A powerlifting belt is different from a weightlifting belt. It’s important for you to know the difference to ensure that you’re purchasing the right one for you. In this article, I’ll discuss the distinguishing factors between a weightlifting belt vs powerlifting belt.
Powerlifting belt vs weightlifting belt: The difference between weightlifting and powerlifting belt is that a powerlifting belt is typically constructed with a 4-inch wide rigid leather and is best for squats, bench presses, and deadlifts while a weightlifting belt is made of flexible nylon or leather ideal for snatches and cleans & jerks.
Are You a Powerlifter or Weightlifter?
There are some key differences between the two. Powerlifting involves a slower movement speed, and a focus on strength in three primary lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. This strength sport heavily focuses on lifting as much weight as possible in a single rep.
On the other hand, Olympic weightlifting involves highly skilled and technical movements carried out at a rapid pace that combines elements of strength, power, speed, and mobility. Weightlifting consists of two competition lifts: snatch and clean & jerk.
Powerlifting. There are multiple independent regulatory organizations for powerlifting, and each has its own set of rules and regulations, and the most notable is the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). The following are the IPF specifications for lifting belts:
- It is prohibited to wear a belt under lifting suits.
- It should be constructed from leather, vinyl, or some other non-stretchable material.
- Laminations that are stitched or glued are acceptable.
- It cannot contain any padding, bracing, or other forms of support.
- It may come with a single prong, two prongs, or a lever.
- The buckle needs to be firmly fastened with stitching or studs.
- The design must be simple and devoid of branding unless specifically permitted by IPF.
- Upon IPF clearance, you can add a logo of your name or country.
- The belt cannot be more than 13mm thick or 4" wide.
- The inside and outer widths of the buckle should be 11 and 13 cm, respectively.
- The tongue loop should be positioned 25 cm or less from the end of the belt.
- The tongue loop can only be up to 5 cm wide.
Weightlifting. Weightlifting competitions conform to the rules and regulations of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). The following are the IWF specifications for lifting belts:
- Athletes may wear a weightlifting belt. It must be worn outside the costume if it is utilized.
- The belt cannot be wider than 12 cm.
The main difference in terms of the material is that a powerlifting belt should be rigid while a weightlifting belt should be flexible.
Although some powerlifting belts are made of vinyl, leather makes up the majority of them. Both of these materials lack flexibility, so if you take up a powerlifting belt, you'll note that its rigidity requires you to manually wrap it around your torso. Meanwhile, belts for weightlifting are frequently made of vinyl but there are some that are also made of leather. Many Olympic weightlifters favor vinyl belts over the other types due to their flexibility.
Simply put, powerlifters lift bigger loads than weightlifters do. And this is mostly because the former perform less dynamic movements and that they do not hold the load overhead. For these reasons, powerlifters need tougher and more rigid belts than weightlifters.
A powerlifting belt typically employs a prong or a lever buckle. The mechanism of a prong buckle is comparable to that of any regular belt. You choose a hole that fits your torso then pull the belt strap through the loop. On the other hand, a prong belt offers the flexibility to wear the belt looser or tighter depending on the lift while a lever belt is somewhat more secure. For heavy lifting, I prefer the lever belt since you actually want to wear the belt rather tightly.
Conversely, a weightlifting nylon belt is secured by velcro, however, occasional leather weightlifting belts will have prong-style buckles. The belt's velcro closure mechanism is designed to leave as little material in front of the body as possible. If their belt had a large buckle, they would run the danger of clipping it while performing the movements.
The width of a powerlifting belt is constant throughout while a weightlifting belt is tapered so that it's broader in the back and thinner in the front. The typical width of a powerlifting belt is 4 inches all the way around because powerlifters require equal support around their torsos for effective bracing.
In contrast, a weightlifting belt typically has a rear width of 4-6 inches and a front width of 3-4 inches. This allows the lifter's hips to move a little more easily into the deep end ranges of the snatch and clean & jerk. In order to execute the motions efficiently during weightlifting, mobility optimization is more crucial than a good bracing technique.
Belts We Recommend
For powerlifting, my personal favorite is the FlexzFitness Lever Weightlifting Leather Belt mainly because of its quick release and its rigid build. I feel that this allows me to brace more effectively than others and it has lasted me a long time without wearing out.
The Warm Body Cold Mind Leather Weightlifting Belt is definitely my go-to for weightlifting. The build and design give me enough support without interfering with my snatches and clean & jerks, giving me that perfect balance between stability and mobility.
Do Olympic weightlifters wear belts?
Olympic weightlifters may wear lifting belts but it’s not an absolute necessity. Some prefer to not wear a belt unless they’re maxing out while some enjoy the additional weight lifting belts allow them to lift even during training.
What happens if you don’t wear a belt when lifting?
Once you begin lifting weights as heavy or even heavier than you, it becomes a lot easier to lose your form, and having a bad form can lead to a myriad of injuries. This is where lifting belts come in—they help stabilize your torso while supporting your form to keep you injury-free. Additionally, without a lifting belt, you will end up lifting lighter weights than you would have if you had one.
Is there a difference between bodybuilding belt vs powerlifting belt?
Powerlifting training aims to increase maximal strength, especially in movements such as the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Bodybuilding training places less emphasis on weight lifted and more emphasis on maximizing muscular hypertrophy or growth. Because of this, powerlifting belts are thicker and heavier to provide more support for heavier lifts while bodybuilding belts are lighter and are tapered so that the belt is wider at the back compared to the front.
The difference between weightlifting belt vs powerlifting belt is that the former promotes stability for heavier lifts while the latter provides support during complex and larger movements. The discussion above should help you in looking for the right lifting belt for you.
Let us know any thoughts or questions you have in mind in the comment section below.
- Technical and Competition Rules & Regulations // IWF:
- Technical Rules Book // IPF:
My name is Oleksiy Torokhtiy. I am a professional athlete with 20 years of experience in Olympic weightlifting. I have won multiple European, and World titles and have taken part in two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008, London 2012).