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First of all, before we can talk about how to wear lifting belt properly and take full advantage of it, we need to understand how to control our body during heavy lifts, and how we can use breathing and bracing to increase stability, strength and decrease the risk of an injury.
When it comes to weight training, compound movements like the bench press, squat, and deadlift are the most important exercises, helping you to develop a good base of muscle and strength. Having a good form when performing those exercises is a crucial thing, not just because it will allow you to progress faster, but it will keep you away from injuries.
When you start to perform this kind of compound movements, it can be pretty easy, but with time, the weight on the bar will start to feel heavier and heavier, and progress will be a lot harder. During hard lifts, your core plays multiples roles, and it’s really important to learn how to use it properly. The core has to be braced at every single repetition, this way you will have better stability and your spine will remain neutral. Learning to brace your core correctly during heavy movements will help you to improve a lot, and most importantly, will keep you away from lower back injuries.
Think about it like this, if you see that someone is going to punch you in the stomach, what is going to be your first reaction? You will probably brace your core, letting as much air as you can enter your stomach.
This is exactly what you have to do during compound movements, this way your core will act like a wall that keeps your body stable. Brian Alsruhe explains this technique really well in this video.
One of the most frequent mistakes is to just flex the abdominal muscles, like you would do when taking a picture, for example. Doing this is better than nothing, but it’s not the most effective way to use your core.
How to wear a lifting belt
Now that you know something about compound movements, let’s talk about how we can use a belt to our advantage.
A belt provides a solid surface around your body and reduces the chances of hyperextension of the lower back, but also allows you to create more intra-abdominal pressure. Basically, a lifting belt helps the abdominal muscles and lower back to do their job. Do not make the mistake of simply pushing the stomach out and hyperextending the lower back. The expansion of the stomach should come from the inhaled air.
Where to wear a weight lifting belt?
The lifting belt placement is extremely important, but most people are not using it properly, thinking that a belt is only related to lower back stability, and I often see people placing the belt too low. That is not a proper use of a belt, because it should be placed on your abdominal muscles, so it will help you while bracing.
If you watch powerlifters during a competition, this is exactly what they do. You will see them placing their belt on their abdominal muscles, and bracing their core as hard as they can before a repetition.
When wearing the belt, it should be tightened correctly as well. If the belt is too loose you can not take full advantage of it because it doesn’t create enough pressure when you brace. The belt shouldn’t be too tight either, because you will not have enough space to expand your core. Now that we talked about extreme cases, let’s see how you can tell that your belt is tightened correctly.
As a reference, you can tighten your belt to a point where you are able to take a big belly breath. If the belt doesn’t allow you to do that, there is a good chance that it’s too tight. If you feel that there is still some space left after you take a serious breath, you can try the same thing with the next notch. Do this until you find the right balance. You should also take into consideration that some individuals prefer different levels of tightness on different lifts. For example, for the deadlift, some use the belt a little bit more loose so they can get in a better position at the start. Experiment and see what feels best for you.
If you are looking for a good lifting belt but you are not sure about your decision, you might want to take a look at our product reviews.
When should you use a belt?
First of all, it’s not necessary to wear a belt for every single exercise. The proper usage of a belt will:
- reduce the chance of getting an injury when you lift bigger amounts of weight
- have a positive impact on your lifting numbers
A weight lifting belt is not necessary during light exercises and it’s only useful when you perform harder sets that require more stability and safety. You should teach your body to be able to lift lighter weights beltless without any problems, and just use a belt when it is actually needed. This way you can take full advantage of it.
Is wearing a belt painful?
One of the bad parts when it comes to training with a belt is that it may cause some pain. This is not guaranteed, but in most cases it will happen on different levels, depending on your height (shorter people have this problem more often due to their smaller space between their hips and rib cage), and the thickness of the belt. If you are using a 10mm or 13mm one, until the belt gets broken-in, your skin can be caught in it. There is good news too because after the belt becomes looser this will stop happening, and the belt will be more comfortable in general as well. Also, for thinner or softer belts it’s not going to happen at all, therefore it’s your choice.
What type of belt should you use?
The type of lifting belt you need depends on several factors, like the experience, goals, and the amount of weight you lift. When it comes to thickness, if you are not a professional powerlifter, a 10mm belt is more than enough.
If you are looking to buy a leather belt, I recommend that you take a look at the Inzer 10mm Forever Belt. It’s easy to break-in, fits really good, it’s made of high-quality thick leather, and will last a lot.