Dark Iron Lifting Belt Review: Pros, Cons, Is It Worth It?

Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means I earn from qualifying purchases.

dark iron lifting belt review

If you’re serious about powerlifting, investing in a powerlifting belt should be a no-brainer.

Today, I’m reviewing the Dark Iron lifting belt, one of the most affordable options on the market. But unlike most cheap belts, this one features a genuine leather build with a heavy-duty double-prong buckle. Thanks to its rapid break-in time, it should be the ideal pick for beginners.

Although Dark Iron was just founded in 2015, it quickly won the trust of many customers, mainly because of their excellent customer service.

If you don’t have enough time to read my full review, you can suffice by checking the following pros and cons:

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Made from a flexible yet supportive buffalo hide leather
  • Equipped with heavy-duty stitching for better durability
  • Covered with a lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Not approved for professional competitions
  • Might leave black imprints on your shirt
  • Dark Iron doesn’t produce a lever version

Recommended For

  • Lifters who are buying a belt for the first time and want a solidly built, cheap belt
  • Lifters who want to lift more weight in the compound movements (squat, bench press, deadlift, shoulder press, leg press)

Not Recommended For

  • Competitive powerlifters since it’s not approved for competition use
  • Competitive weightlifters since it will feel too rigid for the snatch and clean and jerk

Things to Consider Before Buying a Lifting Belt

To better understand the details of the Dark Iron belt, let’s quickly review some basic knowledge about belts in general

Who Should Wear a Lifting Belt?

Because lifting belts aren’t that cheap, some lifters feel skeptical about using them, thinking that they provide insignificant value.

The truth is, a lifting belt can do wonders for your squats, deadlifts, and even bench presses. This happens because it increases the pressure inside your abdomen, which stabilizes your spine, allows you to lift more weight, and decreases the risk of unfortunate injuries.

But does that mean that you should wear a belt during your whole workout? I wouldn’t suggest that. Having a tight belt wrapped around your body for more than an hour might cut off your circulation, which can discourage you from finishing your reps.

Material

Most brands make their lifting belts from nylon or leather. Choosing your belt’s material mainly depends on your training goals and previous experience.

Because nylon is way softer than leather, it’s the favorite material for beginners who lift light to moderate weights. Also, because these belts tighten with velcro pads, it’s incredibly easy to put them on and take them off.

On the downside, the velcro might suddenly snap off, especially if you attempt to lift a heavy load. Such a startling incident might impact your balance, increasing the risk of serious injuries.

For this reason, leather belts are the go-to option for professional lifters. Even though they might be uncomfortably rigid, they’ll gradually break in and conform to your body’s shape.

Thickness

If you decide to go for a leather belt, the next step is to determine your preferred thickness. The two most common options on the market are 10mm and 13mm belts.

Since 13mm belts pack more leather, they provide firmer support, allowing you to reach your full lifting potential. But of course, you’ll trade off comfort for that performance boost.

The 10mm belts are cheaper and less restrictive, making them the ideal choice for day-to-day use.

Some lifting belts, like the one I’m reviewing today, go even thinner than 10 mm. You have to be careful about such models because they can easily break underneath heavy loads.

Width

Almost all leather belts are designed to be 4 inches wide. Nylon belts, on the other hand, are mostly 6 inches wide.

Buying a 6-inch leather belt won’t be a wise decision because it’ll inevitably dig in your hips and ribs. On the other hand, 4-inch nylon belts will be too weak to withstand professional training.

Lever vs. Prong

Leather belts may feature either a lever or a prong buckle. A prong belt looks just like any belt you’d wear over your pants. To tighten it, you have to thread the belt through the buckle, pull it as hard as you can, and then secure the prong in the tightest setting. Although these belts provide impeccable stability, they consume too much time and effort.

Lever belts are much more convenient. You just hook the teeth passively in one of the holes, and then you flick the lever to automatically reach the tightest setting. On the downside, the first-time assembly can be somewhat tricky.

Dark Iron Lifting Belt: Detailed Review

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s start dissecting this belt to see whether it can fit your needs or not.

Design and Build Quality

When I first heard about this belt, I was immediately skeptical about the quality, mainly because of its economical price tag. To put things into perspective, this belt is two times cheaper than the Inzer Forever Belt, which is one of the best belts on the market.

But luckily, Dark Iron cleared up all my doubts. This belt is made from genuine buffalo hide leather, which should last more than the regular cowhide that’s featured in most mid-range belts.

The leather core is covered by another layer of dyed leather from both sides, making the belt feel a lot more comfortable to wear. To guarantee durability, these layers are stitched to the main belt by six rows of red stitching.

In the belt’s mid-point, you’ll find the Dark Iron logo embroidered on an external piece of fabric, which is also stitched by red yarn. Although this isn’t a major issue, this design doesn’t look that good, especially when compared to more expensive options like the RDX belt.

Potential Dye Leakage

I was wearing a white shirt the first time I tried this belt. After I finished my squats, I found that the belt left faint black markings where it was wrapped around my body. My sweat must’ve dissolved some of the dye, which caused it to creep into the shirt’s fabric.

To be honest, I’ve encountered the same problem with other belts, such as the one produced by SBD. Additionally, most of the Amazon reviews confirmed that this didn’t happen with them. I guess this might be the result of minor flaws in the manufacturing process and quality assurance.

On the positive side, the belt stopped leaving those black imprints after the fourth use. If you wear a black shirt during that period, these imprints will go completely unnoticed.

Performance

As I said earlier, most lifting belts are designed with a thickness of 10 or 13 mm. Dark Iron, however, decided to bring it down to 4 mm only. Is this bad? Well, not necessarily.

Naturally, the slimmer build will detract from the amount of support the belt can provide. But if I’m being honest, you don’t always need the hefty support promised by more expensive brands.

Because this belt is made of buffalo hide leather, its support feels relatively similar to a 10mm belt. In fact, Dark Iron explicitly says that it can support up to 600 pounds without tearing or breaking, which is pretty impressive for its price.

Comfort

Throughout my training career, I’ve seen hundreds of novice lifters complaining about how the lifting belt digs in their skin and even bruises their ribs and hips. Even though this problem resolves mostly within a couple of weeks, some people still can’t tolerate this pain.

If you’ve encountered this problem yourself, I’m pretty sure you’ll love the Dark Iron belt. The buffalo hide leather is inherently flexible, which will allow for satisfyingly short break-in duration.

Using the Double Prongs

The Dark Iron belt tightens with a double-pronged buckle that’s guaranteed to stay tight throughout the workout. You can insert these prongs in any of the 12 holes featured on the belt, which will let you fine-tune the tightness as you wish.

Unfortunately, Dark Iron doesn’t produce an alternative version with a lever buckle. Although I wouldn’t think this a significant flaw, some people don’t appreciate the relative complexity of prongs. You might have to hook the belt to a rack and pull yourself back to reach the maximum tightness.

On the contrary, lever belts are much easier. All you have to do is hook the teeth in the hole and flick the lever — that’s it! Such convenience will be especially valuable if you participate in professional competitions. You shouldn’t be wasting your time searching for a rack to secure your prong belt.

Approval for Competition

As you might already know, you can’t participate in professional competitions unless your gear is approved by the federation organizing the event.

To know whether you can compete with the Dark Iron belt or not, let’s first review the technical specs required by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and USA Powerlifting (USAPL).

IPF & USAPL Technical Specifications

  • The lifting belt should be made of leather or vinyl.
  • The maximum width is 4 inches, and the maximum thickness is 13 mm.
  • It can be laminated with suede or similar materials.
  • It must not be padded or braced with any additional layers.
  • It can feature a single prong, double prongs, or a lever buckle.
  • The buckle should be attached with durable rivets or stitches.
  • The tongue loop should be smaller than 5 cm, and it should be attached within 25 cm from the belt’s end.

Even though the Dark Iron belt satisfies the mentioned requirements, it’s not approved by IPF, USAPL, or USPA. Much to my surprise, Dark Iron falsely claims the opposite on the official Amazon listing!

Although this might be an unintentional mistake, it’s incredibly significant. One of the Amazon reviewers says that he got a low score just because he wore it on the platform!

The worst thing is that you can’t just switch belts at the last minute. Any belt needs time to break in and follow the shape of your body.

I think that Dark Iron should’ve been more honest with its customers.

Sizing

Naturally, any lifting belt should fit tightly around your body in order to provide the desired support.

To guarantee the optimal result, you shouldn’t depend on your typical pant size. Alternatively, pick a cloth tape measure, and wrap it over your waist at the level of your belly button.

While tightening the tape measure, don’t suck in your stomach or tighten your abs. Just stand in a relaxed position and maintain normal breathing. Then, pull the tape measure until it starts to dig in your skin. Write down the measurement and pick your size from the following table.

SizeMeasurement
Extra Small23–31 inches
Small27–35 inches
Medium32–40 inches
Large36–44 inches
Extra Large41–49 inches

Why Do the Sizes Overlap?

The previous measurement ranges indicate the loosest and tightest settings of each size. Ideally, you should pick the size that has the highest leeway above and below your waist measurement.

For example, let’s say your waist is 37 inches wide. Technically, both the Medium and Large versions will work. However, with the Large version, you’ll have to pull the belt as tight as you can to make it fit. This will inadvertently leave you with considerable slack, which might be too annoying during deadlifts.

If you go with the Medium version, you can fine-tune the tightness within 3 inches above and 5 inches below your actual measurement.

Customer Service

The majority of the belt’s reviews praise the friendly attitude of Dark Iron. Several customers said that they initially picked the wrong size, but Dark Iron didn’t hesitate to replace them in no time.

Also, they seem to welcome any concerns and inquiries about any of their gear, not just this belt. Better yet, they’ve prepared an FAQ page that explains pretty much everything you’d want to know. If you can’t find an answer there, contact them at [email protected]. They typically respond within two business days. 

What Alternatives Can You Buy?

great alternatives for dark iron belt

If you think the Dark Iron belt can’t live up to your needs, don’t fret — the market is full of dozens of great alternatives. Here are 3 of the best options:

1.   Inzer Forever 10MM Lever Belt: Most Durable 

I bought the Inzer Forever belt about 13 years ago, and I’m happy to say that it still looks as good as new — I guess it’s truly meant to live “Forever”! But of course, you’ll have to pay top dollar for such durability.

What I love most about Inzer is how they care about their customer needs. It produces lever and prong versions, both in 10mm and 13mm. This versatility is the main reason why this belt is ubiquitous in professional competitions.

How It Compares to the Dark Iron Lifting Belt

  • More expensive
  • Thicker build
  • Offered in prong and lever versions
  • More durable
  • Approved for competitions

2.   Rogue 3″ Ohio Belt: Best for Short People

Rogue builds this belt from 10mm-thick vegetable tanned leather, but it caps the width to 3 inches only. This simple design tweak makes the belt much more suitable for short athletes who can’t withstand the painful chafing of the 4-inch models.

Unfortunately, Rogue doesn’t produce a lever-buckled alternative. As I said earlier, the prongs aren’t necessarily bad, but they might need a bit more time to secure, especially if you’re going for the tightest setting.

Of course, this belt comes at an extravagant price tag, which is pretty expectable from a brand as reputable as Rogue. But since it’s approved for competitions, I think it’s a pretty worthy investment.

How It Compares to the Dark Iron Lifting Belt

  • More expensive
  • Provides firmer support
  • The smaller width is more comfortable
  • Lasts longer
  • Better design
  • Approved for competitions

3.   LiftingLarge Economy Lever Belt

The Lifting Large Economy belt is one of the few products that combines excellent performance at an affordable price.

Quality-wise, this belt looks and performs exactly like the Inzer Forever — it even features the same premium suede padding. Additionally, it’s available with a lever, single prong, and double prongs, which come in 10mm and 13mm options.

How It Compares to the Dark Iron Lifting Belt

  • Slightly more expensive
  • Wider design variety
  • Approved for competitions
  • Better durability

The Final Word

Should you purchase the Dark Iron lifting belt? If you hate the uncomfortable rigidity of leather, yet you still like its effectiveness, then you should try this belt. And don’t worry, its affordable price tag doesn’t reflect a flimsy build. In fact, I haven’t stumbled on any review complaining about premature rips or sudden breaks.

The only thing I don’t like is the fact that you can’t use it for a professional competition. If this is something you need, the Inzer Forever belt should be your best bet. Click here to order the Dark Iron lifting belt at today’s price.