Whether you’re a serious weightlifter or just getting started with weights, a weight lifting (or weightlifting) belt is a must have in the gym. Sure, they aren’t necessary for many exercises, but the benefits of a weight lifting belt for a variety of lifts can’t be understated. Weight lifting belts help engage the core and erector muscles while helping to maintain stability and bending of the spine that is all too common in popular lifts such as back and front squats. In other words, they don’t only lower your risk of injury, they also help you engage more muscle. A winning combination that’s easily worth the typical price tag.
Unfortunately, not all weight lifting belts are created equally–and while something is better than nothing, there’s no reason to settle for an inferior product. Here are the best weight lifting belts we could find.
Whether you’re a competitive powerlifter (these are IPF and USAPL approved) or just looking to do more lower body work at the gym, the Dark Iron Fitness Leather Pro Weight Lifting Belt is our top pick for traditional lifting–where leather belts shine versus nylon.
It’s strong, sturdy and what sets it over the top verse other options was the comfort–with many holes for the belt buckle you can get a comfortable fit without a struggle and we felt the leather had just a little bit more give than some of the competition, also contributing to the more comfortable fit.
To top things off, the price won’t set you back much. Overall, you can’t go wrong with the Dark Iron Fitness Genuine Leather Pro Weight Lifting Belt.
Weight lifting belts aren’t only for powerlifting–many exercises such as cleans, snatches, overhead presses, and more can all benefit from the use of a weight lifting belt. For lifts that require more mobility but still benefit from support–or for those who lift high repetitions, higher speed, a nylon weight lifting belt, with more give, is often more suitable than leather.
And when it comes to nylon belts, the Element 26 Self Locking Weight Lifting Belt is our pick of the litter. It comes with a lifetime warranty, the price is right, and the self locking feature is not only convenient it also ensures a perfect fit and maximum comfort. If it wasn’t for our predilection towards heavy weights and leather belts, this would have been our top overall pick.
In a close second place to our top pick, the Dark Iron Fitness belt, the ProFitness Genuine Leather Workout Belt is similarly sturdy, competition approved, and sufficiently comfortable. It’s also usually cheaper than the Dark Iron, but often not by much. This is a great no-frills option if you want a belt for the right price that just gets the job done. While the price difference between most weight lifting belts typically isn’t large, if you’re like us and regularly lose them at the gym, it might be worth paying some attention to the cost!
The Dark Iron is still more comfortable in our experience, and we found the leather a bit more ply-able, but the ProFitness Genuine Leather Workout Belt absolutely gets the job done well.
The Inzer name is synonymous with powerlifting–and for good reason– they are a top choice for a huge number of powerlifting support equipment, from belts and suits to wraps and sleeves. If you’re a serious powerlifter gearing towards competition, it might be worth shelling out the extra bucks for the “brand name” in the sport.
The Inzer Advance Designs Forever Buckle Belt construction is top notch and as the name implies, it’s guaranteed forever. For maximum weight bearing capability and support for competition, we like the 13mm option–but be sure it is approved by your federation.
Overall, it’s a solid option, but it costs significantly more than the rest of our picks here–so only look into Inzer if you’re lifting very heavy or planning on competing.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a weight lifting belt work?
A weight lifting belt works by helping distribute the weight of your lift throughout your core by providing resistance around your abdomen allowing your core muscles to “push against the belt”. The benefits of this are threefold:
- Providing support for your spine — Weight lifting belts help prevent your spine from bending and twisting out of place while lifting heavy weight.
- Works out your abs and erector muscles — A weight lifting belt actually helps work out your core–as the mechanism of action is using your core and erector muscles to push against the belt, thereby creating the intra-abdominal pressure that stabilizes and supports the spine.
- Enables you to lift more — Being able to engage more muscles by being able to direct some force against the belt (and the belt being able to absorb force and aid in its distribution) you can lift more, which in turn helps your CNS (central nervous system) accustom to higher weight–enabling you to then even lift more without the belt.
How big are the differences between belts really?
If you’re a beginner, there probably isn’t a huge difference between belts–you should consider comfort and price first and foremost. However, as your workout intensity grows and your belt takes more and more of a regular beating at the gym, you’re going to want to think about durability, including around the moving parts–such as the buckle.
When should I use leather over nylon?
If you’re a beginner, go with the most comfortable option–but as the weights get heavier, consider leather if your focus is powerlifting (squats, deadlifts) and consider nylon if your lifts require more mobility (think crossfit style workouts).