Powerlifting Belts vs. Weight Lifting Belts: What’s Best for You?
The weightlifting world can be confusing at times.
So many different terms for accessories that look similar. This fact is not any truer than for the world of lifting belts.
There are bodybuilding belts, weight lifting belts, and powerlifting belts. But what’s the difference between all these types?
More importantly, which belt is perfect for you?
We’ll be comparing the powerlifting belt and the weight lifting belt in this article. I will go over the key factors for each type of belt and how they differ. Further, I’ll give you a breakdown of what you should get depending on how you’re planning to use your belt.
Different Widths All Over
We talk about the width of a lifting belt over and over again on this site. It’s a hotly contended topic when it comes to the lifting community. Why, you ask?
Well, the width of a belt is how tall the belt appears on your abdomen. If you are a regular gym goer, you’ll notice some lifters with wide belts and others with smaller ones. So how do you distinguish between a powerlifting belt and a weightlifting belt?
Powerlifting belts are either 3 inches or 4 inches. Every powerlifting belt will have the same uniform width from front to back. Powerlifting belts have no taper or wing design. Whether you choose 3 or 4 inches depends on your height and size of your torso. The taller you are, the more width you need to cover your abdominals and lower back completely.
On the other hand, weight lifting belts can be all the way to 6 inches. The difference here is weight lifting belts are not uniform. They will taper to the front with a focus on keeping the lower back stable. The front will be 4 inches and the back will grow to 6 inches. Some people like the added comfort and coverage of tapered weight lifting belts.
The thickness of your belt is critical to you lifting safely and effectively. In general, the thicker the belt, the more you can brace. Strongmen and elite powerlifters love thicker belts because they can lift more.
Most powerlifting belts are either 10 mm or 13 mm. The 10 mm variant is the most popular among powerlifting athletes. At 10 mm, the thickness provides enough rigidity to brace against without hindering performance. Any powerlifting belt at 13 mm will be overly stiff for most fitness athletes.
Weight lifting belts can vary in thickness but none go past 10 mm or 11 mm. Unless the weight lifting belt is a leather model, thicknesses are not always advertised. One of the most popular weightlifting belts on Amazon has only 5 mm as the thickness. Indeed, most weightlifting belts will be at the 5 mm thickness mark unless they’re leather.
Materials Make The Belt
The material of your lifting belt will determine its durability and rigidity. Powerlifting belts are always made of genuine high-grade leather. In addition, to help with comfort, most powerlifting belts will have a suede lining on the inside. The leather is usually stiff to add to the bracing ability of the belt.
Weight lifting belts can vary in their type of material. The most popular is high-quality Nylon with some other fabric. The Nylon does reduce durability but greatly enhances comfort. There are also some belts made from Neoprene but not worth the quality. Some weight lifting belts have combinations of leather and Nylon. The combination adds support and width, but they are not as stable.
How Does the Belt Fasten?
The fastening mechanism doesn’t make a huge difference to your workout. But, a powerlifting belt usually has either a prong system or lever buckle. The prong system can be single or double. There is no bigger benefit from single to double, but most lifters prefer single versions due to its simplicity.
Lever buckle systems are popular among powerlifter due to their quality and feel. These belts are easy to take off and put on. However, they can be hard to adjust for waist size.
Some weight lifting belts do have prong systems but the most common is Velcro. The Velcro and Nylon combination helps weight lifting belts with better comfort. The problem with Velcro is the lack of durability. If you ever owned a pair of Velcro shoes, you will know how easily they can lose traction.
What Exercises are Best for Each Belt?
A powerlifting belt is for strength movements. Due to the material and thickness, a powerlifting belt will be uncomfortable at first.
With a rigid powerlifting belt, you can create more bracing power to contract against. This creates higher intra-abdominal pressure and increases core stability.
Most trainees can lift 10% more with a powerlifting belt. Lifters can break through plateaus easily.
In contrast, a weight lifting belt serves the same purpose but to a lesser extent. Don’t get me wrong, a weight lifting belt will provide enough stability to help you brace.
You will lift more and have better workouts with weight lifting belts. However, you may not experience the same level of support. In turn, most lifters agree they can lift more with a powerlifting belt than a weight lifting belt.
Do I need a Powerlifting Belt or Weight Lifting Belt?
The ultimate question you must ask yourself is which belt is best for you? You can’t assume that since your friend uses a powerlifting belt it will suit your needs. Your preference will almost always be different than your friend or favorite lifter.
I would use this guide to help you narrow down which type of belt is ideal for your needs. Start with what kind of exercises and workouts you plan to do with the belt. If you’re a strength trainee, go for the powerlifting belt. For Olympic movements and CrossFit athletes, a weight lifting belt is better.
If you plan to compete in competitions bear in mind only some lifting belts meet standards. Most powerlifting belts and some weight lifting belts meet IPF and USAPL standards. Make sure you know what the standards are before purchasing your lifting belt.
What if you’re planning to do both types of movements? I think you’re still suitable for a weight lifting type belt.
Once you know what type of belt is best for you use comfort and safety to determine your other features. If you have a bad back, you can get a weight lifting belt that tapers to give more padding in the lumbar area. Keep in mind that a stiffer powerlifting belt will require time to break in. Sometimes the belt can bruise your hips if the leather is not soft.
Use the following table to help visualize the comparison of powerlifting belt vs. weight lifting belt.
Weight Lifting Belts
Varies from 3 to 4 inches.
Usually 3 to 6 inches.
Uniform width all around.
Usually some taper with more coverage in back.
Most popular is 10 mm, but some lifters use 13 mm.
Ranges from 4 mm to 11 mm.
Always stiff leather with suede Interior.
Softer leather with suede, nylon, neoprene, or a combination of all three.
Single prong, double prong and more often a lever buckle.
Usually Velcro strap. Some belts use prong and lever buckle systems.
Best Suited Exercises
Strength exercises including forms of squats, deadlifts, and bench press.
Dynamic lifts including Olympic movements and CrossFit workouts.
With this guide, you should be able to determine which type of belt is perfect for you. Use the type of workouts you plan to do as a base. From here you can move to the different features.
Which belt do you prefer? If you have any other questions, shoot me a message.