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Thickness & Flexibility
Thickness represents one of the main differences between the two types. Usually, powerlifting belts are 10mm or 13mm thick. That’s because a thick belt works really well with the bracing technique often used by powerlifters to lift heavy weights. Due to the thickness and material, powerlifting belts are stiffer and less comfortable than weightlifting models.
On the other hand, the thickness of a weightlifting belt is smaller. In fact, for most nylon belts, the manufacturers don’t even specify it in the product description. One of the reasons why weightlifting belts are thinner and more flexible is because they are optimized for mobility.
Shape - Uniform Width vs Tapered
This is probably the easiest way to distinguish the two types of belts, as it is related to their design. A lifting belt has a uniform width, mainly because this allows you to create better intra-abdominal pressure.
The most common width for these is 4 inches, but there are smaller versions of 3 inches for people with a small torso. Also, 3-inch belts are often used for bench pressing.
Most weightlifting belts have a width of 4 to 6 inches in the back, while the front area is reduced by a few inches. This tapered design allows a little more freedom for athletes so that they can have a full range of motion without discomfort for exercises such as clean and jerk.
As for the material, without exception, powerlifting belts are made of leather. The leather type can vary depending on the price and brand, but if you choose to go with a more expensive one, it should be made of genuine leather. On the inside, most have fine suede to prevent them from slipping.
For weightlifting belts, we can not say that they are made of a specific material, because we can find both nylon and leather products. It’s important to mention that the leather used for these is not as thick and rigid as that of powerlifting belts.
For powerlifting belts, we can choose between a single prong, double prong, or lever system. The first two are quite similar, except that a double-prong could add a bit of safety, while a single-prong is easier to handle. Lever belts are really easy to put on and take off, but first, they must be adjusted with a screwdriver.
The most common closure system for weightlifting belts is Velcro, as most of them are made of nylon. However, there are a lot of leather weightlifting belts that use a buckle instead.
If you often perform Olympic exercises, a belt with Velcro closure will reduce the chance of the bar making unwanted contact with the belt during the movement.
Which One To Choose?
Now that we know what are the differences between powerlifting and weightlifting belts, it’s time to talk about which one is best, depending on your training style.
If you’re a regular gym-goer who often incorporates compound movements such as bench press, squat, and deadlift into your training routine, and you like to build the rest of the workout around these exercises, you will most likely need a powerlifting belt. This way, you will make sure that you have the best advantage when it comes to lifting heavy.
Furthermore, if you intend to participate in future powerlifting meets, make sure that the belt you want to purchase meets the criteria of most federations, so you don’t have to purchase another one for this purpose. Keep in mind that federations have slightly different requirements for equipment.
On the other hand, if you are an Olympic weightlifter, CrossFitter, or just want to incorporate some of the exercises from these sports into your training routine, a weightlifting belt would be better.
If you can’t decide, keep in mind that a weightlifting belt is more flexible and comfortable, so you will be able to wear it for more exercises in the gym, while a powerlifting-style model is built primarily for compound movements.
Choosing between powerlifting and weightlifting belts becomes easier when you know the main differences between the two.
Next, all you have to do is figure out what your training style is, and what types of exercises you focus on, either compound movements or Olympic weightlifting/CrossFit exercises.
The last step is to pick a belt from a category. For this guide, we have chosen Schiek Sports Model 2004 as a very good option for those of you who want a weightlifting belt, and Inzer Forever as one of the best powerlifting belts on the market.