Ever since professional weightlifters were first observed using thick, wide straps somewhere around the 19th century, weight lifting belts became a fast-emerging trend. Unfortunately, till date, these continue to be surrounding by myths and misinformation of all kinds. As a result, many users end up not being able to tap into their benefits, while others use them in the wrong way. Even more, abstain from using these at all!
As a fitness trainer, I understand the various intricacies of using a weight lifting belt thus hope to dispel the prevalent misconceptions about weightlifting belts and help you get your facts right. In an attempt to do so, I periodically review new weight lifting belts on several criteria.
You can use the following table to jump to any particular product review quickly. Please note that the overall scores are not a proper indicator of the product since it is merely an approximation of the product’s individual scores. Read the review to get the complete picture.
→ The Best Weight Lifting Belts of 2017
|Model Name||Level||Width||My Rating||Review Link|
|RDX Cow Hide Leather Gym Belt||Heavy||4″||9.6|
|Harbinger Weight Lifting Belt||Intermediate||5″||9.4|
|Inzer Forever Lever Belt
|Schiek Nylon Lifting Belt||Intermediate||4.75″||8.4|
|Ader Leather Power Lifting Belt||Intermediate||4″||7.8|
|Bear KompleX Weighlifting Belt||Beginners||4″||7.8|
|Rip Toned Lifting Belt||Beginners||4.5″||7.8|
|RDX Cow Hide Leather Lever Buckle Belt||Beginners||6″||7.4|
|Valeo 4-Inch Lifting Belt||Beginners||4″||7|
|FlexzFitness Lever Buckle Belt||Beginner||4″||7|
→What Is A Weight Lifting Belt, And How Does It Work?
A weight lifting belt, to put forth the simplest definition is a firm, wide belt that is fastened around the waist of a person to ensure correct posture and render support while lifting weights. When worn and used correctly, these can actually boost your weight lifting performance. But every product that facilitates something good, also has a cautionary side one should be acutely aware of. So let’s zoom into the “5 Crucial Must-Knows about Weight Lifting Belts” right away!
Fact 1: Yes, A Weight Lifting Belt Helps You Lift Better By Providing Support.
So you first perception about the belt is mostly accurate. But wait. You thought the belt supports your back, right? Sorry, that’s not the fact. The support provided by a weight lifting belt is mainly directed for your abs!
If you’ve had any experience with lifting weights professionally or in the gym, you must have applied the ‘breath-holding technique’ to create that pressure in your belly and support your spine for coping with the heavy load. This is technically known as the Valsalva maneuver, and the weight lifting belt sort of works on the same principle. By providing a firm, rigid support to your abs, it kind of supplements your belly muscles and therefore helps your body to lift a heavy load.
Fact 2: Correct Usage Of A Weight Lifting Belt Can Only Come From Regimented Practice.
As much as you’d like, it will not happen that you strap on a rugged weight lifting belt and go on to win the next weightlifting championship! Why? Weight lifting belts are easy to use, they offer support, but our bodies are not acquainted with the practice. If you have tried the Valsalva maneuver, you know just how long it can take to perfect the move. Similarly, relying on a weight lifting belt needs patience and practice. Slowly and steadily, you will grasp the technique of using the belt in the best possible manner, to strengthen your performance to the fullest!
Fact 3: A Weight Lifting Belt Protects You From Injuries Only If You Are Careful.
In the present day and age of unscrupulous marketing, half-baked information poses the biggest threat to consumers. Making a statement like, “wearing a weight lifting belt protects you from injuries” is one such half-baked misconception. Only when you are equally careful, follow the correct techniques and do not go beyond your capacity can you prevent injuries. Anyone who thinks otherwise is putting his or her body in serious peril.
Carelessness, wrong posture and bad technique during weight lifting can have serious consequences, irrespective of whether you wear a weight lifting belt or not. But when you adhere to all the prescribed norms, a belt can work wonders in supporting your abdominal muscles to handle higher weights or perform higher reps, without causing undue strain on your body, or injuries for that matter!
Fact 4: Regularly Using A Weight Lifting Belt Does Not Weaken Your Abdominal Muscles!
Folks, this is probably the biggest misconception surrounding weight lifting belts! If using a belt was going to make your muscles wimpy, most weight lifting champions would not be seen using these belts! The so-called theory behind this myth is that, because you are using a weight lifting belt as a support for your abs, your abdominal muscles get dependent on the belt through prolonged usage and gradually lose strength.
On the contrary, the correct use of a weight lifting belt enables your body to lift weights as much as 15% above your normal capacity, considering the same sets and reps that you’ve performed without the belt. Over time, by lifting greater weights or being able to perform higher reps with the same weight, a belt is actually strengthening your muscles and adding on to your strength and potential as a weight lifter or gymnast!
Fact 5: A Weight Lifting Belt Should Be Worn Only When Required.
So when should you wear a weight lifting belt and when should you not? Once you’ve mastered the art of wearing and using the belt optimally, you will be able to answer this question for yourself. But for the uninitiated, here’s the complete picture. Probably when you are a beginner or at an intermediary stage of weight lifting, you would need to wear a belt more frequently because your abs are not strong enough or habituated with lifting even the basic weights, or performing your regular squats and deadlifts.
It goes without saying that the weight lifting belt will really help you get the grasp of creating the abdominal pressure to strengthen your back, and thereon gradually scale up from being a beginner to an intermediary weight lifter.
As you go ahead in the learning curve and find your body strength, stamina and endurance increasing, your need to use the weight lifting belt will slowly become restricted to a select set of weights and feats. Finally, as an expert, you will reach a point of time when you strap on the weight lifting belt for those select occasions. When you want to break plateau (which implies 80% or more than your capacity), or you wish to ace that power lift in a crucial tournament without succumbing to a spinal injury.
All right people, we really hope that you found the above section useful in eliminating any sort of confusion in your head. Having said that, I would still like you to read on because there are several aspects which are yet to be covered. Despite the advantages of a weight lifting belt, there are several situations in which you should completely abstain from using one. Again this is something that unscrupulous marketers might not tell you directly!
- Use it right, or don’t use it at all. Period. Sorry, this is not meant to scare you, but just stress on the hazards of incorrect usage. (I have already spoken about when to wear a weight lifting belt. In the next section, we will describe how to wear one correctly)
- In the case of Chronic Hypertension or any other serious medical condition wherein you run the risk of a hernia or any other complication because of intra-abdominal pressure exertion, a weight lifting belt is a strict no-no. But come to think of it, even lifting weight or attempting the Valsalva maneuver is strictly prohibited in such health conditions.
- If you have lifted weights in the past, but you are in bad form now, you’d rather not wear a belt and think that this is going to help you gain back your form. That’s not how it works. Always remember, proper technique mastery of the basics comes first. The weight lifting belt is a supporting aid that comes later.
- If you happen to be just a casual gym trotter doing a couple of bicep curls or occasional, light squats in the gym, you do not need to use a weight lifting belt. This aid is specifically meant for aspiring or professional weight lifters, who need to master dead-lifts or power-lifts, want to excel in their field or break plateau.
→How To Use A Weight Lifting Belt Correctly?
It’s not just about knowing the pros and cons! Wearing and usage technique makes all the difference when it comes to utilizing weight lifting belts. You should also have the right knowledge to pick a belt that’s suitable for you. So make sure you keep these points in minds:
- Always fasten the weight lifting belt while holding your breath in, and wrapping it tightly around, to slightly restrict your expanded abdominal walls in that position. If you fasten it without holding breath, it might limit abdominal flexing. On the other hand, wear it too loose, and you negate the very purpose of the belt.
- Make sure you purchase a belt made of a firm material that does not budge or shrink or fold when you exert pressure.
- While the back-width of the belt is not very crucial, the front-width needs to be 3 to 4 inches wide for creating a wall for your abs to stretch towards. Anything less than that will render insufficient support, and anything more will be plain uncomfortable and unnecessarily broad.
- The material used for making the belt ranges from suede to leather. As long as it is stiff enough not to budge and is around 10 mm thick, you can rest easy.
- Weight Lifting Belt Manufacturers mostly use one of the following fastening systems:
–Lever Fastening offering one level of tightness
–Pronged Fastening offering several levels of tightness (again, there are single-pronged and double-pronged belts)
- Now there’s no hard and fast rule, as to which one to select and it all depends on which one you are more comfortable with. But having a choice of tightening degrees is always a safe option.
- Ideally, you should wear the weight lifting belt, right above your hip bone for maximum support. This is the recommended benchmark, but there are some exceptions in which weight lifters prefer wearing it slightly below or above. As you begin to wear one, you will gradually understand what suits you best.
- Remember that the first couple of times you wear a belt is incredibly uncomfortable because of the stiffness and width. But it’s intended to be that way for aiding performance, and you will gradually get used to it.
→Summing Up The Benefits Of A Weight Lifting Belt
- By enhancing the functionality of your abs, a weight lifting belt minimizes the stress on your spine and prevents it from buckling.
- For aspiring weightlifters, it helps in optimizing your body’s biomechanics.
- For intermediate and expert weight lifters, a weight lifting belt aids in boosting performance and breaking plateau.
- A weight lifting belt strengthens your abdominal muscles and makes your body more resilient to heavier weights.
- Even with the same weight, you will gain the ability to perform a higher number of squats, thrusts and reps.
- When used in conjunction with the right weight lifting technique, a weight lifting belt can drastically reduce the probability of spinal injury.