Updated: Jan 25, 2022
Learning to lift beltless is key. It helps to build your core and lumbar strength as you master the art of bracing and harnessing increased intra-abdominal pressure. However, once you know how to brace, belts can offer a whole range of benefits such as providing resistance to brace against, which increases support to the spine and assists you in keeping solid form with heavy weights. Most lifters like to use belts as they provide stability and confidence when going for big lifts and can help when grinding out a big PB safely. However, with so many different brands and type of belt on the market it can feel like a bit of a minefield.
In this blog we outline bodybuilding belts v powerlifting belts, prong belts vs lever belts and go into some reviews of belts we have used in the past. These are our own independent opinions and its important to note that different people will have different preferences this is just to help you to make your decision when deciding what belt to go for!
Bodybuilding Belts Vs Powerlifting Belts -
Typically bodybuilding belts are less rigid than powerlifting belts and allow for a bit more movement. Quite often you will find that they are thicker at the back and narrower at the front and often will be fastened using a buckle or 'prong' (which we go into below). By contrast, powerlifting belts are a lot stiffer and have a consistent width throughout. they provide excellent stability for when you’re lifting heavy and are often fastened using a a clip style lock (lever). The reason they are different isn't immediately obvious, but is likely because bodybuilders tend to lift lighter weights for higher reps and thus require less support. Bodybuilding style belts are more comfortable when worn for long periods.
Prong v Lever Fasteners
Prong Fasteners -
Prong or buckle belts are the standard lifting belt that you often see around commercial gyms. They are usually made out of leather or a leather substitute, sometimes with fabric and as expected, have a buckle to tighten them, the similar to a large belt buckle:
Prong belts come with a single prong, or for added rigidity, a double prong. The main benefit of a prong belt is that you can easily adjust the size depending on if your waist changes day to day or if you feel bloated one day etc. Another benefit is that once it is on it will not accidentally pop loose, especially during movements such as loading medley or log press that might involve the belt getting bashed. However, they can be difficult to get on at a tight enough setting, and can also be difficult to get off in a hurry if you ever get light-headed. Due to this issue often these belts wear out quicker than levers as the material around the most regularly used buckle holes wears away over time.
Lever Fasteners -
Lever belts are in most respects the same as a powerlifting prong belt. They are also often made out of leather or a leather substitute and have a clip style lock to tighten and lock the belt in place -
The benefit of lever belts over prong belts is that they provide more stability as they can be tightened much harder if that is your preference. The clip lock is also far less inflexible so general provides a more 'locked in' feel. You can also easily loosen it between sets for comfort. However, the main flaw with most lever belts is that usually you have to measure up the right size and use screws to fix the clip in the correct size for you. As such, if you feel it is too tight/loose during a session then its more longwinded to adjust the size. One company that goes around this issue is SBD. the SBD 13mm Lever Belt is designed with a lever lock but instead of it being fixed into one size, can be tightened/loosened like a buckle belt.
Powerlifting belts tend to come in 10mm or the maximum IPF approved 13mm thickness and tend to be the maximum allowed 4inches in width.
Belts we have used and our reviews -
Golds Gym Prong Bodybuilding Belt - I used this for a number of years before getting properly into powerlifting. It was a cheap introductory belt but nevertheless lasted for a good few years and was good for bodybuilding. However, when I started increasing weights to more competitive levels the belt wasn’t up to scratch and had the same issues as highlighted before, particularly with the wear in the more used buckle holes.
York Fitness - This belt was my introduction to weightlifting and much like Ben is served a purpose when I was a beginner and had just started out. For general gym routines this belt was perfect, however for heavy compound lifts with a high RPE the lack of support around the abs starts to get uncomfortable.
RDX Sports 10mm Powerlifting Belt - This was the first powerlifting belt that I purchased after hearing good things about Mickey’s lever belt. I instantly felt more supported and felt like it was far better suited to lifting heavy. I have been using this for the past year and am very happy with it so far. there have only been a couple of occasions where I’ve felt full or flat and would have liked to have been able to amend the size slightly, however, on the whole this doesn’t happen often.
YayB Protein 10mm Lever Belt - I have now had this belt for 3 years and it is as good as new. After the initial break-in (1-2 months) where the belt would bruise me it now fits like a glove and is comfortable every time. The clip function allows me to wear the belt while I'm resting without discomfort and when I fasten it shut I know it's time to switch on and focus on the weight.