When to Use Lifting Belts

So I see some people wearing lifting belts at the gym and others not wearing them. I am pretty sure that I do not know the purpose of them as I used to think they were to prevent hernias (which I guess could still be right but I have no idea, you tell me). My question is when should someone use them and what are some important how to’s if you wear one. I am interested in anything that helps prevent injury, so if that’s what belts do, I’m interested. If there is another purpose for them, I’m interested in that too. I have read a little bit about them online but have come across some inconsistent messaging.

I was sure we had a great thread with a ton of “why” advice, but I can’t find it. I did find one on what belt to get:

Anyway, a belt is a tool to help you lift a bit more weight a bit more safely.

It’s still your job to brace (tell me if that terms doesn’t hold a lot of meaning for you yet, because it’s the key concept here) appropriately. A belt tends to help cue that brace and give you something rigid to brace against. The strength of the brace drives the performance and safety improvement, and the belt’s job is to help strengthen the brace.

When to wear it will mostly come to personal preference, but let’s let goals drive that preference. Some examples:

  • Wearing it just to look more jacked/ serious in the gym is the ultimately justifiable goal: that’s a keeper
  • Wearing it on all your warmups and everything is probably unnecessary forever, but might be a smart idea early to break in/ practice the belt
  • Similarly, if squats or deads are tweaky for you or you have an injury history, some folks are happy to wear it as soon as they get to 135. That’s fine
  • I don’t personally see a ton of use on anything back-supported (bench, machines), but maybe if you go with a big arch it makes sense
  • I don’t personally wear one the few times I do any overhead pressing, but I think it would be smart to do so
  • I don’t wear one when I’m purposefully trying to go lighter that day - sometimes it’s good to “regress” your conditions a little

To sum up:

  1. You have to learn to brace properly, no matter what
  2. Bracing drives performance and safety
  3. A belt helps strengthen a brace through cueing and structure
  4. Therefore a belt is a tool to help improve performance and safety

Is this the process of creating intra-abdominal pressure?

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It is. Brian Alsruhe has a YouTube video (a couple I think) that is absolutely the best explanation I’ve ever seen.

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Been training a long long time. Only when i bulge a disc in my old age do i learn this. Good reference. Good video. Its amazing what we can accomplish especially given all we dont know.


Thanks for the reference @TrainForPain and for the assist @ChickenLittle. That explains a lot. I had read about it but videos provide additional explanation. I learned this for squats but did not realize it applied to many exercises.


Just my thought: I always wore a belt when lifting. But if I didn’t need the support, I wore it loose. I rarely took it off. I didn’t have to worry about leaving my belt at the gym. I spared no expense when buying a belt.

My favorite belt was a python covered 4” around with a single prong.