points. Then we’ll take a look at some of your frequently asked questions.
By the end of it, you will know what you need to look for to end up with a goal-crushing, game-changing belt!
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, 3XL
Fastening: Lever clasp
Features: One-piece design, American-made, high-quality stitching, wide range of colors, compliant with lifting federations
Inzer is usually one of the first names on any lifting belt list due to the brand’s solid reputation for delivering the best quality around. While they have a couple of higher-end options on the market, this Forever Lever Belt is as pro as many will want to go.
This no-frills American-made belt is crafted from a single piece of 10mm reinforced leather and cut to 4” wide, so it is compliant with a variety of lifting federations. It features a quick-release lever clasp at the front for easy maneuvering.
Marketed as the ‘last support belt you will ever need to buy’, we’d be inclined to agree – it is built to withstand a lot! Not the cheapest on this list, but well worth the investment if you are serious about lifting.
A slightly more affordable option when compared to our top pick, this belt from Stoic is seriously good-looking. Stoic has opted for the ‘less is more’ philosophy in both design and build – and it works to deliver a great belt.
This 4” belt is cut from a single piece of 10mm thick vegetable-tanned full-grain leather. There is just a single 1.2mm layer of black suede on the outside and nothing on the inside, which enhances the durability and support of this belt.
Fastening and unfastening the belt is simple enough, with a thick single-pronged metal buckle that leaves you feeling secure and supported. Of course, this belt is also compliant with the major powerlifting federations including the IPF, USAPL, and USPA.
In a lifting belt market that is packed with quality options, Rogue’s Ohio belt is one that stands out as one of the best. Sure, it’s expensive, but this is a classic case of you getting what you pay for.
This premium garment is made from 10mm thick American leather, that has been vegetable tanned to increase the strength, durability and moisture resistance of the belt, while retaining a softness that other belts don’t have. The result is a belt that is a pleasure to wear but will stand strong during your heaviest lifts.
Made in America, the Ohio is 4” wide and is compliant with a variety of lifting federations, while the single prong buckle makes the belt easy to put on and take off. A quality choice!
When it comes to lifting belts, looks should be the last thing on your mind – it’s all about the support. However, it doesn’t hurt when the belt offers great support AND it looks good!
That’s exactly what this belt from Iron Bull Strength offers. The performance is certainly there, with a 10mm-thick leather construction coated in non-slip suede on both the inner and outer surface. While the manufacturer doesn’t state it, the thickness and 4” width should be compliant with lifting federations.
The fastening is secure, with a double-prong buckle made from zinc-plated steel. As for aesthetics, this belt comes in a range of eye-catching colors, including black and red, baby blue and military green – all worthy of making a statement on the deadlift platform!
One of the most popular belts on this list by far is this affordable offering from Dark Iron Fitness, who proves that you don’t have to spend a lot to end up with something that will support your lifting goals.
In fact, providing you aren’t put off by the slightly thinner leather thickness (5mm), you can use this belt to support some pretty big lifts. It’s a good-looking belt, featuring a stealthy black design and red double stitching, along with a large branding patch on the rear.
This 4” wide IPF and USAPL-approved belt is made from a durable yet supple genuine buffalo hide leather, with a traditional metal double-prong buckle. It fits securely around your midsection and proves a good lightweight option for any gym bag.
Used by athletes around the world – including members of the Fitness Verve writing team – this no-nonsense belt is always a popular choice. This is a belt of convenience due to its adjustability and comfort, and is accessible to anyone thanks to its affordable price tag.
It’s ideal for CrossFit WODs combining multiple disciplines, as you can leave it on throughout your workout, adjusting the tightness to accommodate the lift you are performing.
While it is less rigid than some of the heavier leather belts we feature, this nylon belt still offers serious stability to your big lifts. This is thanks to the use of a uniform 4” width, creating consistent intra-abdominal pressure. Plus there is no question over the durability, which is backed by a lifetime warranty from Element 26.
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
Material: Neoprene and nylon
Fastening: Velcro strap
Features: Range of colors and designs, secure Velcro belt, heavy-duty steel tensioning buckle, lifetime warranty
This affordable belt from Fire Team Fit happens to be one of the bestselling weightlifting belts on the market – and we can appreciate why!
While it is not rigid enough for the heaviest powerlifting – or competition-legal for that matter – this synthetic belt is excellent for adding support to general weightlifting and bodybuilding. It features a neoprene core with a nylon, cotton and polyester-blend fabric to offer a supportive yet flexible feel, with a secure Velcro belt for a precision fit.
It also comes in a wide selection of colors, including black, blue, pink, camo and a range of patriotic designs. The lifetime warranty is a nice touch and gives you confidence that this affordable belt will go the distance.
Weightlifting belts are an incredibly useful tool in the gym. In short, they help protect your lower back and can increase the amount you lift. In fact, many lifters notice an instant benefit in the amount they can lift when wearing one for the first time.
Buying a lifting belt is very easy. However, buying the right one for you… that takes a little more consideration!
In this section we outline some of the most important things to keep in mind when shopping for a good lifting belt.
First things first – the fit. You can have a belt with the best leather, the strongest buckle and the most kickass design around, but if it moves around or impedes you in any way during a lift, it won’t be doing its job.
Therefore, your first task is to find a belt that will fit you. The prime purpose of a belt is to support your midsection so, when wearing it, you will want the belt to sit snugly and comfortably in that section – not on the hips. Aim for the navel (around the bellybutton) and you will be in the right area.
Of course, each of us is different. A teenage girl lifter is likely to have a pretty different belly size to a 50-year-old lifter who enjoys his beer! The good news is that most fitness brands offer belts of multiple sizes, ranging from extra-small (usually around 22”) to 3XL (around 50”).
These same brands also offer sizing charts and good instructions to finding the right fit. Ignore these at your peril.
Remember, when choosing your size, you should take two minutes to measure your midsection (again around the bellybutton area). Use a flexible tape to find the correct fit. Do not use your pant size as you won’t end up with a belt that offers an accurate fit.
Just like a pair of weightlifting gloves, various materials are used to make weightlifting belts. These materials need to be stiff to provide enough support for the abs to contract hard, while remaining flexible enough to be able to wear. They must also not stretch.
There are two materials commonly used for belts – leather and nylon.
The most popular is leather. Leather is a hardwearing material that provides the most rigid surface for the midsection to contract against. Leather belts usually come in thicknesses of 5mm, 10mm or 13mm – the thicker the belt, the more support it offers (and more expensive it tends to be).
However, you can also find belts made from synthetic materials such as nylon and nylon blends. These belts are usually thinner and slightly less supportive than their leather cousins, although are more flexible.
The two materials also offer two different fastening styles, which is more important than you may think.
Synthetic belts will usually feature a Velcro strap fastener. This makes attaching and removing the belt very easy. You can also find a millimeter-precise fit with this style of belt.
Leather belts tend to have either single or double-pronged traditional belt buckles, usually made from stainless steel. While these take more time and effort to use, there is no fear of them popping off during the middle of the lift.
You can also find leather belts with quick-release lever clasps. This reduces the time it takes to use the belt, although they carry the rare risk of unclasping during a heavy lift.
In the end, the material you choose will probably come down to what you plan to wear the belt for. If you are more geared towards CrossFit or functional workouts (say, performing a set of deadlifts followed by sprinting), then the flexibility and ease of removal of a lightweight synthetic belt will be beneficial to you.
If you are a serious powerlifter and working towards new PBs and 1RMs, stick with a thick leather belt, which will provide greater support and maximum security during your attempts.
Take ten different belts from ten manufacturers and none of them are likely to be identical in design!
We have already touched upon the two most popular belt materials, and this will impact the overall design of the belt.
When it comes to leather, designs differ quite considerably. Higher-end belts will be cut from a single piece of leather, while more affordable belts usually piece together several layers to achieve the desired thickness. Both will feature either single or double stitching, to increase the belt’s durability.
Most leather belts will feature a uniform width around the entire belt – usually 4” or under. Some old-school weightlifting belts will feature a tapered design, with a wider rear section and narrower front.
However, these days, tapered designs are seen as less effective than uniform belts.
Nylon belts can be any shape – sometimes they come with a uniform width, like their leather counterparts, while other times they come wider at the rear to offer more lower back support.
Technically, the aesthetics of a belt shouldn’t be a major part of your decision – although they often are! Just like buying a pair of weightlifting shoes, style plays a role in your selection process. Ultimately, you want a belt that looks good.
Thankfully, the market is flooded with belts of varying design and colors. You can find simple one-piece tanned leather belts for the minimalist or boldly-colored dyed leathers for a little more flair.
Nylon belts often offer the most extensive designs, with colors and graphics allowing you to choose everything from skulls to stars and stripes!
First and foremost, make sure you are purchasing the belt because it will offer the right support for your activity. Then you can go nuts and enjoy picking the design that matches your personality.
In short, a weightlifting belt is a large leather or nylon belt that is worn around your midsection to support the lower back during heavy lifts.
As well as protecting the lower back, most users will notice that they will be able to lift more weight when wearing a belt.
How does this work? When you perform a heavy squat, deadlift or press, you should hold your breath during the movement. This is how we move heavy things in the outside world and this is how we should lift them in the gym.
A weightlifting belt offers your abs something to push against while you hold your breath, increasing abdominal pressure and giving your core more stability. In turn, this protects your back from the heavy load and allows you to lift more weight.
So, instead of a belt supporting your body, the belt actually gives your body the feedback it needs to support itself.
The first thing to know is that a lifting belt is not a fashion accessory. It’s not something to wear in the locker room, or when walking around the gym, or on the treadmill. Neither is it something you should be wearing during pushups, pull-ups or sit-ups.
With that out of the way, when should you wear one?
On heavy compound movements, such as the squat, deadlift and overhead press, as well as on Olympic lifts. Any movement that places a significant stress on your spine.
While some people prefer to lift every weight au naturel, wearing a belt while lifting a heavy load can reduce your risk of injury and is highly recommended.
But how heavy is heavy?
This is up for debate, but it is generally agreed that if you are performing lifts of 90% of your one rep max and above, the belt should be firmly on.
If you are a beginner or using lighter loads, you won’t need a belt until you hit your bodyweight on squats, and one and a half times your bodyweight on deadlifts.
However, if you feel you can comfortably support the load without a belt – or the movement you are performing does not place a load on your spine – you shouldn’t be wearing the belt.
Of course, some general-purpose weightlifting belts are available for more frequent support. Unlike stiff powerlifting belts, these more flexible garments can be worn throughout your workout, whenever you feel like you need a bit of extra back support.
As we have mentioned above, a weightlifting belt isn’t a fashion accessory – it is a serious lifting aid that should be worn tightly around your midsection.
A lifting belt should be relatively uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time. If you are able to ride a bike or stand around and chat while wearing it, it is probably on too loose.
So how tight should you wear a lifting belt?
Firstly, be sure to buy the correct belt size for you. Belt manufacturers usually provide belts in a wide range of sizes, with detailed instructions on how to measure yourself for the correct fit. Follow these instructions and the belt you order should fit you very well.
You should wear the belt around your navel – the bellybutton area. Any higher and it may dig into your ribs, while lower and it won’t be doing its job of helping your core brace itself.
To find the correct tightness, put the belt on, then take a regular breath in. As you hold your breath, pull the belt as tight as you can. As long as you can still breathe with the belt this tight, you will be wearing it correctly.
While tight is better than loose in the belt world, there is such a thing as too tight. Wearing it too tight can stop your abs contracting fully.
You should be able to slide four fingers between your belly and the belt – if you can’t do this, it’s too tight and should be loosened accordingly.
By now, you should know that the prime purpose of a weightlifting belt is to give your abs a rigid platform to contract against, helping you brace your core, protect your spine and lift more weight.
With this in mind, you will want to buy the thickest belt you can afford.
When it comes to leather belts, you will usually find three thicknesses – 5mm, 10mm and 13mm. Naturally the 13mm belt will offer you the most support, although it will also be the most expensive to purchase.
Why is 13mm the thickest most belt manufacturers offer? The fact is that 13mm is the maximum thickness that powerlifting federations such as the IPF and USAPL permits.
Can’t afford a 13mm or 10mm belt? A 5mm belt will still do a great job. While the belt may not feel as sturdy or durable as its thicker cousins, this thickness will still offer good support on heavy lifts, whether you are performing reps or attempting a new 1RM.
While discussing what is legal in powerlifting competitions, note that the maximum permitted belt width is 10cm, which is around 4”.
If you are unsure of whether the belt is legal or not – and you are planning to use it in a competition – you should check on the belt manufacturer’s website. Failing that, ask the federation, who should be happy to advise.
Many people will go through their gym life with no need for a weightlifting belt – casual lifters, calisthenics athletes, or those people who just stick to machines.
However, if you are lifting heavy barbells, you are likely to eventually need a weightlifting belt.
We hope our guide and recommendations have given you a little inspiration and advice ahead of your next belt purchase. Ultimately, buying a new belt isn’t rocket science, yet it still takes a bit of consideration to end up with one that works well for you, your body and your goals.
Good luck with your purchase. Don’t forget to come back and thank us when you are recording new PBs!