Weightlifting belts are ideal for lifters who are interested in pursuing their true training potential or to lift without pain or compromised form. We’re going to dive into the best weightlifting belts of 2021 and a few more important details to help you choose the best belt for your goals.
What Is A Weightlifting Belt For
Weightlifting belts are used for weight lifting, most commonly for heavier barbell focused lists, like deadlifting and squatting. The belt aims to maintain abdominal pressure and to stabilize the spine. You might also see individuals wearing a weightlifting belt while doing other exercises, like shoulder raises or seated cable rows for example.
Why do bodybuilders wear belts all the time you might wonder? Now before you judge them, understand that when an individual is in an upright position, a belt can prevent hyperextension. Other reasons for more bodybuilding focused athletes to use a belt is to reduce the stress on the midsection to develop less size in this area. However, it’s important to note that a weight belt does not decrease waist size and they shouldn’t be worn/used for this purpose.
Who Should Use A Weightlifting Belt
Anyone can use a weightlifting belt, but you only should when you need extra stabilization or support through a lift in order to avoid injury. A lot of people will argue that wearing a weightlifting belt is cheating, which, it actually isn’t. The reason is this - a weightlifting belt doesn’t help you build muscles, it keeps you from injuring yourself. Just about every weightlifting competition allows the use of weightlifting belts and for this very reason. Personal safety is the number one priority when pursing lifting weights and if you’re worried about some person at the gym giving you crap over wearing one, let it go. It’s better to protect yourself against harm, to brace the core and the spine, and to enhance your breathing technique to lift weight with proper form rather than getting injured.
Do Weightlifting Belts Work
For most people, yes, weightlifting belts work to improve performance, assist with a heavy lift, to protect the spine and to increase intra-abdominal pressure minimizing the risk of injury. If you’re regularly weightlifting or Olympic weightlifting, you don’t need to wear your belt for every lift, but the belts do serve a purpose. Anything greater than 85% of your one-rep max is a nice time to use a belt to stabilize the spine and minimize injury. These are the biggest benefits of wearing a weightlifting belt.
How To Wear A Weightlifting Belt
First, you’re going to want to learn how to breathe to create that intra-abdominal pressure without a belt, using the valsalva maneuver (you can read about that here). If you can’t do this first before putting belt on, you’re going to have a hard time, which might lead to or be a cause of back pain and poor stabilization throughout your movements in the first place. Next, put the belt on. The sides of the belt should not be touching on your belly button and there should be some space, where you then use the latch, lever, or strap to tighten with.
Your belt should be tight enough that you’re unable to put your hand between your skin and the belt, but loose enough to be able to still expand your torso while preparing your breath. As far as your belt position, make sure its on your erectors as much as possible, aka your back muscles, so that your abdomen is covered. This is usually an inch or two above your hips/pelvis. Note: If you have back pain even with a built, troubleshoot your belt positioning or consider reducing the weight to avoid injury.
The Best Weightlifting Belts Of 2023
Gymreapers 10mm Lever Belt
If you’re looking to take your performance to the next level look no further than the Gym Reapers 10mm Lever Belt. It’s available in x-small through xx-large and you can choose from 5 different colorways. When put to the test, this belt really exceeds expectations, over and over again. It's USPA approved, has reinforced stitching, and is made of leather.
Regardless of color, it doesn’t stain or stink from your sweat and the security fastening of the metal clip surpasses pretty much every other plastic lever belt (and even metal ones) on the market this year. Our favorite notable about this belt is that it's extremely comfortable and you barely even know it's there - aside from the fact that you're going to crush your expectations and get those PRs you've been dreaming about.
Bonus points: it also comes with a one-year warranty and great customer service.
Rogue Ohio Weightlifting Belt
The Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt is a heavy leather belt designed for rigid movements. With a 4” wide girth, it packs in 100% pure leather for optimal support and confidence for your lifts. It only has a single prong belt design so you’re not going to get stuck in it like some other double prongs post lift. This belt is going to last for years, but if you’re looking to do any functional movement in it, its probably not the belt for you.
SBD 13mm Lever Belt
Arguably the most expensive belt on this list is the SBD 13mm Lever Belt. As far as belts go, this one is an absolute beast worn by some of the strongest people on the planet, including Ray Williams, Thor Jornsson, and Lya Bavoil to name drop a few. The belt is made with a combo of genuine English leather and hardened aluminum alloy that is 13mm thick and 10cm wide. It’s stiff as hell and takes a ton of time to break in. It also comes with a standout feature, the SBD patented buckle system. If you’re in the market for a new powerlifting belt and are willing to spend the money, this belt may be right for you, as it is arguably the best weightlifting belt on the market right now, especially if you’re moving a mass amount of weight.
Dark Iron Fitness Leather Weightlifting Belt
Another 100% leather belt on this list goes to the Dark Iron Fitness Genuine Leather Belt due to its rigid support for your max lifts. In our experience, you can put this belt through hell and it’s going to keep coming back training day after training day. It does have a pretty heavy duty double buckle and trust us, it’s not going to bust open. Only downside? Since its leather, there’s a good chance you’re going to get some odor trapped in there, however, as an Olympic weightlifter, it’s not about how you smell, it’s how you perform.
Fire Team Fit Weight Lifting Belt
Coming in as one of the highest, if not the highest back support belts at 6”, the fire team fit weight lifting belt is superb if you’re coming back from a back injury, have a weak core, and/or are looking for max support throughout your abdomen and spinal column. Low back pain be gone!
Rogue USA Nylon Lifting Belt
This is one of the most affordable belts on this list and with the 5” inch rise in the back it is also on the top for support in the nylon belt category. Did we mention that it is hand washable and stacks up against unwanted odors? If you’re partaking in more functional fitness and are looking for solid back support through moderate lifts, this belt is ideal for you.
Harbinger 4” Nylon Lifting Belt
Are you a casual lifter looking for comfortable support? Then this is the belt for you, the Harbinger 4” Nylon Lifting belt. With a slim profile you’ll be supported with ease and is great for the beginner to mid-level lifter, functional athlete, or recreational athlete. We’ve heard it might run a little small though, so make sure it fits and that your form is tight for optimal performance results.
This belt also does come in the Harbinger Women’s Nylon Weightlifting Belt which is specifically designed for women with a 5” width, foam core, reasonable price and heavy gauge buckle.
Element 26 Weightlifting Belt
If you’re looking for a functional belt with minimal support and a belt without padding or contouring, then you may want to consider putting Element 26 in your bag. It comes with a 4-inch profile and is extremely light weight and flexible. If you’re new to fitness, a recreational athlete, or someone looking for quick transitions between moderate weight and the rig, check it out. It does come with a locking feature which is nice for when the velcro doesn’t hold. Without the extra support it truly teaches you how to create that intra-abdominal strength to brace your back and not rely on the belt to do it for you. Learn how to use the belt here.
View more about the Element 26 belt here
How To Choose A Weightlifting Belt
Anytime you’re investing in a new piece of gym equipment, the goal is to have it get through anything you throw at it and to be as functional as possible for you and your goals. Nothing is worse than spending a bunch of money on something that busts, right? Here’s what we recommend considering when purchasing a weightlifting belt.
- Adjustability: We’re talking about going with belt loops, velcro, or belt loops.
- Comfort: Ideally, you don’t want your belt pinching or digging into your skin, as that’s the last thing you want to think about when you’re lifting. You have options here, like choosing a belt that is lined with padding or a softer material like suede that works with your skin and not against it. It’s also important to choose the right size so that your belt isn’t too tight or too loose.
- Durability: Going back to our original point, this is going to depend on both the material and what you’re using the belt for. Pay attention to the thickness of the material, how long you’re expecting to have your belt for, and the closure strength for your size and body.
- Material: Looking at the material includes both the belt itself and the closures. Leather, nylon, velcro and buckles are a few examples.
- Price: While there's nothing wrong with paying for great features, ask yourself if the features match the quality.
- Support: Straight belts and curved belts offer different levels of support for the lower lumbar and these usually come in 4 inch or 6 inch material differences. This is the highest injury area, so if you need the extra support there, get it. No shame in that.
- Versatility & Width: Chances are your belt is going to get pretty beat up if you’re whipping it off and throwing it during CrossFit as compared to lifting heavy, low volume weight.
- Warranty: If you're like us and want your belt to last, look into the warranty and the break in period to see if the quality is backed up with a guarantee.
Difference Between Leather Belts and Nylon Belts
It’s true that an athlete will benefit the most when choosing the best equipment designed for their chosen sport. For example, if you’re powerlifting or practicing your strongman work, you’re probably going to opt for a more cylinder style belt. This belt wraps around the torso equally and is built for more rigid movements found in these sports. On the other hand, an Olympic lifter should most likely opt for a belt that provides both versatility and support, which has a thicker portion of the belt in the back than the front supporting the lower lumbar more. This is where the difference between leather belts and nylon belts come into play.
Leather Belts: Great for powerlifting, weightlifting, and general lifting. They’re durable, often pretty heavy, and for rigid movements. Leather weightlifting belts come in cone, contoured, or cylinder designs. These belts will last longer than nylon.
Nylon Belts: These are versatile, light, and often more comfortable than leather. They come in both cone and cylinder designs and are more ideal than leather for the functional athlete, weightlifter, or recreational athlete. They can be taken off and put on quicker than leather belts.
Best Weightlifting Belts Of 2023
All in all, if you've dialed in your form for your lifts and are looking to push more weight, avoid injury, and stabilize the abdomen and spine, then you might want to consider investing in a weight lifting belt. There's a time and purpose for these weightlifting tools, and when used properly, they can propel your performance to the next level.
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