For those looking to take their workout to the next level, there are a range of different accessories that allow you to extract more out of your session. And with the market growing year on year, finding the right option for your needs is half the challenge.
Within these collections, powerlifting and bodybuilding belts (commonly called weightlifting belts) have become crowd-favourites. Offering supportive benefits across the board, there’s plenty to love about these accessories. But do they work and what are the advantages you can expect to gain from using them?
In this post, we explore these accessories to give you a run-through on how they can aid your workouts and power up those personal bests.
Powerlifting vs. bodybuilding belts – what’s the difference?
At first glance, these belts look very similar. But there are actually a few key differences.
For starters, a powerlifting belt is the same width all the way along, whereas a bodybuilding belt is typically wider at the back and narrower at the front.
Essentially, powerlifting versions are usually thicker and heavier, while general bodybuilding of weightlifting designs are lighter and typically padded at the back.
Depending on your focus, the powerlifting belt may be the ideal choice for giving more back support, allowing you to press your abdominal wall into the belt for further intra-abdominal pressure. In comparison, contoured weightlifting belts won’t offer the same level of support but tend to deliver a wider range of movement and be a little more comfortable instead. If you’re not a powerlifter, something like the Spartan Olympic Belt below offers an all-round general support to your compound and accessory movements.
Can they do more harm than good?
Like all must-have gym gear for bodybuilding, these belts can mask core weaknesses if not used correctly. Therefore, before getting started with a new accessory like this, it is important to understand how they affect your body and support your overall goals.
For example, it’s advised that these belts are only worn by those looking to incorporate heavier lifts into their sessions.
While some will argue that using these belts weakens your core, there are other studies that suggest they may actually strengthen it. The debate will always continue and the known impact on this area of your body is still not 100% clear. Because of this, it’s especially important to keep an eye on how much you're relying on the accessory during your workouts.
In the short term, however, wearing a weightlifting belt can increase the EMG activity in the rectus abdominis, with increased muscle activation in the obliques and the lats as well.
Overall, it has been noted that more core-related muscles are activated by wearing a belt, than those falling outside the area – so there are at least some related benefits on offer.
Spotting the right one for your needs
Buying a weightlifting belt is very much like buying a pair of shoes – they have to offer the right level of comfort, combined with providing the perfect fit. And sometimes, that’s a lot to ask for – but it’s crucial.
If you tend to lift heavy in deadlifts or squats, powerlifting designs are the type of belt you seek out. If you prefer Olympic-style lifts – like the snatch, and the clean and jerk – a bodybuilding belt should be your go-to.
No matter what type you’re looking at, you can choose thicker designs for greater support and durability. Or if you're after a greater range of movement, you can sway towards a thinner belt. Choosing the right level of thickness will help you to perform better during your specific techniques and exercises – so think carefully about your typical workout session.
Beyond this aspect, there are also single-prong, double-prong or lever-secured variants of these belts.Lever options are ideal if you don’t plan to adjust your belt regularly. Meanwhile, single-prong belts are generally preferred for their ability to be put on and taken off easily. Ultimately, it will always come down to personal preference, but knowing the research behind each type will help you to select a design that fits your circumstances best. Check out our product