Should You Be Squatting with a Belt? Yes, if you’re lifting heavy weights. It will help you improve your biomechanics, reduce the stress on the spine and prevent future injuries.
What Does Wearing A Lifting Belt Do and Do Not During Squats?
3 Key Benefits of Wearing a Weightlifting Belt in Squats
Heavy weightlifting puts a ton of stress on the body, not only on the muscle tissues but also on the spine and on all the joints that are used during the main exercises (squat, deadlift, bench press, etc.). Because of that, injuries tend to occur, and in most cases, lifters are trying to do everything in their power to avoid that scenario.
When wearing a belt, you can prevent serious injuries from happening, especially orthopedic ones when you're under a heavy load. That’s because the belt gives your spine extra support, helps you maintain proper form, and makes sure you’re engaging your core muscles during the lift. The combination of those three things ensures that you’re moving in the best way possible, even when lifting close to your one-rep maximum. Many specialists argue that using a belt is a necessity for lifters who squat or deadlift two times their body weight or more. Otherwise, that kind of weight put on the spine can lead to serious damage, mainly if the exercises are also performed with incorrect form.
Reduce Stress on the Spine
Should you squat with a belt? Yes, if you’re lifting heavy and you want to keep your spine injury-free. Studies have already confirmed that wearing a weightlifting belt can increase intra-abdominal pressure by around 50%, and you can think of that increased pressure as a balloon that’s getting inflated inside your abdominals. Now you might think that doesn’t sound good at all, but it’s, in fact, super helpful. Thanks to the increased inside pressure, the spine gets support from the inside thanks to the inflated abdominal cavity, while the abdominal wall and the lower back muscles give it support from the outside. Feeling both types of pressure helps keep the spine more stable and thus reduces the stress it's subjected to during heavy weightlifting.
It helps Improve Body Biomechanics
According to research, wearing a lifting belt when deadlifting or lifting any subject off the ground reduces the amount of spinal extension, flexion, as well as lateral spinal flexion. At the same time, it’s shown to increase flexion at the knees and hips. In simpler words, wearing a belt makes sure you’re using your legs to lift and not your back - which is exactly what you want to happen when doing a heavy lifting workout. These are the correct biomechanics for both squats and deadlifts - and by using them, you will be able to perform the exercises correctly and improve your one-rep maxes over time as you build strength in the lower body.
How Do You Use a Powerlifting Belt while Squatting?
Step 1: Locate Your Hip Bone
Once you’ve put on the belt a few times, you will be able to find the hipbone position intuitively; however, the first few times, you will have to consciously think about where it is. The general rule is that the belt should be placed on the “softer” parts of your core, close to your mid and upper ab area, and not close to any bone. The position can slightly shift so that it’s most comfortable for you, but the middle of your torso is where the belt should usually be.
Step 2: Take a Deep Breath
Before locking in the belt, it’s vital that you take one second to draw in a deep breath. That’s because you want the belt to be in a position where it gives you compression and resistance. With that said, you don’t need to vacuum your entire stomach; you just want to take one really big breath in.
Step 3: Fasten the Belt
Before breathing out, you should fasten your belt, and the way to do that varies, depending on what type of belt you have - some use a prong, lever, or velcro to latch the two sides. It’s vital to remember that there should be some room between your belly and the belt for comfort.
Step 4: Exhale and Brace the Belt
After you exhale, you want to take a normal breath and then use the so-called Valsalva maneuver to check the tightness. When you breathe out, there should be no gap between you and the belt.
How to Choose the Right Weightlifting Belt for Squats?
The two most important measurements are width and thickness. Weightlifting belts usually come in three widths: 4,3 or 2.5 inches. The biggest ones offer the most support and are preferred by most athletes. The 3 or 2.5 inches are preferred by people with smaller torsos, as they’re less likely to dig into the ribs. When it comes to thickness, most belts are between 9 to 13 millimeters thick. The thicker the belt is, the harder it is to break it in, and that’s why thinner belts are usually more comfortable. With that said, thicker belts offer more support and are more durable.
Most belts are made either out of leather or nylon. Leather belts are usually more expensive, more durable, and offer more support. But some athletes prefer to use nylon belts because they feel more comfortable, and your hips can move freely while exercising. They’re also a lot easier to put on and take off, which is vital for fitness-style workouts.
Belts fall into three main categories, depending on their buckle. Those are:
- Level belts: These ones are easy to take off or put on; however, if you want to make them tighter, you need to use a screwdriver and reposition the buckle, which is slightly inconvenient for some people.
- Prong belts: There are two types of prong belts: single prong and double prong. The first ones are easier to fasten; however, people prefer the second option as it feels more secure and evenly distributes the pressure on the waist. The only annoying thing about them is that they’re harder to take off or put on.
- Velcro belts: Velcro weightlifting belts are usually made out of nylon and typically feel more comfortable; however, they are not as supportive or as durable as the other variations we discussed.
Our Recommendation: WARM BODY COLD MIND Leather Weight Lifting Belt
This Warm Body Cold Mind product is a premium leather weightlifting belt made for all kinds of lifters from Olympic weightlifters to Powerlifters and fitness athletes. It’s made out of high-quality material to ensure its durability, and it’s also available in various sizes from S to XXXL.
Should I wear a belt when squatting?
Yes, if you’re lifting heavy weights and you want to prevent possible injuries and minimize the stress on your spine.
What does a belt do for squats?
Using a weightlifting belt for squats ensures you get more support during the movement, improves your biometrics, lowers stress on the spine, and can be helpful in preventing injuries.
At what weight should I use a belt for squats?
The general rule is to start once you begin to lift 1.5x your body weight. However, you can start at 1x your body weight if you feel the need.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand why wearing a weightlifting belt is helpful and when you should start to do it if you’re frequently lifting heavy weights. And for those who already use a belt, what are the biggest benefits you’ve seen from its use? Let us know in the comments.
- Effects of a belt on intra-abdominal pressure during weight lifting // PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2709981/
- The effect of wearing a back belt on spine kinematics during asymmetric lifting of large and small boxes // PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11493853/
- What Is the Valsalva Maneuver? // WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/atrial-fibrillation/valsalva-maneuver
My name is Ihor and I have been a professional weightlifter since 1996. With over 20 years of competition experience, my resume includes European Champion in 2009 and the silver medalist at 2011's Senior World Championships – 105kg division.
I competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.
After hanging up my own competitive lifting shoes, I decided to share my huge background as a coach. I am currently coaching multiple athletes who are competing at national and international competitions.