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Deadlifting and squatting with a belt is a common practice in powerlifting. But can a belt help your lifts?
Should you wear a belt for squats and deadlifts? You should wear a powerlifting belt if your goal is to maximize the weight you can lift. Studies show a belt will help you squat 5 to 15% more. A belt also reduces shear forces on the spine, minimizing the risk of injury. Finally, it promotes proper form by enhancing core activation. However, the belt is to help reinforce your core and is not a replacement for a proper brace.
But a belt isn't for every powerlifter. Be sure to read the full post to learn if one's for you and some options to consider.
Plus, putting on a belt sounds simple, but there is quite a bit of variance on when, where, and how to use it. Read further to find out how to maximize your use of a belt and what belt options are out there.
Let's dive into learning about deadlifting and squatting with a belt!
Table of Contents
What Are The Benefits Of Wearing A Powerlifting Belt?
- Increased Intra-Abdominal Pressure: Provides a stable base for the spine, reducing injury risk.
- Enhanced Lumbar Support: Helps in maintaining proper posture during heavy lifts.
- Promotion of Proper Technique: Ensures lifts are performed with optimal form.
- Potential for Increased Performance: Can enhance your lifting capabilities.
Increased Intra-Abdominal Pressure
When squatting with a belt, it plays a crucial role in increasing intra-abdominal pressure. This is the tension created within the core when air is drawn into the diaphragm and then forcefully held, acting as a cushion and stabilizer for the spine. When lifting heavy weights, especially in exercises like squats and deadlifts, this additional pressure provides a solid and safe base for the spine, significantly reducing the risk of injuries.
Enhanced Lumbar Support
The lumbar region of the spine is particularly vulnerable during weightlifting. A powerlifting belt provides added support to this area, helping to maintain the natural curvature of the spine during lifts. This additional support is vital for ensuring that the spine remains protected, especially when executing lifts with heavy weights.
Promotion of Proper Technique
A belt can serve as a tactile reminder for lifters, prompting them to keep their core muscles engaged and maintain proper form. When you're lifting, the belt should feel tight and snug when you brace correctly, and this feedback helps reinforce good habits and technique. Proper form is essential for performance and plays a pivotal role in preventing injuries.
Potential for Increased Performance
There's a reason why many competitive powerlifters opt to use a belt. Research suggests that a lifting belt can allow an individual to lift between 5-15% more weight when used correctly. This potential for increased performance can be beneficial for those aiming to break personal records or compete at a higher level.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t require a weightlifting belt to be considered a powerlifter. However, utilizing a lifting belt can help provide extra support during your lifts.
What a Powerlifting Belt Does Not Do?
A weightlifting belt is not a replacement for proper bracing mechanics.
If you don’t know how to breathe and brace properly to activate your core while lifting, then definitely read our step-by-step guide on how to breath properly in the squat.
A lifting belt also does not make you immune to injury; it doesn’t make your body suddenly function better or allow certain musculature to work harder. You still have to actually lift the weight as you would without a belt.
You must already know how to breath and brace properly using your own core muscles before putting on a weightlifting belt to get maximum benefit.
Related: Powerlifting vs Weightlifting Belts
Want to improve your squat technique?
How Do You Use a Powerlifting Belt?
To wear a powerlifting belt properly, you place the belt around your waist and lumbar spine area and perform the lift as usual.
But let's break it down even more. Using a powerlifting belt properly can make a significant difference in your lifting experience. To ensure you get the most out of your belt, follow these steps:
- Position the Belt: Start by placing the belt around your waist, targeting the lumbar spine area. A good initial placement is right on top of your belly button.
- Adjust the Tightness: The belt should be tight enough so you can feel its presence, but not so constricting that it's hard to breathe. Remember, the ideal tightness can vary for each individual, so it's important to experiment to determine what's most comfortable and effective for you.
- Perform Your Lift: With the belt securely in place, execute your lift as you usually would. Many lifters find they can breathe out against the belt, using it as a tool by actively pushing out.
- Adjust Based on Exercise: Your belt positioning and tightness might vary depending on the lift. For instance with squats, wear the belt around the waist and opt for a tighter fit. With deadlifts, postion the belt a little higher on your torso and keep it a notch looser.
- Check Before You Lift: As you approach the bar and set up, evaluate the belt's feel. If it's too tight, it might hinder your starting position. Conversely, if it's too loose, it might not offer any benefits during your lift.
Remember, everyone has different preferences. The main goal is to find a balance that provides support and comfort, optimizing your lifting performance.
Read my complete guide on How To Fix Losing Tension At Bottom Of Squat (8 Tips).
When Should You Use A Powerlifting Belt?
Typically, you want to save the use of a lifting belt for lifts with heavier weights.
The goals of your training session can also help dictate whether you should use a weightlifting belt or not. If you are in the offseason working on more core muscle stabilization, you will likely be doing more beltless work versus if you are peaking for a powerlifting competition.
In general, when performing more specific sports activities, such as ramping up for a competition, you will use your belt more often than not.
If you're not a competitive powerlifter, you should probably only wear a belt when your weight gets heavier. You'll want to be mindful of not overly relying on the belt by doing some workouts without one.
Check out my top picks for both the mandatory and optional gear for powerlifting competitions.
Sample Warm Up Using A Powerlifting Belt
When I'm ramping up to my heavy sets, I only put my weightlifting belt on within the last few warm up sets.
A sample warm up could look like this – let’s assume you want to work up to a triple at 185kg.
- 160kg*3 belted
- 175kg*3 belted
- 185kg*3 belted
The point is that you add the belt when you approach heavier loads. You can also add the belts for heavier sets of volume as well, or when fatigued.
Some people also find the belt helps them through certain types of injuries, but be careful to not create an over-reliance on the belt. When used correctly, the belt can be a useful tool to advance your training.
Note: Sometimes wearing a belt too tight cause nosebleeds while powerlifting.
Want to improve your deadlift technique?
What Kind Of Powerlifting Belt Should You Get?
All weightlifting belts work the same, but there are various kinds.
The two main kinds in powerlifting are the prong and lever belt (click to check out my article comparing these two belts). There are also Velcro belts, but they are generally more flexible and loose and used in other activities as they allow more mobility.
The Prong Style Belt
The prong belt works like most normal belts, where you simply select the notch of tightness you want and insert the prong through it. These typically have multiple settings that can be convenient if you like/need different settings.
The Iron Bull Strength Double-Prong Belt is one of our favorites. Check the current price and details at Iron Bull Strength.
The Lever Style Belt
The lever belt is usually set at a predetermined level of tightness, and you simply pull the lever to tighten the belt. You can usually adjust the lever, but it won’t be as convenient as the prong belt because you'll need a screwdriver.
However, belts are out there now, such as the Iron Bull Strength Level belt, which is an adjustable lever.
There are also a few others that are kind of a hybrid between prong and lever such as the Wahlanders.
With any belt, you can also choose between different sizes of thickness and of course, color. I wrote an entire article on the differences between a 10mm vs 13mm belt.
Regardless, all belts achieve the same effect. In general, I find that it is easier to get a tighter setting on a lever because of the mechanism, whereas it is harder to achieve with a prong.
Related: Top 10 Best Women Powerlifting Belts
What Are The Rules For Your Powerlifting Belt?
If you're a competitiver powerlifter, keep in mind that depending on which federation you compete in, they have certain rules over what kind of gear you can use based on specifications and brand.
You can read more about the International Powerlifting Federation standards here.
For most people, I recommend getting a 4-inch vs 3-inch powerlifting belt. Check out my other article where I explain the differences.
Things To Consider When Buying A Powerlifting Belt
When purchasing a powerlifting belt, there are several essential factors to consider for the best fit, durability, and performance. Here's a summary of the main aspects:
- Material: Velcro vs. Leather
- Thickness: 10 mm vs. 13 mm
- Buckle Type: Prong vs. Lever
- Width: Straight vs. Tapered
Material: Velcro vs. Leather
- Velcro Belts: Ideal for beginners due to their ease of use and affordability. They provide basic tension for the core but lack the robust support needed for competitive powerlifting.
- Leather Belts: The standard for serious and competitive powerlifters. They offer superb support, durability, and come in varieties like genuine leather, grain leather, and full-grain leather.
Thickness: 10 mm vs. 13 mm
- 10 mm Belt: More popular, provides decent support, and conforms to the user's body over time. It's versatile, suitable for beginners, and offers faster “break-in” time.
- 13 mm Belt: Preferred by elite lifters due to its extra rigidity which aids in lifting heavier weights. However, it takes longer to break-in and might be less comfortable than the 10 mm version.
Buckle Type: Prong vs. Lever
- Prong Buckles: Classic, secure, and come in single or double prong configurations. They offer quick adjustments but can be time-consuming to put on and take off.
- Lever Buckles: Modern, durable, and easier to tighten. They combine the ease of Velcro with the durability of prongs. Their primary drawback is the slower adjustability.
Width: Straight vs. Tapered
The width, typically either 3 or 4 inches, determines the size of the supported back area. While the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) limits the belt width to a maximum of 4 inches, choosing a width ensures mobility without compromising support is essential. Tapered belts might offer more back width but can impact flexibility and may not be competition-approved.
Keep in mind a brand-new belt may feel a little stiffer than usual, but it should break in over time. So commit to wearing a belt over several weeks of training after getting a new one.
You may want to try going to a powerlifting gym and ask people to try on different kinds of belts and see what you like. You may even be able to buy a used belt off someone, especially if you are on a budget.
Read more: How To Break In A Powerlifting Belt
Do I Really Need a Powerlifting Belt?
You don't need any equipment to powerlift other than a pair of shoes and lifting attire.
However, if you are looking to lift the most amount of weight possible then it will definitely be a worthwhile investment.
You may see some examples of elite lifters who do not wear a belt and are crushing world records. For example, Yury Belkin, an elite Russian Powerlifter, doesn't wear a belt for deadlifts, but he is definitely the exception, not the rule.
Think of it this way:
If you were a sprinter, you can run just fine with some regular shoes, or even barefoot. But with spikes, you might be able to be a little bit faster.
You can imagine a similar analogy with soccer cleats.
The point is that if you can get a positive performance effect out of it, and it helps you to reach your goals, then, by all means, it can be a worthwhile investment depending on what you value.
At the end of the day, be sure to not create a reliance on the equipment. If you show up to the gym one day and forgot your lifting belt, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. It’s just a tool, not a requirement to lift some weights.
Wearing a lifting belt can help avoid hernias, as I outlined in my article How To Avoid Hernias While Lifting Weights.
Squatting with a belt has become a prominent topic for both fitness enthusiasts and professional powerlifters.
One of the key benefits of wearing a powerlifting belt is its ability to increase intra-abdominal pressure. This provides a stable base for the spine and can help in reducing the chances of injuries.
When it comes to using a powerlifting belt, it's essential to place it correctly around the waist and lumbar spine area. Adjusting its tightness based on comfort and the specific lift you're performing ensures optimum support and stability.
However, choosing the right belt is crucial. Considerations should include the material, with leather being the top choice for serious lifters. Additionally, the belt's thickness plays a role, with 10 mm offering versatility and 13 mm tailored more for elite lifting sessions. Don't overlook the buckle type and belt width, as these can impact both fit and functionality.
In conclusion, as you delve into the realm of squatting with a belt, prioritize quality, comfort, and safety. With the right knowledge and equipment, you can significantly enhance your squat performance and ensure long-term spinal health.
Check out our other belt resources:
- Shoud You Wear A Lifting Belt For Bench Press?
- How To Put On A Weightlifting Belt? (Step-By-Step)
- How Tight Should A Lifting Belt Be? (Breakdown Per Exercise)
About The Author
Clifton’s most notable achievement is winning the 2017 IPF Classic World Championships in the Junior 66kg class whilst setting an Open World Record Deadlift. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Chiropractic.