How To Choose A Weightlifting Belt

WRITTEN BY Martijn Koevoets

One item that every athlete should own is a proper weightlifting belt. But how do you choose one?

Do you need a 10mm or 13mm belt? Suede or top grain leather? And what do they actually do?

Read this and find out…

(note 1: below is an adaptation of my article on JTSStrength and it got published in the February edition of Shreducation)

(note 2: To me, the term “weightlifting belt” and “powerlifting belt” is one and the same)

In this blog post you’ll discover

  • What Do Weightlifting belts do
  • Why a 3 inch powerlifting belt is best
  • 10mm or 13mm belt
  • Leather Powerlifting Belt or Suede Powerlifting Belt
  • What Do Weightlifting Belts Do?
  • How to wear a weightlifting belt

Let’s start with “What Do Weightlifting belts do?”

What Do Weightlifting belts do

They allow you to put a ton more weight on the bar. That what they do! End of story.

Just kidding, allow me to explain it a little more in depth.

A good weightlifting belt supports your spine by making it more stable under heavy loads.

This is because of the pressure your abdominal muscles generate while pressing against the belt. This in turn enables you to squat because with more weight, because your spine is more stable.

I don’t know what’s happening in this picture, but i’m not talking about this. But they are doing it wrong.

Weightlfiting Belt

Weightlifting belts that are a lot wider in the back than in the front do not work as well just for this reason. These belts do not have as much surface in the front to press your abs against.

For a more detailed and scientific explanation of the effect of weightlifting belts on your performance, check out this article: When To Use A Weightlifting Belt

Weightlifting Belt

There are various powerlifting belts for sale, but regardless of brand there are a few things to look for when buying a belt:

  • Equal width all around
  • Should be as thick as possible/comfortable.
  • Single prong or lever to secure the belt.
  • Is made from high quality leather.

4 Inch Powerlifting Belt

A good belt has equal width all around. 10cm is for most people the maximum width that sits comfortably between their ribs and hipbone. 10cm is also the maximal allowed width in most, if not all, powerlifting federations.

For all my ‘Murican readers; 10cm is about 4 inches.

Females are often more petite and might want to look for a belt somewhat less wide. It depends if the belt is causing discomfort at the ribs or hipbone.

These belts are not readily available, so I’m not sure where you could purchase one.

10mm Or 13mm Belt

The thickest and most durable belts are 13 mm thick. Again, this also the maximum allowed thickness in powerlifting federations. But thickness is not the only aspect that makes a sturdy and durable belt.

Leather Powerlifting Belt or Suede Powerlifting Belt

Leather is used frequently for clothing. Especially where durability is important. That is why a lot of shoes, jackets and pants are made of leather.

A weightlifting belt is made of full grain, top grain or split leather. Split leather is better known as suede. Full grain and top grain leather is the top of the hide of the animal. The fibers in the top layer are much closer and therefore more durable.

Powerlifting Belt

Suede is less strong and less durable. That is why the best weightlifitng belts are made of top grain leather.

Powerlifting Belt Lever Or Prong

There’s 3 options for tightening your powerlifting belt.  You can secure a weightlifting belt with:

  1. A single prong
  2. A double prong
  3. A lever

Weightlfiting Belt

There is not much to say in favor of double prong. It just causes an additional step during your heavy attempts.

In these moments you need to focus on your performance and not on securing your belt.

Especially when you pull your belt really tight, it can be a real hassle to secure that 2nd prong.

That is why single prong is better.

More expensive belts have a lever with which you secure your belt in one movement. Your belt will always be at the same tightness.

Because of changes in your body weight, the clothes you wear, even your hydration level can influence how tight you can pull your belt, forcing you to adjust the lever, which can be a hassle.

In this short 1 minute video Stephen Hall gives a quick demonstration on how to adjust the lever of a lever powerlifting belt.

In my opinion, single prong is the way to go.

Another thing to look for is the thickness of the metal roller when choosing a single prong belt. The thicker the roller the better. Thin rollers will bend and dent with strong lifters.

I’m talking from personal experience!

How to wear a weightlifting belt

Now you know which qualities to look when choosing a weightlifting belt. But if you don’t know how to put one on right then it might actually end up hurting your performance.

Learning the proper use of a weightlifting belt requires a little practice. The belt needs to be just tight enough and positioned just right.

To find out where that sweet spot is, you can use the following tip.

Put on your weightlifting belt and put it on tight enough so that it will stay in the same place. Not too tight!

Now assume your squat stance, and squat down. The belt will move into the position where it will be of most use to you.

While deadlifting, I prefer to place the belt a little higher on my stomach. Otherwise the belt is in my way when I drop down to grab the bar.

Below is a 44 sec. video of a buddy of mine, wearing a belt of mine. Niels Gordijn. He’s deadlifting 926 lbs / 420kg during the Dutch strongest man finals. You can bet he know’s how to wear a weightlifting belt.

Now that we have covered where to wear your belt, we can move on to the subject of tightness of a belt.

You actually can put on a weightlifting belt too tight. When that happens, your abdominals will not be able to push out maximally.

You have to experiment a bit yourself to figure out how tight you can wear your belt.

Just put on the belt and push out with your abs. You will quickly find out when the belt is on too tight. And with heavy weights a belt that is too tight is worse than no belt.

Wrapping It Up

With all the above information you should have no problem choosing a powerlifting belt or a weightlifting belt. So just to summarize, pick a belt that:

  • Is 4 inch / 10cm wide
  • Is 13mm thick
  • Is single prong
  • Is made of top grain leather

A belt like this can be used for the squat, the bench and the deadlift. And every other lift you can imagine.

Just don’t do curls with them. Ok?

And that’s a wrap!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about How To Choose A Weightlifting Belt.

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Author: Martijn Koevoets
Martijn is head honcho of Powerlifting University, a powerlifter, author, blogger, online coach & extreme metal aficionado. He also loves a good whiskey. He has been featured on websites like EliteFTS, JTSStrength, JMAX Fitness and more.

Get your hands on my cheat sheet for setting up training programs that took a 132lbs. skinny weakling from not being able to bench the bar to deadlifting 3x his own body weight and winning silver at the nationals.

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