How To Wear A Lifting Belt (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

Lifting belts are an excellent tool that most weight lifters could benefit from using for many reasons.  

But, if you’re like most gym-goers, you’ve probably wondered how do you wear a lifting belt? 

In this article, you’ll discover how to wear a lifting belt and how to avoid common mistakes almost everyone makes.

Wearing a lifting belt correctly is more complex than you might think. The last thing you want to do is just tighten it and start exercising.  

Firstly, before I answer "how to wear a lifting belt," let me discuss when wearing a lifting belt is necessary.

Lifting belts are traditionally worn during compound movements such as the deadlift and squat, requiring large amounts of internal abdominal pressure. Most gym-goers will use a lifting belt during part of their workouts.  

When it comes to lifting belt tightness, the belt should be tight...but not too tight. You don’t want too much movement in the belt, but you also want to be able to breathe into the belt in order to cause internal abdominal pressure (which is the main reason for using a belt).  

To breathe into the belt, you want to breathe laterally, causing pressure to push out forwards, backwards, and to the sides. One of the most common mistakes gym-goers make is pushing their stomaches forward and not breathing laterally (to the sides).  

If you have the belt too tight and don’t breathe laterally, you’ll miss out on all of the key benefits of wearing a weight lifting belt. 

Two of the main exercises where a weight lifting belt is beneficial are during the squat and deadlift.

Related Article - What Size Lifting Belt Do I Need?

1. For Squats

During the squat, the weight lifting belt should be worn directly over the belly button. If it’s placed lower than this, it might interfere with your squat depth.  

2. For Deadlifts

However, during the deadlift, you should try and place the lifting belt higher on your body. Shuffle it up a few inches and see how it feels; some gym-goers might find they need to put it above their bellybutton.  

If you place the belt too low, it might interfere with your deadlift form, causing you to lose tightness in your lower back.  

There are several common lifting belt mistakes that should be avoided: 

  • Over Tightening 
    Having the belt too tight prevents you from breathing laterally into the belt, which removes the benefit of wearing one in the first place. 
  • Wearing It Too Often
    The belt shouldn’t be worn all the time, and the last thing you want to do is develop a weakened core. 
  • Wearing It For The Wrong Exercises
    You shouldn't be using a belt for working your biceps. Unfortunately, your high school PE teacher was wrong; it doesn't help protect your back. 
  • Using The Wrong Belt
    If your belt is larger at the back and skinnier at the front, it’s not a weight lifting belt. 
  • Not Activating Your Abs 
    Just because you’re using a belt doesn’t mean you shouldn’t activate your abs. 
How To Wear A Lifting Belt (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

Who Should Wear Weightlifting Belts? (How They Help)

There are many reasons why somebody would want to wear a weight lifting belt in the gym. However, the true nature of why gym-goers should wear a belt is to help create intra-abdominal cavity pressure (IAP).  

As we mentioned before, a lifting belt helps the user breathe into the belt, which helps increase the internal pressure in the abs. This increase in pressure enables you to lift heavier and for longer.  

The main exercises a weight lifting belt should be used with are squats, deadlifts, and other complex compound exercises. However, you can even use a belt for a bench press to help stabilize your core during the lift.  

There are many other types of weight lifters who could benefit from wearing a weightlifting belt. You’ll often see CrossFit athletes and Olympic weight lifters using a belt during their training, but the belts they wear are thinner to allow more mobility.   

Another benefit of intra-abdominal pressure is that it helps you maintain spinal stability throughout your movements. This is key to helping you use the correct exercise form and helps to prevent injuries from occurring.  

Along with intra-abdominal pressure and spine stability, one of the biggest benefits of wearing a weight lifting belt is that it can help you lift heavier weights. This allows you to overload your muscles with more weight than you’d typically be able to lift without a belt.  

While I don’t recommend you wear a belt all of the time, they can be an incredibly effective tool in your arsenal.  

Benefits recap: 

  • Increased intra-abdominal pressure. 
  • Improved spine stability. 
  • It allows you to lift more weight. 
man putting on lifting belt

How To Use A Weight Lifting Belt? (Correctly & Safely)

If you're looking at wearing an exercise belt, you should always ensure the belt you've chosen is fit for your purpose. If you're going to be powerlifting, then the belt you choose should be suitable for powerlifting. The same can be said for CrossFit, Olympic lifting, weight lifting, or bodybuilding.  

One of the most important safety considerations to take is to check the belt is correctly fastened and placed correctly.  

The most common area to place the belt is over the belly button; this will be suitable for most gym-goers. 

Read Also - Bodybuilding Vs CrossFit: Do They Both Use Belts?

correctly bracing your core

  1. 1
    Brace your core as if somebody was about to hit you in the gut. Flex those abdominal muscles as tightly as you can.  
  2. 2
    Now you’re bracing your abs; breathe into them. As you do this, imagine your pulling your rib cage into your body. (Stay nice and upright while you do this).  
  3. 3
    Ensure you’re breathing laterally into the belt. Your obliques should be pushed into the belt so that every side of the belt receives pressure.  

Tightening the lifting belt

When it comes to tightening your weight lifting belt, you need to ensure you aren’t fastening it like a girdle. You need to be sure that you can still breathe into the belt; otherwise, you won’t achieve the intra-abdominal pressure you want from your lifting belt.

However, you also don’t want the belt too loose, as it will cause the belt to get in the way and won’t allow you to create any abdominal tension.  

man using weightlifting belt on heavy squat

How To Choose The Right Weight Lifting Belt?

If you’ve been wondering how to choose the correct weight lifting belt, there are several factors you should consider.  

Buckle

There are several types of buckles available to you. There is a basic Velcro strap which is super-easy to fasten and is one of the most popular kinds of belts, but these often wear down over time, causing them to fail.  

Another is the standard metal clasp belt buckle which you need to remove between each set and can be fiddly, especially during a tiring workout. However, they are strong and reliable.   

Lastly, my favorite is the self-locking buckle which you can snap shut easily without much hassle, and it can be quickly undone. This belt type is becoming more popular, and I’ve seen many powerlifters using this type of belt.

Material

I’ve always been a fan of the traditional leather or suede weight lifting belts over the nylon belts. The leather belts are often more rigid and provide your core with more stability; this is ideal for traditional movements such as the deadlift and squats.  

However, if you’re performing more dynamic movements such as CrossFit, you might want to look at using a nylon belt.  

The suede belts tend to be in between the two offering a decent amount of stability but remaining softer than the leather options.  

Width 

The best belt width for you depends on the length of your torso. Taller individuals can wear a wider belt (around 4 to 6 inches), while smaller gym-goers should opt for a 2.5-4 inch width belt.

Thickness

The belt thickness is important as it helps provide the user with the correct stability for their chosen activity. There are many different thicknesses available, and each one is best suited for different lifting styles 

The standard weight lifting belt is around 6.5mm thick and is an excellent place for most gym-goers to start. At the same time, powerlifters and bodybuilders should consider a 10mm thickness belt.  

However, more advanced powerlifters should consider using a thicker belt with an average thickness of 13mm. This provides the maximum amount of stiffness needed for super-heavy lifting.  

rogue fitness leather weightlifting belt

Common Weightlifting Belt FAQs 

How do you break in a weightlifting belt? 

There are multiple ways to help soften your belt before you use it. The most common way is to continuously roll and unroll the belt to help it loosen. While it’s not perfect, it does the job.  

Another recommendation is to use rubbing alcohol to help break down the belt’s fibers; you can also apply petroleum jelly to help it further.  

Should you learn to lift beltless first? 

In short, yes, you should. The last thing you want is to grow your legs using weights your hamstrings, quads, and glutes can handle, but your unbelted core can’t. I always get my clients lifting beltless before we move on to belted work, and this helps eliminate any core weaknesses, preventing muscular imbalances.  

How much are weight lifting belts on average? 

Weight lifting belts have a wide price range, and you can pay anything from $30 to $120, depending on the brand.  

However, the average weight lifting belt costs around $50 and should be suitable for most gym-goers.  

How do you wash a lifting belt? 

When it comes to cleaning your lifting belt, the method depends on the material. For your standard leather belts, you are best to avoid water. It’s good practice to brush the belt down after use and remove any chalk, dirt, etc., from the belt. You should then spray it with a leather/suede protector.  

However, if you’ve got a material belt, you can lightly hand wash it with some detergent and leave it to air dry.  


Conclusion

It can be challenging to know how to use a lifting belt, but it’s a fairly common question among gym-goers.

If you’ve been wondering how to wear a lifting belt, the above article explains how you should wear your belt correctly for maximal performance.  

Try out what you've learned during your next workout and see what difference it makes.

Last Updated on August 17, 2022