T Nation

When to use a Belt - Never?

When do you guys use a belt?

I used to wear a belt constantly, but after reading “Back Strong and Beltless” by Paul Chek (Issues 121, 122, 123)last year, I haven’t used a belt since - for anything.

Now I’m doing squats for reps with 350, deads, heavy bent rowing, etc. Since I ditched the belt, my back feels immensely more solid and bulletproof and I’ve never had a problem. But I’m wondering, am I just pushing my luck going that heavy without a belt or what?

I’m planning to just keep upping poundages slowly, but I’m wondering if there is some point I need to get a belt on.

Whenever I’m taking a squat or deadlift set to failure, I wear a belt. Otherwise, I don’t touch it.

That’s a good question Warhorse. I ditched my belt about 3 years ago. A couple of weeks ago, I tried to use my belt for a few sets of heavy squats. Turns out that since I haven’t used it for so long, I had forgotton how. It actually decreased the amount of weight I could use. Ian King recommends using the belt for triples or less, which sounds like a good idea to me. I probably just need to use it for some lighter sets as well to get my “belt form” back.

I can max out around 400 lbs on deads and squats, and I rarely use a belt. If I do, I am tryin a new max weight. That’s the only time. Otherwise, why not give your low back a workout?

Thanks for the good comments. I should add that I go as low as two reps on squats but even then I’ve never had a problem. I’ve crashed once, but I keep the safety pins adjusted so that wasn’t a problem either. I imagine you could hurt your back pretty bad if you tried to save something, but I just let it go.

I ditched the belt at the same time I was coming back from a knee injury, so I started out squatting with just the bar, and doing stiff-legged dead lifts. I think this allowed my lower back strength to keep pace with my squatting ability. Back when I wore a belt I always felt like my back was going to give out under the heavy weights. Now if anything craps out it’s my legs.

I put my old belt on for kicks a few months ago, but it felt so constrictive I took it right off without trying anything in it. Far cry from the days when I used to cinch that puppy tight just to bench!

I only use the belt to help me lift more. My deadlift max is about fifty lbs lower without a belt. I only use it on dynamic squat day and when i max at a meet.

Personally I don’t think anyone should use a weight belt unless they have a lower back injury. Your belt is your abdominal strength. I actually stop using mine. Even though I can’t squat as much as I use to but I think with out the belt I wind up strengthening my abs and lower back more.

I don’t think there’s any magic weight where you have to start using a belt. Galabin Boevski (a Bulgarian olympic lifter, reigning Europeon Champ and Olympic Champ at 69kg) has been known to squat over 500 lbs without a belt. As long as you’ve developed a strong core, there’s nothing you need a belt for.

I haven’t used a belt in years, and both my squat and deadlift are better than ever before. No back problems, either.

I would disagree with the opinion expressed above that you should only wear a belt if you have an injury. I would say that that’s the most important time NOT to wear one, as it might have the effect of giving you a false confidence or false “support” for your midsection that could in turn cause you to exert yourself too much and worsen the condition.

Basically, if you can’t lift it without a belt, my feeling is that you shouldn’t be lifting it at all. The only exception to this might be someone who was a competitive powerlifter, but those guys use belts, suits, shirts and who knows what else to increase their poundages beyond what they can really do “raw”. Unless you’re in a meet, I simply fail to see the logic behind that.

“When do you guys use a belt?”

Only when my pants are in danger of falling down.

We definitely use our belts for strongman training. We purchased brand new belts for that; as well as wraps (knees, wrist).

The only times during strongman that a belt wouldn’t be helpful are tire flips and any of the hold events.

As for regular training? When I’m attempting max weights in deads, squats, cleans - I’m wearing a belt. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Okay, so most people seem to be in favor of training without a belt. Strongman (& women) competitors though (at least Patricia), like to train with a belt.

I get in a lot of real world situations where I’m horsing a 500 lb snowmobile or 400 lb jetski or fill in the blank. I actually used to go put my belt on to do stuff like that because I was afraid I’d hurt it without. Anyway, now I obviously don’t (use a belt) for anything and personally, I feel better about it.

I can see the point of using one in competition though. You’re using a plethora of gear to go beyond what your body is capable of.

As for me, I’m staying beltless. Thank you all for sharing your opinions, I feel more confident about my decision now.

For any of you still reading this:

DOES ANYONE SQUAT BAREFOOT? I’ve seen those pics of Arnold squatting barefoot with 500lbs and you’d think that would just flatten your feet!

I was always under the impression that a lifting belt is supposed to support your back.

That, in fact, is not true. I was told that the belt’s main purpuse is to keep the muscles of the back warm and loose.

I haven’t used one in years for lifting purposes, but if you have a job that requires lifting and lugging for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, I would think a belt would be essential.

I never use a belt, was comsidering it and discussed with CT, below is the thread link (not long).

If you only use a belt when attempting new max, you won’t be use to the feel. The purpose of the belt in deads and squats is the support the weaker stablizing muscles of the midsection by pushing against it w/ your abs. there are a couple of articles on t-mag to support this. I agree that it should be used only on low heavy attempts, but it should be used enough to be able to “feel” its proper use.

For me the belt is more of an ab support when I do HEAVY squat triples. It prevents my torso from being hyper-extended.

The actual mechanism by which a lifting belt works is to increase intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). That is why Dave Tate tells you to push out against your belt when you squat. It’s also the reason why it’s sometimes difficult to go back and forth between using a belt and not using one. Because when you squat/dead/clean beltless, you pull your abs in via the transverse abdominus to increase IAP.


The reason strongman/woman competitors favor a lifting belt is due to the unconventional nature of many of the events in strongman.

Let me add here that this is the first time in about 18-19 years of training that I have used a belt. I’m pretty confident that my midsection and low-back is pur-tee strong - I just don’t want to suffer an injury during training that would sideline me from competing.

I don’t know. It seems to me like wearing a belt is artificially enhancing your strength and allowing you to do things you couldn’t normally do. If you get injured, it’s going to be at the weakest link in your chain, so using a belt (in my opinion) is just strengthening/protecting one link of the chain – it’s just going to break somewhere else – like maybe your knee, wrist or ankle or whatever.

I guess if you’re flipping a tire or doing all those strange things strongpeople do I can see where it could possibly save you from being injured. Anyone who has injured their back would probably attest that it’s the last thing you want to injure. (Besides your nuts. One guy at the gym I used to train at squashed his between a pair of dumbells).

I usually do ALL my lifting barefoot, or at most wrestling shoes. Having my own set-up at home allows me the freedom to do so, as most gyms don’t allow barefoot lifting.