A weightlifting belt, much as the name indicates, is a belt specifically designed for use with heavy weightlifting. It essentially has two main purposes and benefits: reducing the stress on your lower back, and preventing hyperextension when you lift the weights over your head. But should you get one?
The answer to this depends on a few different factors. Not everybody needs to wear a weightlifting belt, and you also shouldn’t be using the belt for just any type of exercise.
The belt is there to prevent injury and strain when you’re lifting very heavyweights, and you’re putting extra stress on your lower back. So you should only really wear a weightlifting belt when you’re going to be placing weight on your spine.
As a general rule, you should only ever need to use the weightlifting belt when performing barbell lifts with squats, strict presses, deadlifts, and different types of Olympic lifts. Any other type of exercise does not need the use of the belt, and should therefore not make use of one.
However, don’t let these recommendations act as rules. At the end of the day, you should use the weightlifting belt whenever you need it, as long as it’s comfortable and not detrimental to your lifting. Many people find that it helps them push through the heavier lifting, so try out different possibilities and go from there!
As to whether you should even get a weightlifting belt at all…it also depends. If you weight lift once every very often, or you’re a beginner, or you’re just trying it out, then it really isn’t worth investing money in a belt.
However, if you regularly lift weights, and mostly in the category that can benefit from the assistance of a belt, then the money is worth it and it is recommended that you get one as part of your gear.
Are belts allowed in Olympic weightlifting?
Yes, belts are indeed allowed in Olympic weightlifting, and there aren’t any rules against them in the slightest. In fact, weightlifting belts are simply considered a standard piece of gear within weightlifting, and can therefore be used without causing any issues.
Not every weightlifter will use a belt, but it is quite common to see most of them wearing a belt, as it provides health benefits during the harder lifts. It is especially common to see weightlifters using a belt during their single lift, as it increases IAP.
How do you break in a weightlifting belt?
Not everybody needs to wear a weightlifting belt, but at Olympic levels, or amongst those that lift heavier weights, placing a strain on the spine, the belt can be an incredibly useful piece of gear. Not only will the belt provide support, but it will also reduce the stress placed on the lower back, and will therefore help prevent certain injuries and strains.
These belts are most commonly made out of leather, designed to be thick and with an even width all the way around. They reduce mobility, but in exchange for that, they provide a great deal of support, which is very much needed for the hardest of lifts.
As these leather belts are thick and quite rigid, they need to be broken in after being purchased, so that they’re comfortable to wear and adapt to the wearer. Kind of like when you buy new shoes and need to break them in so they don’t cause any discomfort!
But how do you break a weightlifting belt in?
There are three main steps that are recommended for breaking in a weightlifting belt:
Wear the belt:
The easiest way to break in a belt is to wear it as often as you can. Just as you would with shoes, the more you use them, the more they will soften up, and the more they will adapt to you. So although it will be uncomfortable at first, it should start to adapt after a few wears.
Break down the fibers:
To break down the fibers, and soften up the leather, you can rub some alcohol into the belt. (Rubbing alcohol, not drinking alcohol!) You can also then add a coating of petroleum jelly, which will soften it up even more!
Break in the leather:
Another way of breaking in the leather is by literally breaking it. To do this, weightlifters will roll up the belt as tight as they can, and will then place a heavyweight on top of it. This should break it down and get rid of the rigid shape. Some weightlifters even drive their car over the rolled-up belt! But a few weights should do the trick.
How tight should a weightlifting belt be?
A weightlifting belt should be worn relatively tight so that it can offer the necessary support.
However, you should be able to breathe without discomfort and should be able to fully expand your diaphragm.
Does a weightlifting belt weaken your core?
Some people believe that wearing a weightlifting belt is sort of cheating and that it weakens your core over time. However, this is not true at all. The belt does not, in any way, weaken your core.
What the belt does is support your natural core muscles, providing support so that there’s less of a risk of straining your lower back. You still need to train, just as hard, even if you are using a belt.
How do I choose a weightlifting belt?
The main factor you need to take into consideration when choosing your weightlifting belt is size.
It’s important that the belt is big enough to go around your waist, but it’s also important that it’s not too big, as it would be very uncomfortable to have a big chunk of it hanging loose, (and that would probably get in the way of the weightlifting itself, becoming a hazard!)
Measure your waist circumference accurately, asking for help if needed, and choose your belt accordingly.