Wearing a belt while lifting is often a contentious issue. It shouldn’t be.
An important aspect of lifting is bracing when you’re in executing the exercise – this basically means breathing in, holding it and pushing the pressure into your gut.
If you then have a belt over your gut, it will give you something to actively brace against and then cause more pressure. This intra-abdominal pressure will help you stay in the correct shape throughout the movement – whether that be a squat or a deadlift – and will then help protect you, your muscles and your spine against injuries in general. As well as stopping injuries, you’ll feel stronger for it too.
Belts are made to mould to your shape – this means that the tougher the belt is, the harder it will be to break in. Imagine breaking in a pair of shoes but around your waist, and under a heavy load.
Now that the benefits of belts have been underlined – let us explore which ones are good to use and why. We’ll also go over the controversial IPF approved list for the competitive powerlifters amongst us.
The most popular powerlifting belts in the UK throughout 2017 would be the Strength Shop level belt and the SBD Belt. These will both be looked at on an individual level throughout this article but it is interesting to note that these two are at the opposite ends of the scale when it comes to price – Strength Shop’s is roughly £80/$180, while SBD RRPs at £165/$222. Despite this, more and more are going for the SBD belt.
This, without a doubt, skewered the sales for not only belts but all powerlifting apparel when it came into place.
Only certain brands of apparel are now allowed to be worn during competitions – the brands on the list had to make apparel to fit a certain specification … and also pay to be on the list.
This means that there are a variety of belts on the market that fit the specs but do not appear on the list – which in turn means some belts and equipment which are on the list have now been hiked up in price.
An example of this would be in the Strength Shop 10mm belt – it will cost you in the region of £60-80/$155-$180, whereas there is a very similar RDX belt which comes up on the suggested items list on a popular online store which only costs £30/$40.
Some regional divisions of the IPF allow for the use of kit that meets the spec but is not necessarily on the list. This means that some beginners will not have to fork out £80/$180+ on equipment unless they are planning to get to a national level, or above, any time soon.
If you take yourself to a powerlifting competition or even just a powerlifting gym you can guarantee you will see a few of these belts on show. They are quite popular due to them being cheap (relatively, at least) as well as for being on the approved list and having a quick delivery.
They are available in either a 10mm or 13mm thickness. The 10mm one is more common as the 13mm maybe a little bit too thick for lifters of most sizes.
This belt is generally very good. The material offers resistance to the lifter so that they can create the necessary intra-abdominal pressure, but as it’s faux leather it also moulds to their shape easier than some of the more heavy duty belts.
The position of the lever can also be changed fairly easily with the use of a screw driver. So, the size range is quite large – this is useful for a sport where people can move up and down in weight categories fairly often.
The downside is that the quality control leaves something to be desired. Some belts you will get and the faux leather material is so soft that it will not supply anywhere near the adequate amount of support you may need. There have been many cases of the buckles breaking – even the ones with the lifetime warranty (which they used to sell separately). If you’re lucky you will get a good one and that will last you for some time. If you’re not, then you might find that you have to fork out some more hard earned cash again very soon.
Prior to its release rumours about this belt were doing the rounds for a very long time, almost to the point where it seemed like its release would be mythical. It did eventually come out in time for the IPF Worlds of 2016 where all of the SBD sponsored athletes showed it off.
This then led to many powerlifters putting an order in for this belt when it became public in the summer of that year, in spite of the hefty price tag of £165/$230.
The belt comes at 13mm thickness as standard and is made out of real leather. This makes it very thick, very tough and very difficult to break in initially. It is not uncommon for some bruising and grazing to occur when first using this.
The buckle on this belt slot into one of the holes and then you latch it. Which means it is far easier to find the right fit for the lifter themselves, as it doesn’t need the additional use of a screwdriver.
I have had both of these belts. I was unlucky enough to receive an incredibly flimsy Strength Shop belt upon my first purchase – I did send an email to Strength Shop directly and was offered a refund (after the customer service assistant replied in a rude manner). This led me to buy an SBD belt as I didn’t want to fork out another £80 on a belt which may or may not be up to standard – whereas I knew the SBD belt would be.
The Strength Shop belt is not a bad belt by any stretch of the imagination – however, the quality control appears to be an issue as some are great and others just aren’t.
SBD has been far more consistent in terms of their quality – they also have a 2 day delivery offer for customers in the UK which is very handy. It is far more expensive but it might be worth it for the guarantee of a quality belt.