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When to start using a lifting belt

When to start using a lifting belt

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?

Our friends over at put together a great article discussing different types of belts and what would be best for you here: Best Lifting Belts.

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 Now go put these brain gains to use!

There are Miracles Created by Power-Lifting! But Weight Loss?

There are Miracles Created by Power-Lifting! But Weight Loss?

heavy barbell

When we think of power-lifting, we often think of giant men lifting enormous amounts of weight. So naturally, we correlate heavy weights with big muscles. This is where the “I don’t lift weights because I don’t want to get big” myth came into place… We’ve already touched on this topic plenty and we will save more of these arguments for another day. But today’s topic is power-lifting for weight loss.

To put it simply, the more weight you move, the more calories you burn. Why? Because it requires more work to move more weight. Calories are our bodies’ energy source and those are what we burn to get our bodies to work. You can do dumbbell bench presses with 5 pounders all day, but the results will be limited if you are even lucky enough to see any. Same thing with body-weight squats. They can only get you so far. But load up that bar with 100, 200, even 300 pounds and see what your body can do! This is where the magic happens!

On top of that, a well-designed power-lifting program should be well-rounded. You are hitting your entire body in many fewer exercises, and getting better results from it. Nothing beats a quality, compound movement. Isolation movements have their place, but that place isn’t in an efficient weight-loss program. The truth is that if you have a lot of weight to lose, cable triceps press downs do not belong in your routine. Ab machine crunches don’t either. You should get most of your core work from your basic lifts. I’m not saying you should never do a plank or any core-specific work, but isolation movements (like the machine crunch) should be saved for your fine-tuning phase when you are much closer to your goal.

Let me explain the difference between a compound movement compared to an isolation movement. This should show you why it is so much more effective to incorporate compound movements. For legs: Compound movement-Barbell Squat vs. Isolation movement- Leg Extension. The leg extension is an exercise that is focusing specifically on the quads (the top side of your leg). This movement is performed in complete isolation, meaning no other muscles are required to do any work. The barbell squat is a compound movement that not only incorporates many more muscles in your legs, it actually includes about 75% of the muscles in your body to do some sort of work. Some of the muscles are the prime movers (glutes), others are assisting muscles, and many are stabilizing muscles that engage your core and keep proper movement patterns in tact. Now why would you choose the exercise that only uses one muscle? You would have to do a lot more exercises to engage all the muscles that you would in the squat. So why would you choose the isolation exercise? For one reason and one reason only- because it’s easier! Challenge yourself with the heavier, compound movements and your body will thank you!

To give you an idea of some quality, basic compound lifts, here is what I’m talking about:

Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Bent-Over Row, and Military Press are a great place to start. These are your power-lifting movements at your most basic form. There are plenty of alterations to that, of course. One of my favorites is a clean to press, or for beginners- a regression to (squat to reverse curl to press). This is building strength, requires a lot of work, and is a very efficient total-body movement that will burn a lot of calories.

The biggest component in this program being utilized for weight loss is your nutrition. If you are following the right meal plan and properly designed power-lifting program, you can get absolutely shredded! This stuff works so don’t be afraid to step out of what you think you know, and try something new. Start the new year off right and take some chances! If you train the same, you will remain the same. Nothing is more frustrating than busting your butt and not seeing a difference. So get to it! Check out our site at or our instagram @sd_evolution for some amazing transformations, and transformations in the process! If you are interested in personal training or your own personalized workout program and meal plan, those are on the site as well! Good luck guys!


Until next time,



Women: Put your fears of becoming “BULKY” behind you

Women: Put your fears of becoming “BULKY” behind you

Although there has been a rise of the amount of women participating in weight lifting, Crossfit and other activities that used to be labeled as “manly”, I still find many females coming to me with the fear of becoming “bulky” by lifting a dumbbell over the weight of 8 pounds. What many people don’t understand is gaining such a large amount of muscle mass is not an easy concept especially for a woman.

Transforming your body into this:


is not something that you can achieve by lifting heavy weights alone. These women who you see compete in bodybuilding are most likely taking Anabolic Steroids due to the fact that women in general have less testosterone than men and in turn that limits our muscle growth potential. This combined with an extensive diet plan (having a surplus of calories to feed the muscle) as well as lots and lots of time (this stuff doesn’t happen overnight!) are all contributors to the “bulky” women seen in fitness competitions.

For your average female trying to “tone up” by spending hours a day on cardio machines followed by 30 minutes doing ab work then MAYBE picking up a 5lb dumbbell for bicep curls, I can honestly tell you from experience that there are more efficient (and more fun) ways to build your dream body. It is true that I used to be that girl that I just described. A carb-loving, cardio bunny who thought she knew what she was doing in the gym. I did not see results, I did not enjoy working out and I certainly was not pleased with my body.

When I switched my major to Exercise Science I then learned a lot of what I stay true to today. Including the following:

  • Lifting heavy weights increases muscle mass which in turn burns more fat during and AFTER exercise.
  • Lifting heavy weights allows me to eat more (of the proper foods) to fuel my body.
  • Lifting heavy weights gives me that “toned” look most women strive for aka beautiful CURVES. Embrace them.
  • Lifting heavy weights increases bone health. Decrease your risk for Osteoperosis!
  • Lifting heavy weights increases confidence, happiness and overall energy.


This photo was taken of me at my first NPC Bikini Competition. After 3 months of dedicating my life to lifting heavy weights, eating clean, building my confidence and most importantly enjoying every aspect of it. Challenge yourself to a new workout goal. You won’t NEED an hour of cardio every day if you substitute lifting heavy weights and most importantly you will be on your way to a happier, healthier version of you.

Happy Monday and go pick up something heavy!

Need help? Not sure what to do in the gym? SD Evolution offers meal and training programs personalized to you, your gym and your goals. Contact us at for more info or visit the “Services” page at We are here to help!

“Athlete vs. Non-Athlete, everyone should be deadlifting”-Laurence Ng

“Athlete vs. Non-Athlete, everyone should be deadlifting”-Laurence Ng

Deadlifts have always been one of my favorite exercises. Not only are they a compound movement or a movement that uses multiple joints to complete the action, they are considered an Activity of Daily Living (ADL) which mimics the act of properly lifting an object off the ground. The deadlift is a hip-hinge movement yet all too often throughout the many gyms I have been to, I see this movement being done incorrectly. Form should always come before weight, so if you are deadlifting 200lbs. with terrible form you are putting dysfunction over your fitness level.

A few key concepts to think about while performing a deadlift include:

  • Keeping a neutral spine with shoulder blades retracted
  • Push the hips back as opposed to down when reaching to set
  • Keep the head and neck in alignment- you should be looking more towards the ground (you can look at yourself in the mirror after!)
  • Keep the Rectus Abdominus and entire core tight throughout the movement

There are a variety of ways to perform a deadlift including one and two legs or arms using dumbbells, a barbell, a trap bar, or kettlebells. You are also using numerous muscles when performing this movement but the large muscle groups worked include the Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Erector Spinae (lower back), as well as the Adductors for stabilization.

Yesterday I was able to work with Laurence at FQ10 who is an Athlete Performance Coach/Personal Trainer while he coached one of his newer clients who is a high school baseball player recovering from a recent injury. Since this athlete was coming off an injury and was not at his peak level of fitness, Laurence had him perform hip hinges using a Dowel Rod to master the movement pattern. After successfully doing so, we progressed to the Trap Bar deadlift with lighter weight. One important cue Laurence used was to really squeeze the glutes at the top of the movement to lock out the hips. Laurence expressed to me that many individuals struggle with knee collapse during this movement. This is a common thing to see in the deadlift and is often seen in any squat movements in individuals who have weak Gluteus Medius muscles. If gone uncorrected, this can cause wearing of the MCL and knee pain so it is important to strengthen these lateral muscles. Sometimes proper knee tracking can be attained just from giving a coaching cue however using lateral band work can help strengthen and correct this problem.

Below I am demonstrating the correct way to perform a hip hinge, a kettlebell deadlift as well as a barbell deadlift. Remember, if you are just beginning to deadlift, practice the hip hinge movement before progressing to any weighted exercise! I will also be posting some lateral band work so check back to strengthen those Glute Meds!