Before we get into how tight you should be wearing your belt for weightlifting lets talk about the back and even if you should wear a belt. Wearing a belt with most weights and most lifts should not be needed you should first and foremost be strengthening your back. Wearing a belt all the time will actually weaken your back. This is why Doctors will tell you when you have a back injury as soon as you are able take the support belt off. But in weightlifting once you get to a certain amount of weights and yes even reps you definitely need a good weightlifting belt.
So how tight should my weightlifting belt be?
Your weightlifting belt for lifts such as squat and deadlift should be very tight. Meaning one hole less then as tight as you can get it with all your strength. Now you should be able to still wedge your hand in there with a little bit of effort. This will help stabilize your entire core so your lift goes smoothly with the desired support for lifting heavy weights.
In the beginning when your form is not at its best you need to make sure your weightlifting belt is as tight as possible without causing pain of course. As soon as you are done with your lift immediately take it off and you should feel that you want to take your belt off after the lift that means it is doing its job. We reached out to some real weightlifters to see what they think about the tightness of your belt. So read below.
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How Tight Should Your Belt Be (According To Real Lifters)
Well we didn't want you to only take our word for it. So we went out and gathered information from different websites, forums and sub reddits. All this information was curated so the only thing changed was an spelling or grammar.
1. GhostMCSpiritWolf “Very tight” – It should be tight, but just loose enough that you can breathe and brace into it. The belt is supposed to cue proper bracing and add some extra support to it, not replace it entirely.
2. The_Fatalist “Very tight just enough to allow breathing” – Tight as you can while still allowing for breath. Mine leaves bruises on my hips when I squat hard sets with it.
3. Mythical “Very tight its going to hurt” – With a lever belt, I get it as tight as I can manage. Learning to breathe in tight with a belt is a skill. Takes a while to develop it. Especially for high reps. It'll hurt.
4. QuickNatural “Very tight until your form suffers” – It took a couple sessions, but I found that the best fit was to wear the belt at the tightest possible while still maintaining good form. It took a few sessions for me to get used to breathing into the belt.
5. Brightlinger “Tight enough to only allow two fingers in” – As a rule of thumb, the belt should be tight enough that you can get a few fingers in between the belt and your stomach, but not your whole hand.
6. Naked_Feet “Tighten until you can't get a full breath then loosen one notch” – Simple. If you can't get a full breath, loosen it one notch.
7. Mlilly101997 “Very tight only fit hand in belt” – Have it tight but enough room to fit your hand into the front of the belt. This should be enough space to properly brace against the belt.
8. Kevin_Mk “Very tight and uncomfortable” – Tight enough for you to brace, but uncomfortable enough so that it's a relief to take it off after a set.
9. Yearsdribble “Varies by lift” – It varies a good deal for me. It's loosest by far on my DL, slightly tighter on bench, and ridiculously tight on squat. I just can't get my setup quite right with it super tight on DL (short, biggish guy).
10. Dingy1282 “Tight so it creates pressure” – Tight enough where you feel like it creates a ton of extra pressure when you fully expand your abdomen against it but loose enough that you can actually fully expand your abdomen.
11. Vauge24 “Complete movement, but feel pressure” – You should be able to properly complete the movement without it impeding but feel an increase in pressure when expanding your abdominal cavity. If you have a standard belt that is more narrow in the front, you might not feel as high an increase in pressure. If you have a powerlifting belt, you'll notice a huge increase in pressure. Powerlifting belts are amazing but hell to break in at first.
12. Eliterepo “Tight as possible unassisted” – For squats I like it about as tight as I can get it unassisted. For deadlifts I usually loosen it about an inch, for some reason when its tighter I lose power
13. Darthball-z “Who let the dogs out” – It varies from person to person. Some people for squats want to be able to fit there arm in there they wear it so loose. While some prefer to really tighten it down. Some prefer to were theres very high up and others low. You will have to play around with it to see what works for your body type. Just remeber the belt is meant to protect your abdomen not your back.
Overall 42% either said so tight you can either barely get your hand in there or just your fingers and no hand. 33% did mention to just make sure you can take a deep breath even if uncomfortable that is okay. Also 20% mentioned that it depends on what lift. Mainly the tightest for squats and a little bit looser for deadlift and looser for bench if you are wearing one for that.
Do Lifting Belts Make Your Waist Smaller?
Wearing lifting belts cannot shrink your waist size so this is a myth. No matter how tight you get it the shrink will only be temporary so you will need to have a clean healthy diet on top of working out to get that midsection to decrease in size. This myth is derived from the corset that used to be worn by females long long ago.
There is no truth to this so please do not wear a weightlifting belt anymore then you need to when completing your workouts.
What Exercises To Use Weight Belt?
There are only a few exercises you should absolutely wear a belt for. Outside of that it will be based on individual preference.
You can and should use for the below lifts when pushing heavy weight or reps:
- Deadlifts (Tight)
- Squat (Extra Tight)
- Clean & Jerk (Tight)
- Snatch (Tight)
- *Bench (We don't outside of competition)
Outside of these use at your own preference. We will say that if you don't need a belt don't use it as using a belt all the time will actually weaken your core leaving you open to more injuries outside of the gym.
Related Weightlifting Belt Questions
How Do You Tighten A Weightlifting Belt?
Most belts you should be able to tighten unassisted so outside of competitions you should be doing this by yourself.
- Put belt through the loop
- Pull lip with one hand while grasping with other hand
- Suck in your gut while letting out your air
- Pull as tight as you can and cinch the belt
- Put through extended loop
- Make sure you can take a deep breath and that is it
When To Start Using A Lifting Belt?
You should only start using a lifting belt when you get to heavier weights. Most people consider heavier weights anything over your body weight for squats and at least 1.5 times for your deadlift. Anything under that you should be fine without a belt as long as you don't have any previous injuries and use proper form.
Why Do Bodybuilders Wear Belts All The Time?
Bodybuilders wear belts all the time to keep their obliques from being overused which causes them to push out creating a wider waist. So they have a belief that using the belt will keep their waist smaller and more narrow. This overall is not healthy for the body as it can cause a shift in internal organs an create weakness in the back leading to future injuries and health concerns.
Is A Weightlifting Belt Cheating?
Using a weightlifting belt is definitely not cheating as it is within the confines of competition rules to wear a belt. Also you still have to put the work in to lift the weight the belt is only there to help support and prevent injury. You should stay away form wearing a belt anywhere outside of your actual lifts so you don't weaken your core and mainly your back which can add to future injuries.
Is Deadlifting Without A Belt Bad?
Deadlifting without a belt is not bad. You can squat and deadlift without a belt if you have no past back injuries as it will help strengthen your core. Only when you get to 1-1.5 times your bodyweight should you even consider wearing a weightlifting belt. As long as you use good form you really don't need a belt until you push much further then the 1.5 times your bodyweight. Then it will become more of a personal preference as you can still injure yourself with bad form and using a belt.
Why Do Weightlifters Have Big Stomachs?
Most competitive weightlifters have bigger stomachs for a number of different reasons. The main one being that in order to supplement themselves with muscle growth and energy they need to eat a surplus of calories. With eating this many calories comes stomach bloat most of the time where the stomach sticks out while trying to keep up with the digestion of the surplus of calories. For bodybuilders this happens more so in their offseason.
Another reason is that having large abdominals and taking certain supplements can add to that bloat affect. Heavier weightlifters bodyweights fluctuate to a huge degree as well the stomach suffers the consequences for this.
Do Weightlifting Belts Prevent Hernias?
Hernias are caused by a few different factors where muscle and core weakness is one of them. Wearing belts will not directly prevent hernias they will help support and prevent other injuries when a belt is needed. To prevent hernias you should be on a healthy diet, use good form and safety when performing your lifts. Make sure your back is straight at all times, use your legs when you can and also remember to breath.