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When is it time for a weight belt?

When would you recommend one should start using weight belts and straps? Is it just a personal thing or a safety issue? I am beginning to break into the mid 400’s for dl’s right now and high 300’s for squats - I dont necessarily feel like pain or anything such as that but for prevention purposes would you say it’s belt time?

Weight belts mess up your form.

Above 90% of your one rep max is a pretty good guideline. For training, just tighten it enough that you can push your abs into it.

Properly used, a belt should enhance your form under heavy weight because it should help keep you tight by serving as a reminder to engage your abs.

Back off the deads and strengthen your lower back. Do GM’s, Reverse Hypers, Hyper extensions, GHR’s, Pullthroughs to strengthen your lower back. The belt in this instance would only mask any underlying issues you have.
Also look at your form. Have you noticed any trend developing where you are relying more and more on lower back to make the lift as the load increases? Are you properly bracing your abdomen and setting up the lift correctly? Address any form issues, try speed DL’s to work on form and give your CNS a break.
Do you have any flexibity issues? Do you stretch regularly? Tight hip flexors and hamstrings in particular could be causing extra stress on your lower back. You can use a belt but only as an aid to push your abdominals against to brace the spine correctly, do not use it to support your spine instead of correctly using your own musculature for support.
Deal with the cause and not the symptoms.

According to stuart mcgill’s book which I bought (see mr spine article here), almost never unless you are realy injured to a level that you cant stabilize your self (Im talking you shouldnt get out of bed)

it could be alot of totally unrelated SI/hip/muscle problems. go and invest in some a.r.t. you could have anterior pelvic tilt/ tight psoas/ tight piriformis, all those could cause back pain and a back belt wont help sh*t.

Uhhh, where did he say he was experiencing pain or discomfort? It’s not new information that you should avoid training with a belt and strengthen your core and stabilizers. I read this as a question to when in a progression should you put your belt on. Maybe I am reading wrong?

Good advice creed. Try seated good mornings too.

hey Creed

thanks for the advice dude…My whole thing is that I am NOT experiencing any pain or anything of the sort. I was just curious that when a person gets to a certain load would it be a good idea to use a weight belt in order to prevent injuries. But I guess since my form is still sharp and I don’t have any nagging injuries (well except my wrists, but that’s from boxing) I am in the clear then right?

Competition is the only place for a belt.

Agree with narked. Never any other time. And even then you should try it out beforehand with a few 1rms to see if it helps you.

I used to think belts had no place in the gym, but Ive learned that they are an important tool when you get above 90% to teach you to press your abs out and how to breath big in the belly.


If you are planning on competing in powerlifting competitions, you will be using a belt there, so you should use it in your training sometimes to get used to it. However, even if this is the case, it is important to train without the belt too.

If you’re not competing, I see no need for a belt, just make sure your form is perfect.

I quit using a belt when I realized I had nothing for lower back strength. I haven’t used it in almost a year

i train without the belt until i get to 85-90% of max like most of these that have responded, but i only use it for the squat. i hook the belt one hole less than snug so that i can breathe into the stomach and push my belly into it. this increases intra-abdominal pressure and helps stabilize the spine as well as train proper form.

for deadlifts, i don’t use a belt at all because i feel that with my arms hanging down it’s easier to breathe into the belly and contract like you’re supposed to as opposed to arms overhead in a squat.

Yes, it does increase intra-abdominal pressure, but so does activating your transverse abdominus. It is shaped very similar to a weight belt and serves the same function. Training without it will increase your risk of injury as your ta will get weaker and not activate. Pushing your abs out uses the rectus abdominus. Usuing this at less than about 95% is faulty recruitment of the abdominal wall. I am sure that there is an article on here somewhere that says pretty much the same thing. Back strong and beltless by paul chek, or something similar to that name.

This is a really interesting thread. I have been traing for seven year and have never really been able to do heavy squats or deads without a belt. Here’s my situation…

I messed my back up playing baseball once when I was a kid, and again when I wrecked my dirt bike that same year.

I healed up, and the next year I started weight training. I always practiced perfect form from the very beginning on every lift, and in the beginning never had much back pain past my back getting tight and then expectedly sore. As the weights got heavier, my back would get really tight, so I would always belt-up on heavier sets. Over the years my back pain came and went with the seasons and different injuries, and I would adjust my training accordingly.

Over the past few years I have had some problems with sever pain in my mid back when I squat real heavy. My low back tightens up after the first few warm-up sets, so I belt up by the time I get to 315. My last max was 550 and my heaviest sets are usually in the low 4’s. My back pain is in my mid-back and wearing a belt is the only way I can keep my core tight enough to mediate it. Without a belt, and without something to flex my abs against, I can’t stay tight enough.

I put a lot of time into strengthening my abs and lower back but when the weight gets heavy, I have to belt up. I hear you guys say that you don’t train with a belt too much and I am wondering how heavy (weight wise, not %) you go without one, and if you ever get pain.

By no means is my back weak and I train the the hell out of my abs. My core strength is damn good. I deadlift in the low 6’s and put on my belt after like 4. I do a lot of back hypers and I do a lot of Olympic work with no belt.

One thing that I think increased my pain was when I changed my squat form and lowered the bar down my back. I had such pain after a year of training like that that I went back to high-bar suats, and it got a little better

So I guess I’m wondering, beyond my obviously permanantly F’ed up back, what would youi guys say is my problem, and why? If my deadlift is so big, why do my symptoms appear to say that my back isn’t strong enough?

You guys have given BeAman13 some good advice… any for me?


Hey mule. Sorry to hear about your back problems. It is difficult to say what exactly your problem is. What is your posture like? Do you have a lordotic/kyphotic posture? Do you do heaps of bench presses? Do you spend any time stretching? Do you have full coordination in the lower abs and can you stabilize your pelvis with your lower abs? Do you train your abs with your feet anchored? Do you breath diaprhamatically and activate your transverse abdominus? Are your shoulders rounded? Do you have any other injuries? Do you deviate to one side when coming up in the squat? Does your tailbone round under as you come up? Maybe you squat too deep? Do you have hip flexor tightness? Are your calves tight? Do you always train with low reps?

wish you had never asked?

do some ab and lower back work at the start of the session to “turn” on the core and never wear a belt, that will fix things up nicely IMO :slight_smile:

yeah and some reverse back extensions at the end of the session

yeah, bourbon i’ve read much of paul chek’s research, in fact one of my professor is a colleague of chek’s. the problem i have with paul chek is he is not a powerlifter…he doesn’t train powerlifters, he trains golfers and folks that like to stand on stability balls while stroking their…egos.

science can only take you so far and then that’s where the art comes into play. now, do you know any westside lifter’s that have weak lower backs, or insufficient trunk strength? i don’t think so. the thing is, you have to go with a wider base as opposed to sucking your TVA in (activating it or whatever you wanna call it) when putting up ridiculous amounts of weight. we aren’t talking about sets of 6 or something, we are talking in terms of 1 rep maximums. we aren’t cheating our TVA by using the belt at extreme poundages.

Hi boon. My last post was not about whether he wears a belt or not. He is asking why he has back pain and I am trying to help him out there. Am I wrong in asking him about his posture? Whether or not he can stabilize his pelvis? If he does low reps week after week, month after month?