Lifters need belts to lift maximal weights and to protect the lower back. But how you position the belt around your torso and what level of tightness is more critical than the actual type of belt you choose to wear.
So, what is the best deadlift belt position? The belt should be worn around the trunk in the position at which we are best able to brace into the belt to create tension. The best position could be closer to the chest, just above the hip bones, or lower on the hips but is largely determined by personal preference.
Deciding where to wear our belt in the deadlift is largely trial and error but there are some quick tips to help us determine the best position for us.
In this article I’ll discuss the different belt positions, what level of tightness we may prefer, and some possible solutions for if our belt is still feeling uncomfortable.
To get the full effects from the belt, we first need to learn how to breathe and brace properly. Check out our article on How To Breathe Properly In The Deadlift to maximize the benefits of wearing a belt.
Belt Position For The Deadlift: 3 Ways To Wear It
There are three belt positions for the deadlift:
- High Belt Position
- Middle Belt Position
- Low Belt Position
1. High Belt Position
The higher belt position is one where the belt sits higher on the midsection on the ribs. This belt position is most often used by lifters with a longer torso that struggle to keep their back tight in the deadlift.
Competitive powerlifter Erik Gunhamn prefers the higher belt position:
“The main reason I wear the belt that high is that I tried it and it felt more comfortable. The mechanics behind it are that when you pull sumo, or in a more upright position, the lower back is pretty strong in that position and the upper back is your weakest spot; therefore, the upper back is likely where you need the most support. My personal observation is that when people go heavy in the deadlift the upper/middle part of the back is often the part that rounds first so it makes more sense to wear it higher. I think the high belt position is ideal for sumo pullers.”Erik Gunhamn
Check out some of our other sumo deadlift resources on this topic:
- Is Sumo Deadlifting Easier On The Low Back?
- Is It Okay To Deadlift With A Round Back? (Some Powerlifters Say Yes)
2. Middle Belt Position
The middle belt position is the most common position that lifters use for the deadlift, and is characterized by the belt being worn in the area above the hip bones but under the ribs.
The middle belt position is most often used because it sits more comfortably by avoiding the hip bones and ribs, and is directly over the abdominals and lower back – which is the musculature we want to expand into the belt to brace and create tension.
3. Low Belt Position
The lower belt position is one where the belt sits lower on the hips usually on or below the hip bones. This belt position is most often used by lifters who have more fat mass in their midsection.
Competitive Powerlifter Joseph Benoit prefers a lower belt position.
“A higher belt position has never felt comfortable for me because it always felt like the belt was pinching me, which prevented me from bracing. I switched to a lower belt position and I’ve had great success with getting into position without any pinching, and I can brace better in my start position”.Joseph Benoit
How Tight Should Your Belt Be For Deadlifting
Our belt should be at the level of tightness at which we are best able to brace, and therefore is largely a matter of personal preference.
A Tighter Belt Position
A tighter belt position is achieved when the belt is worn at a level of tightness that is difficult to fit our fingers in between us and the belt. This level of tightness is beneficial because it cues us to maintain tightness by pushing out aggressively against the belt once we’ve taken in our breath.
Although, it is important that the level of tightness does not prevent us from taking a full deep breath, because this is needed to create maximum trunk stability when bracing.
We may prefer a tighter belt if we feel more secure with our belt being tighter, and we are able to get into our deadlift start position without any discomfort or it inhibiting our ability to take a deep breath.
A Looser Belt Position
A looser belt position is one that has more space between us and the belt when worn (we can fit our hand more easily between the belt and our abdominals). This forces us to emphasize 360 degree expansion of the trunk musculature in order to brace into the belt and create tension.
It is important that the belt is not so loose that we cannot brace into it, because we need to be able to breathe in and expand into the belt for maximum trunk stability. If it is so loose that we cannot create tension, then it is too loose.
We may prefer a looser fit if we feel that a looser belt helps to cue a more aggressive 360 degree expansion of the trunk to create tension, and we feel that we can take a deeper breath in our starting position when the belt is looser.
For me, I know that I like a tighter belt position on the squat, but a looser belt position on the deadlift.
Some people choose not to deadlift with a belt. If you’re curious what the pros and cons are, check out my article on Deadlifting Without A Belt.
Belt Positions For Sumo & Conventional: Is It Different?
While there is no right or wrong belt position for the sumo or conventional deadlift, it is common for lifters to have a preference for which belt position they prefer based on which deadlift variation they are performing.
Some lifters prefer a slightly higher belt position for the conventional deadlift and the sumo deadlift, because it is more common for the upper and middle back to lose it’s positioning and begin rounding. By wearing the belt a bit higher, we can help support the lats by bracing.
In addition, because we are more compact in the start position (usually a more angled torso) for the conventional deadlift, a higher belt position may feel more comfortable rather than having the belt pressed into our ribs, hip bones, and thighs.
However, some sumo lifters prefer wearing their belt lower on the hips to better support the lower back, because of the wedging of the hips into the bar that is required to break the bar off the floor to initiate the lift.
Each lifter will have their own preferences for where they position their belt based on which belt position makes them feel the most secure, where their technique breaks down, and which position yields the best results.
4 Quick Tips For Finding The Best Belt Positions For You
- Lower Belt Positions For Those With A Bigger Belly
- Higher Belt Positions For Those With A Longer Torso
- Tight Enough To Brace But With Room To Breathe Deeply
- Trial And Error
1. Lower Belt Positions For Those With A Bigger Belly
Lifters who have more fat mass in their midsection often prefer a lower belt position in the deadlift because it tends to be less restrictive in the start position and allow them to brace effectively without it compressing their belly.
While the lower belt position is typically preferred for those with a bigger belly, this does not mean that every lifter will prefer this. It is worth trying the lower belt position, but if it feels awkward or we feel like we cannot brace in this position, we may prefer a middle or high belt position.
If you have a bigger belly and you’re interested in buying a belt, check out the 5 Top Lifting Belts For Big Guys That Fit Right.
2. Higher Belt Positions For Those With A Longer Torso
Lifters with a longer torso tend to prefer a higher belt position because it may be more difficult for these lifters to keep their erectors and lats tight in the deadlift due to the increased demand on these structures to stay braced in the deadlift, because of the position they are in as a result of their torso length.
If you aren’t sure if you have a long, average or short torso, check out our article on the Best Deadlift Back Angle For Your Size & Build where we discuss how to determine your proportions.
3. Tight Enough To Brace But With Room To Breathe Deeply
The level of tightness we should aim for with our belt is to have it tight enough that we are able to brace against it when we cue a 360 degree expansion of the trunk, but not so tight that we are not able to take a full deep breath.
There will be slight variations in the level of tightness each lifter prefers, which is mostly based on the level of discomfort a lifter experiences in the start position if they feel their belt is either too tight or too loose. As well as, if they are able to brace effectively to maintain tension and protect their backs.
It is important to note that the level of tightness we prefer in the deadlift may not be the same level of tightness that we prefer in the squat or bench. It is common for lifters to have different tightness preferences for each lift.
4. Trial And Error
Finding the optimal belt position for the deadlift and how tight it should be is mostly based on personal preference, which is determined through trial and error.
When in doubt, it is worth experimenting with the belt in each position to see which we position and level of tightness we prefer. There will likely be a position that feels the most comfortable and a level of tightness that we feel the most secure.
If we can determine which deadlift belt positions do not function for us, we can use a process of elimination to find out which position may be the best option, even if it does not feel natural initially.
What To Do If The Belt Position Still Feels Uncomfortable
If our belt still feels uncomfortable when we are deadlifting – our belt might be too tight, the wrong thickness, or the wrong material for us.
If our belt is too tight it will feel uncomfortable, and it may impact our ability to brace properly and limit the amount of weight we can lift in the deadlift.
A belt is usually said to be too tight if we are unable to take a full deep breath once the belt is on. We need to be able to take a full breath in order to brace properly for the deadlift; therefore, if the belt is preventing this then it is at a counterproductive level of tightness.
The Wrong Size
If the belt is the wrong size, the belt may feel uncomfortable by digging into the ribs and/or hips, especially when we are setting up for the deadlift.
We may need to decrease the width of the belt we are using, especially if we have a shorter torso. Typically belts are 4” wide, but if it is feeling uncomfortable on the hips and/or ribs we should try switching to a 3” belt such as the Rogue Ohio.
We could also decrease the thickness of the belt we are using, by opting for a 10mm belt instead of a 13mm belt. If the belt is too thick it may feel too rigid and/or dig into our ribs and hips in the deadlift setup.
If our belt is made of a material that we find uncomfortable then it will impact our deadlift performance; instead we should try a belt from a different material such as nylon or leather.
If we have a leather belt and it feels too rigid, we may prefer a nylon belt which will be more flexible to allow for more wiggle room while still providing additional support for us to brace into.
I recommend the Schiek Lifting Belt that has a velcro strap for a quick but secure attachment, and is tapered at the hips to help avoid discomfort while still having enough support on the front and back to support the abdominals and the erectors when we brace into the belt.
However, a nylon belt may not be as ideal for maximal attempts because it is a thinner material, so we must decide if the comfort level of the nylon is worth not having the maximum support offered by a leather belt.
If we decide we prefer a leather belt because we need the additional support for maximal lifting, then I suggest the Inzer Forever Belt which is the most commonly used belt in powerlifting for its durability.
Other Belt Resources
- Best Powerlifting Belt: In-Depth Guide & Review
- 10 Best Women Powerlifting Belts: Buying Guide
- Powerlifting vs Weightlifting Belt: Which Is Best?
- Lever vs Prong Belt: Which Is Best?
- Schiek Lifting Belt Review: Pros, Cons, Is It Worth It?
- Inzer Belt vs. SBD Belt: Which One Should You Get and Why?
Choosing the best belt position is very individual, but can be made easier knowing that people with certain features tend to prefer their belt in certain positions and that the level of tightness is determined by our ability to brace properly into the belt. When in doubt, we should use trial and error to make the decision on what deadlift belt position is optimal for us.
About The Author
Amanda Parker has a passion for competing and coaching in both powerlifting and weightlifting. She uses her knowledge from her Kinesiology Degree, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition certification to coach athletes and lifestyle clients for performance in training and nutrition. Connect with her on Instagram.