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Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition

Feb 05, 2019

Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition--drawing Should I Wear a Weightlifting Belt?

If you are thinking of using a weightlifting belt for competition make sure you know the ins and outs of weightlifting belts first.

Weightlifting belts vary by material, thickness, specialty, and closures.

The type of lifting you plan to do also affects the style of belt you’ll need.

A good weightlifting belt is rigid, allows you to reach depth in your squats, and get into a proper starting position in your deadlifts.

Wearing a belt = More pressure equals more stability equals more weight.


Powerlifting Belts

These belts are for people lifting very heavy weights while squatting and deadlifting.

Powerlifting belts are usually about four inches wide all around, but some can be as wide as six inches.

Anything wider than four inches is usually prohibited in competition.


Weightlifting Belts 

Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition--Dark Iron Fitness beltThis type of belt is about four inches wide in the back but taper toward the front.

You should use a weightlifting belt for Olympic lifting (the snatch and the clean and jerk), CrossFit, and bodybuilding.

Tapered belts are good for people who are shorter or have a smaller torso.

A powerlifting belt has the same width throughout its length, while a weightlifting belt will have a tapering design towards the front.

Dark Iron Fitness’ Genuine Leather Weightlifting Belt is 4″ throughout to ensure your back, abs and entire core are evenly stabilized for extra power and strength.

Our belt has actually even been awarded the top-rated powerlifting belt on the market.

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Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition--photo of chest and belt onlyMany weightlifting belts come in one of two thickness options: 10mm or 13mm.

Thickness is important because it affects the belt’s stiffness.

Belts that are about 10 mm thick are probably the ones you see the most often at the gym.

They are stiff enough to do what they are supposed to but can be broken in quickly making them more comfortable to wear.

A thinner belt should fit the needs of most non-competition lifters, as well as those who do CrossFit and those who need a wider range of motion.

A thicker belt offers more support against your abs, but it will also be less comfortable.

Thicker belts with strong metal prongs or lever buckles are preferred by those lifting seriously heavy weight.

 Strong, sturdy belts will not only solidify your core, but also transfer and distribute force around the circumference of your entire core.


What Makes up your Core?

Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition--diagram of core muscles

When people talk about the core, they usually refer to all the muscles and tissue that form a “canister” of pressure in your midsection.

Think of it as a cylinder positioned from about your nipple line down to your pelvic floor all the way around your body.

Some of the more notable muscles in this area include the rectus abdominis, which creates that coveted six-pack appearance.

Then there’s the transverse-abdominis, which isn’t visible, and the obliques along the sides of your body.

Included in this is also the erector spinae and latissimus dorsi in your back, and the group of muscles that make up your pelvic floor.


Belt Options

Hook and Loop vs. Leather

A hook and loop belt is not a serious piece of powerlifting equipment.

 It is not the type of weightlifting belt you want to wear for competition.

Hook and loop belts are often worn by professional strongmen UNDERNEATH their regular leather power belts.

They’re mostly useful for keeping the back warm.

Hook and Loop belts don’t offer much in terms of added safety nor help when lifting heavier weights.

They can be nice to have around if your back is stiff and you want to do some work that a regular power belt would interfere with.


Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition: Single Prong or Double Prong?

The extra prong in a double-pronged belt more evenly distributes the stress on the belt.

This design makes the belt less likely to fail under heavy loads. 


Pronged Belts vs. Lever Belts

Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition--Dark Iron Fitness beltLever belts are another popular option.

These belts use a simple lever system to allow the belt to flip open and lock closed.

This feature is popular because it’s much easier to get the belt on and off.

But the moving parts of a lever belt can and do break.

Most companies that sell lever belts also have a long warranty specifically because of this.

They also all sell replacement parts which indicate this can be a problem for a lever belt.


Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition: Tapered or Not?

Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition--drawings of different belt styles

You should not get a belt that is tapered from the front to the back if you plan to wear it during competition.

Even if the belt has a taper, the maximum allowable width, at any point, is 4″ in nearly all powerlifting federations.


Belts are Training Aids

If your goal is to have the strongest squat and deadlift possible then at some point you should start using a belt.

You shouldn’t train all the time with a belt; some athletes use it in cycles.

A non-powerlifter who isn’t on a competition cycle might train eight weeks while wearing a belt to work up to a new PR.

Then the non-powerlifter can train for eight weeks off without a belt and work up to a non-belted PR.

Before deciding on which weightlifting belt for competition you want to buy check the rules and regulations of your favorite powerlifting federation. 

Once you purchase the correct belt in your correct size make sure it’s properly adjusted for a great fit.


Tightening your Belt

Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition--man competing

You’re going to actively push and brace against the belt.

You want it tight enough that you can press out against it when pushing your belly out a bit, but not so tight that you can’t take a full breath.

A competitive weightlifter will know how to draw in a belly full of air and then brace “against” that air to pressurize.

It should feel like you’re going to explode from your stomach if you were to release your belt.

This will take some practice, and your belt setting will change if your body composition changes significantly.


Positioning your Belt

Where you position your belt height-wise will come down to personal preference and your body shape.

In general, it should be somewhere between the bottom of the ribs and the top of your hip bones.

Some people prefer to angle it up a little above the belly button, or a little below, and either is fine.

Do what’s most comfortable for you.

Your body weight, your work-out clothes, even your hydration level can affect how tightly you can pull your belt on a particular day.


Check Your Range of Motion

Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition--woman lifting 6 tires

Make sure that wearing a weightlifting belt does not interfere with your range of motion.

This can be more of an issue with deadlifts than squats.

If the weightlifting belt gets in the way of your deadlift setup, try to position it a little bit higher.

Keep in mind that “belt bite” or bruises right around your lower hip area can happen.


Final Thoughts on Using a Weightlifting Belt for Competition

 When using a weightlifting belt for competition don’t just push your belly out as if you’re trying to exaggerate your gut.

Get tight, brace everything, and then push out against the additional support of the belt.

It’s important to keep this thick, solid, tightly braced position throughout the lift.

A study by Kingma, et al., showed that “Wearing a tight and stiff back belt while inhaling before lifting reduces spine loading.”

This is from a movement generated by the belt rather than by the IAP (intraabdominal pressure).

This study suggests that there may be even more reasons belts are beneficial, especially during competitions.


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