When should I start wearing a weight lifting belt?

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So you’ve seen people in the gym wearing a belt and they seem to be able to lift some serious weight… But just when did they START wearing a lifting belt?!

I’ve been asked this several times now so lets explore when you should start wearing a weight lifting belt in the gym.

When should I START wearing a weight lifting belt?

At a glance…

  • Beginners can start using a belt when they squat around 100kg and deadlift around 140kg
  • Belts are best saved for heavy compound lifts – there is no need to wear them for accessories or light warm ups
  • A good belt will help you increase the weight you can lift on a like-for-like basis
  • If your goals are centred around lifting heavier and heavier a belt is crucial
  • For everyone else a belt is OPTIONAL – BUT I love mine and would recommend you at least try one!

Should beginners use a weight belt?

No – it is not needed when you start lifting as you still have tons of capacity to lift and recover without a belt. Once the pace of your progress and recovery slows down the benefits of a belt begin to show up.

So my advice would be to first consider a belt when you begin to hit the ceiling of weight you can lift cleanly without one. I think a 100kg squat and 140kg deadlift are reasonable numbers to start playing around with a belt. This is typically around 1.5x bodyweight squat / 2x bodyweight deadlift for many beginners.

Should you wear it for every set or all the time?

There is no need to wear a belt for all your warm up sets or accessories. Simply chuck it on when the lifts start to feel subjectively heavy – in line with my experience above, for me that is warm ups >100kg for squats and >140kg deadlifts and then all subsequent work sets.

So when SHOULD you wear a weight belt?

Here are three simple ways to tell if a belt is right for you!

1. You have some experience lifting without a belt and are looking to take your lifts to the next level

I ran a number of beginner routines (Stronglifts, Starting Strength, variations of 5-3-1) but would hit a ceiling with each lift.

At this point I would get frustrated and either let technique slip or find the workouts unenjoyable and move on to another program.

By using a belt I was able to push the lifts far higher than I had achieved without. I wish I started using one a little earlier in fact!

2. Your goals are focused on absolute weight lifted

When my goals have focused on pure strength I have found a a belt more useful compared to periods focusing on other goals such as hypertrophy. 

For example when running Starting Strength with belt I was able to run the linear progression for a few weeks more and add quite a few extras kilos to the bar compared to similar routines I’d run previously.

While I am a sample size of one, all of my personal best lifts are achieved with a belt. When I want to hit a PB, I belt up!

3. You want to compete in powerlifting

Following the above, if you want to put the highest possible powerlifting total on the board you will probably need a belt.

Yes there are a few outliers who are competitive without a belt – but you & I are unlikely to be amongst them.

So, is it worth getting a weightlifting belt?

If you like to track your progress in the gym by the weight lifted then yes a belt is worth getting. You will likely be able to lift more weight with a belt on.

If your goals are NOT focused on absolute weight lifted then a belt is less essential – but still a great tool for fatigue and form management.

Personally I think considering it is a relatively small outlay a belt is near enough essential.

Conclusion

In summary, you should start wearing a weightlifting belt when you squat >100kg or deadlift >140kg as the support around your torso will allow you to brace more effectively and control your body shape more during heavy compound lifts.

Belts are NOT essential for those who simply don’t care or focus on increasing their lifts over time, nor are they needed for accessories or warm ups. That said they offer an inexpensive tool to manage fatigue and recovery and I would recommend you at least try one before ruling them out!

I love my belt!

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