Is there anything worse for weightlifters than waking up the day after a heavy session with significant back and joint pain?
It may be a rest day, but feeling some of the strongest after-effects of weightlifting isn’t a pleasurable experience for anyone. It can also be extremely dangerous for your body’s long-term health if not performed carefully with the correct equipment and technique.
While purists of weightlifting sometimes shun weightlifting belts and opt instead to lift raw, belts are undeniably beneficial for lifting when used in the right circumstances. If you haven’t used one before, they are a simple way of reducing stress on your lower back when lifting in an upright position, as well as preventing any back hyperextension when performing overhead lifts. These benefits offer an explanation as to why equipped powerlifting totals are higher than raw totals.
Much like many other pieces of sports equipment, lifting belts were less available in the past than they are in contemporary society. However, as lifting has become increasingly more popular, so have the belt options available to customers. As a result, there are now specialty belts available for pretty much every discipline, whether that’s powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, or strongman.
With so many products readily available on the market, picking the right belt to suit your individual needs can become a little overwhelming. So, to make things easier for you, we’ve done some of the hard work.
Below you’ll find a selection of five of the best Olympic weightlifting belts on the market. We’ve also put together a handy buyer’s guide to further remove any possible confusion when selecting the right belt for you.
OUR TOP PICK
The primary function of a high quality weightlifting belt is to assist lifters as they brace and move without causing discomfort, or limiting the actual movement. This is why the Element 26 is arguably the best overall option on the market, providing all the qualities a lifting belt should possess, and without any of the hassle often found with other belts.
The Element 26 is a durable, well-constructed belt made from 100% premium nylon. It also has an adjustable strapping system, which gives lifters the flexibility of choosing the exact amount of pressure they desire before locking the belt into place.
Afterwards, when lifters are finished with their lift or set, all they need to do is pull the easy-to-access release roller in order to loosen the belt and move on to their next exercise.
This all-round belt is not only an ideal choice for functional fitness athletes who need a high-quality belt that’s easy to strap in and release for gym workouts, but also competitive weightlifters who are looking for a suitable and effective belt to wear in competition.
- Warranty - this belt has an impressive lifetime warranty if you have any problems.
- Self-locking security - self-locking buckle will never open or slip no matter how big your lift is, significantly reducing the risk of injury.
- Design - uniform 4” profile design creates consistent, intra-abdominal pressure which increases stability during lifts.
- Performance - belt is made from 100% premium nylon providing ultimate performance for all functional fitness athletes.
- Competition approved - fully approved for use in Olympic lifting and functional fitness competitions.
- Support - customers have reported that the belt isn’t as supportive as some of the leather belt options available.
If you’re on the lookout for a no-nonsense, yet highly-rated weightlifting belt then the Dark Iron belt could be the perfect choice for you.
Made from genuine buffalo leather, the belt offers impressive comfort, as well as significant support to your back. The high-quality materials also mean there’s minimal chafing or rubbing to distract you from your lifting.
The company claims that the belt can withstand lifts of over 275 kilos without suffering any damage. In fact, they’re so confident in the quality of their product that they offer a lifetime guarantee. So, if your belt ever breaks or suffers any significant wear and tear, they’ll replace it free of charge.
Given the quality of this belt, it’s refreshing to see that it’s not too expensive. The Dark Iron is one of the mid-range belts on the market, so if you’re looking for a relatively affordable but high-performing product, look no further.
- Durability - leather belt is built to last, so doesn’t break, tear or wear out like some belts made from cheaper materials.
- Comfort - genuine buffalo hide leather is soft, supple and flexible, so doesn’t dig into your sides or hips.
- Performance - customers confirm they’ve improved their lifts by 10% on average while using this belt.
- Warranty - lifetime warranty offered by a company dedicated to making sure their customers are pleased with their purchases.
- Stains clothing - a number of customers have highlighted a common issue that this belt has a tendency to stain clothing during workouts.
This belt from Harbinger offers enhanced comfort with its interior foam cushioning and suede lining. It is constructed of genuine leather with a contoured design that fits nicely against the body, offering support for your lifting and providing no hindrance to mobility whatsoever.
While the Harbinger is a leather belt, it is much softer and easier to wear than a lot of other leather weightlifting belts.
As you may have learned already, feeling safe and confident in your weightlifting belt is incredibly important and this belt from Harbinger provides excellent core support in it’s protection for the lower back and abdominals.
It also has a double-pronged buckle which is durable, and reassuringly makes you feel like you’re buckled in securely. The whole belt feels significantly thicker than many others on this list.
- Comfort - comes with interior foam cushioning and suede lining for enhanced comfort.
- Snug fit - contoured design and heavy-duty dual buckle secures tensioning to maintain a good fit.
- Affordable - well priced compared to similar weightlifting belts on the market.
- Durability - the belt is double-stitched for extra durability.
- Sizing - the belt’s sizing charts have received several complaints from customers.
The Iron Bull Strength belt is a product of excellent quality. Wider and thicker than the majority of weightlifting belts, it not only provides extra support, but also looks and feels stronger and sturdier. To put it simply, it’s well-suited for just about any powerlifting you want to get done.
The belt itself is made of thick leather, around 10mm, which is the standard size for professional athletes. It quickly conforms to your body shape, which is ideal for achieving optimal comfort levels while lifting.
The comfort and fit provided by the belt also offers maximum, well-distributed support around your abs, core, and most significantly, your back. This all-round support means that no part of your body is at real danger of injury.
The double-prong buckle is another key selling point for this belt. Not only does it look great, but it’s also adjustable which is useful if you do a variety of lifting exercises. The buckle is durable, and will hold fast during even the most intense workouts.
- Support - belt offers a reinforced back area with a full 4” wide velcro strap for secure fit.
- Comfort - neoprene build and top layer mesh fabric gives the belt optimal comfort and enhances its breathability.
- Fit - contoured and tapered design increases freedom of movement during any type of workout.
- Auto-lock fastening - auto-lock design allows you effectively to secure your waist.
Cons:Durability - belt isn’t quite as long-lasting as some others on the market.
The final belt on this list is the ProFitness Leather workout belt. This product is made from premium-grade leather, so it won’t be liable to stretch, tear or slip while you’re working out, no matter how heavy the weights are that you’re lifting.
To add further durability, the belt features an adjustable double-prong roller buckle to stay in place while you’re bending, lifting and squatting.
Using the correct form and technique is essential for achieving solid strength gains. This belt will be sure to help you in your quest for maintaining good form and balance during your workouts so you never fall behind your goals due to picking up unnecessary injuries.
- Performance - belt is designed to ensure you remain balanced and stable through your sets.
- Durability - heavy-duty metal buckle provides the belt with durability.
- Comfort - premium-grade leather ensures the belt won’t slip or ‘ride’ while you’re working out.
- Warranty - 60 day warranty in case the product isn’t suitable for your weightlifting needs.
- Sizing - sizing charts not accurate for a number of customers.
Best Olympic Weightlifting Belt Buying Guide
When it comes to finding the best Olympic weightlifting belt, there are a few things that you need to consider to ensure you get the best belt for your individual needs.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of these important areas to focus on when scouring the market. Giving them an extra little thought will help steer you towards the perfect option, saving you both time and effort in the long run.
It may sound a little obvious, but the type of lifting you’re doing or looking to achieve will have a significant impact on the belts you should be considering.
For example, powerlifters will be in the market for belts that prioritize security above all else, as the last thing they want is their belt coming loose in the middle of a big deadlift. For others who are simply functional fitness athletes, ease of adjustment, comfort, design and other factors will all come into play.
In Olympic weightlifting, bodybuilding and CrossFit, you’ll likely have to transition more frequently between a variety of exercises.
Therefore, spending a few minutes tightening and then unfastening your belt after each attempt is something you won’t want to do. The mechanisms and materials will also be things you need to consider.
As you’ve already learned, different belts have different locking mechanisms, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. When deciding which fastening mechanism is best suited to you, there are some factors that are dictated by training, but mostly it’s down to personal preference.
The traditional buckle mechanism provides a very secure fit and is easily adjustable. It’s worth noting however, that it can be difficult at times to get the buckle locked when you need your belt to be super tight before a heavy lift. As a result of this, many lifters need assistance to close their buckle.
A lever mechanism offers just as secure a fit as a buckle, but is more customizable to the lifter. The drawback is that it restricts the belt to just one individual, as changing the fit is a time-consuming process.
Velcro fastening mechanisms on belts are understandably easy to adjust and to take on and off. However, their security is worse than a buckle or lever and their lifespan may also be significantly shorter.
Ratchet mechanisms are much less common than the aforementioned three mechanisms. This type of fastening mechanism is ideal for a super tight fit, but the quality can often be inconsistent.
Weightlifting belts are usually made from two primary materials: either leather or a man-made material such as nylon.
Leather belts are hard-wearing and will mold nicely to your body over time. They also provide good-quality comfort and stability. Like any leather product, these belts will need to be cared for, so you’ll want to clean them and apply leather conditioner every few months to avoid cracking.
On the other hand, nylon belts are much easier to take care of and will only need the occasional wash, depending on how sweaty you get during your workouts. They won’t however, fit you quite as well as their leather counterparts.
Surprisingly, design isn’t that much of a factor for the majority of people when selecting an appropriate weightlifting belt, with most belts prioritizing functionality over aesthetics.
Despite this, there’s still a little flexibility in your choice of design, as you may have a preference for a more or less traditional look.
There is a vast price range in the weightlifting belt market. At the upper end you’ll find handmade, high quality belts that could cost you close to $150. These belts, if taken care of properly, should last a lifetime.
At the other end of the scale, some belts can sell for as little as $20. These however, are designed to be more mass market, and wouldn’t have either the security or lifespan to write home about.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should beginners use a lifting belt?
If you’re a true beginner, it’s recommended to focus on nailing form and mechanics first before reaching for the belt.
However, there are certain occasions when a belt is useful for beginners. For example, if you’re an inexperienced strength athlete and working with a coach and they advise you to use a belt, then doing so will prove beneficial with the specific demands of your training and sport.
When should you wear a lifting belt?
Belts are most commonly worn for exercises such as maximal lifts, heavy sets and strength sport-specific movements.
While wearing a belt certainly isn’t compulsory for these exercises, athletes will look to a weightlifting belt to support performance. This is mainly achieved through the belt’s creation of additional intra-abdominal pressure.
Do I have to wear a lifting belt for heavy weights?
There is no rule set in stone that states lifting belts must be worn when lifting heavy weights. In fact, you can lift heavy weights without any supportive equipment whatsoever if you want to.
However, it is recommended, and definitely helpful to use a belt if you’re looking to lift over 1,000 lbs.
Are belts allowed in Olympic weightlifting?
The simple answer to this question is yes. For either or both lifts, belts are allowed in Olympic weightlifting competitions. The only rule is that they cannot be more than 120 mm or 4.76”.
How do you wear a weightlifting belt in your sessions?
The main consideration to take into account is ensuring that the belt doesn’t impede your lift.
To avoid some of the common mistakes of how to wear a weightlifting belt, the bottom of the belt shouldn’t be wedged into your hips at any point during the workout and the top section shouldn’t be pushed against your ribs.
To put it simply, if you want to know how to wear your belt correctly, just find a position where it’s entirely comfortable, and a position that also allows you to create a good amount of pressure against the belt.