Knowing When to Start Using a Lifting Belt
Your ultimate goal as a lifter is simple: Lift more.
Once you master the basics of technique, your focus should be on higher lift numbers.
But when is the right time to start using a belt? Turns out this answer is not as simple as a certain number for most trainees.
Your level of training and health conditions will come into play when deciding to use a belt.
In this article, we discuss all factors you should consider and break them down one by one. We also describe how to introduce a lifting belt into your training.
What is Your Level of Training?
There are many opinions on this topic and how important it can be for wearing a belt. If you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter, you probably already have a belt. If not, you should start using a lifting belt to help you progress and break through your plateaus.
But this question is more for those trainees at the start of their lifting programs. I see so many beginners at the gym wearing a belt for all the wrong exercises. Check out our article on which exercises are best for lifting belts.
As a beginner, your goal should be understanding how to brace and properly lift. Most experts recommend training without a belt for the first few months. As a novice trainee, your body needs to adapt to certain stabilization movements to lift. Learning to brace and building up core strength in the first few months of lifting will pay out in the long term.
After training without a belt for the first few months, you should begin to use a lifting belt. Once you’re comfortable lifting without a belt, learning to use a belt will benefit your progress.
How Much Weight Are You lifting?
Some people believe you need to be able to lift a certain amount before using a belt. But as recommended by many fitness experts, you can start whenever you want.
Some sites will recommend you should wait until you can lift at least 1 to 1.5 times your bodyweight. Although this is a great guideline, it's not a necessary one.
The ability to use a weight lifting belt is a skill. Delaying the learning curve of using a lifting belt does not benefit a novice trainee in any way. Instead, as a novice trainee you should take advantage of the benefits of a lifting belt. If you feel that extra bracing power will help you during a specific set, wear the belt!
Who Shouldn’t Use a Lifting Belt?
When you lift any heavy weight, your ideal physical cues should be as follows: brace, lift, release. The goal of bracing is to increase intra-abdominal pressure which develops core strength.
But what if you have a certain condition getting worse with bracing?
If you have high blood pressure or an inguinal hernia, you shouldn’t be using a belt and maybe not lifting period. The Valsalva technique may do you more harm than good if you have these conditions.
The other group of lifters not benefiting from using a belt are athletes. Specifically, athletes in team sports whose performance is not directly related to weightlifting.
The issue here is if you can’t wear a belt during your sport, you shouldn’t wear it during training. If your core fundamentals about lifting and bracing are lacking, don’t train with a belt. Get those down first. Even if you don’t compete with a belt, using a lifting belt while training won’t do you harm.
Introducing Your Lifting Belt Into Training
So you’re ready to start using your weight lifting belt while training, but how do you start?
Should you wear your belt all the time?
Short answer is no. Once you get your lifting belt don’t just wear it all the time from the beginning of the workout to the end. As I discussed earlier and, in my article, use your lifting belt only during certain exercises.
On your first day of getting your weight lifting belt, try it on and go through the movements. You will feel some discomfort especially if it’s a leather powerlifting belt. It will take some time to break in and you can use our guide to speed things up.
Structure your lifting routine with the heaviest sets for your lifting belt. If you're following a strength routine, you will be progressively overloading your muscles. Every workout may be heavier and heavier. In this case, I would use the weight lifting belt during my whole set.
Knowing the best time to start using a weight lifting belt can be confusing at times. But understanding the importance of good foundations will go a long way. After getting your belt, make sure you grasp the idea of wearing a lifting belt the right way.
With such a simple aid as a weightlifting belt, you’ll be on your way to heavier movements and building strength. Let me know if you have any questions about lifting belts below!