Photo Credit: Moffitt Photography
“At what point am I lifting heavy enough to use a belt?”
This is a question we get a lot from new clients who are just starting to learn about powerlifting. Nearly all powerlifters utilize a lifting belt during meets and during most of their training. It’s a very rare occasion that you see an experienced powerlifter who does not use a belt during competition simply because it can help you move more weight. Period.
When people ask about this, I find that they think you have to reach a certain level of expertise, or certain amount of weight lifted before you can even put on a belt. They have this understanding that a belt is like the holy grail, or something that you need to earn and be gifted with upon reaching elite-level status. That couldn’t be farther from the truth!
Using a belt can be a great tool for beginners to powerlifting or just lifting heavier in general. When you’re lifting heavy, you need to properly brace your core. What does that mean exactly? Basically, you want to stabilize your entire core area by breathing into your stomach. This will help make your trunk stable enough to support moving heavy weight. This can be confusing to most people simply because they don’t have a good understanding of what the core consists of. If you think your core is just your abs, we hate to break it to you but you’re wrong.
Here’s a great graphic showcasing all of the muscles of the core:
As you can see, the core is made up of a series of muscles not only on the anterior side of the body, but also on the lateral and posterior sides. Establishing a strong core goes a lot further than doing some crunches or sit-ups. In fact, your core is utilized in almost every exercise or movement that you do.
Training without a belt is obviously going to help you increase your core strength and stability. Training “beltless” is something you can use as a training tool when in the off-season to do just that. However, we like to suggest our beginners try out a belt when learning how to brace and breath for the main lifts.
Why is that?
When you breath into your stomach, your stomach is going to expand. The expansion of your stomach is what is going to give you that stability while going through a loaded movement. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. Learning to breathe into your stomach properly is the first step. A lot of people naturally want to suck IN their stomach when learning how to breathe and this is incorrect. When you suck in, that means the air isn’t in the right spot, therefore you’re not going to be stable. The goal here is to honestly look as fat as possible by sticking that stomach out. A belt comes in handy here because you can cue the individual (or yourself) to think about filling out their belt or pushing their belly into the belt. Here, the belt becomes the teacher to ensure the athlete is properly breathing therefore bracing before attempting to load the movement.
Here’s a great video we recommend on learning how to breathe properly: Breathing + Bracing Technique
Now comes the ever so popular question of,
What belt is the best?
Hopefully this cleared up any confusion you had about using a belt or how to properly brace for the main lifts. We are always available for questions and further discussion at FitnessTeam@sd-evolution.com. Now go put these brain gains to use!