How To Use A Lifting Belt Correctly | Top Tips

Written by Callum Parker

Are You Using Your Lifting Belt Correctly?

Lifting belts are brilliant bits of kit. They can be the difference between failing or hitting a new one rep max. Throughout my career, I have used them extensively to get the best out of clients and out of myself. Yet, I see many trainees use belts incorrectly and for the wrong reasons.

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The Function of a Lifting Belt


If you think a lifting belt’s primary function is to protect the lower back, you are only half right. Whilst it’s true that a belt can give additional support to the lower back, for injury prevention, it has a far more practical purpose.


When you perform a big, compound movement (like a squat or a deadlift), your body will function at its best when all the muscles and joints are working together as one. If there are any individual weaknesses, the whole structure will be compromised.


The most important part of any lift is the set-up. If you don’t set-up correctly, you will not perform the exercise correctly. It’s as simple as that. A vital component of the set-up for squats and deadlifts – exercises that you would traditionally use a belt for – is the block. This is when, before each rep, you take a big inhale of air into your belly and squeeze your abs. The purpose of this is to brace your abs – and lower back – to provide the entire body with stability and support.


Sometimes, there’s only so much tension the abs and lower back can bear on their own. This is when the belt comes in. By providing the lower back and abs with an extra layer of bracing and support, you create an even more rigid and solid foundation. From this you will be able to generate more force and move more weight.


How To Use A Lifting Belt Correctly


So, now you know what a lifting belt actually does, it’s time to put it into practice.


The biggest mistake I see amongst casual lifters is a lack of understanding of what the belt does and how to utilise it correctly. A commonly held belief is that the simple act of wearing the belt automatically protects the lower back. Consequently, complacency with form sets in which, ironically, leads to a higher injury rate.


It is absolutely crucial that you create a block before each rep when wearing a belt. It will only serve its purpose if you hold up your end of the bargain – by inhaling and squeezing the abs, you push out against the belt and make it tight, which is where the support and stability comes from. A sure-fire recipe for disaster is to forget about good form because you believe that your lower back is bullet-proof when wearing a belt.


So in summary, ensure that you ALWAYS create a block before each rep (big breath into the stomach, squeeze the abs and hold throughout the lift!) This way the belt stays tight and gives you the extra support you need to push out those tough reps!

Girls Who Lift

When To Wear A Lifting Belt


Another common misuse of the belt that I see on a regular basis is wearing one when it is not required. It has not become that unusual in most gyms to see some guys keeping their belt on for the duration of their workout. As well as being unnecessary, it’s a strong indication that the wearer has absolutely no idea what the belt actually does. Plus, if you’re able to keep it on after your set has finished, you aren’t wearing it tight enough!


Your body requires the greatest stability and support when performing high-stress, complex movements. Primary examples are squats and deadlifts – true full body exercises when performed correctly. It is during these exercises that a belt will prove it’s true worth. A belt will protect the back whilst making you stronger and more powerful.


So should you wear your belt for every set and rep? That depends. If you feel more comfortable, confident and supported by using a belt when you lift, then go for it. This is particularly true if you have suffered a back injury in the past and would like to give the lower back as much additional support as possible – better to be safe than sorry!


Conventionally, though, a belt is most useful when lifting close to, at or exceeding your one rep max. This is when you are most at risk of injury. Any additional support will further reduce the risk of injury as well as increase the likelihood of you hitting the rep.


There is no need for a belt if the exercise that you are performing requires relatively little core activation. This includes pretty much every isolation exercise that you can think of, as well as prone exercises like the bench press. Of course, that doesn’t mean to say that you shouldn’t be engaging your core when you perform these exercises, just that it is not essential for completing the movement.


So have you been getting the most out of your lifting belt?

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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Andy Griffiths

Andy Griffiths

Writer and expert

Andy's journey in fitness started during his studies at Leeds Becket University in 2003, working in the university campus gym, he got a taste for a life in fitness. In the past 17 years, he has developed through various roles and has built a detailed experience in developing one-to-one clients, fellow team members and group fitness programmes in mainstream and boutique facilities. Training endurance athletes, martial arts athletes and simply those wanting to build a healthier life, he has built some great experiences and is now in a fantastic position to share what he has learnt with you. Being able to engage beginners into exercise regimes he feels is essential but has the ability and experience to adapt training techniques for those more experienced so everyone learns something new. He strongly feels that if you believe you are capable, you commit to achieving your goals that you will be successful!

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