Belt up and bulk up!

If you are a steel monkey that loves to push the boundaries of strength training and crush new personal bests then a weight belt is a must-have training companion.

But the benefits of a lifting belt are not limited to an increase in performance, the belts serve as a safeguard for one of the most precious parts of your body.

The most common injuries lifters encounter are usually back-related niggles or even worse, disc bulging and herniation. To avoid and mitigate the risk associated with taking your training to whole new levels, all lifters really should invest in a quality weight belt to protect their back.

It really is that simple. The science behind these  products checks out and we will drill down later in the article and see just why that is.

Weight belts have been around since the early days of powerlifting, however the technology as well as the research and development aspect of this vital piece of training gear has progressed rapidly since the original belts came into use.

A good indicator of how relevant or necessary a piece of gym equipment is to a lifter is ‘time on the market’. If a product maintains popularity as opposed to being a flash-in-the-pan, for decades since inception, that’s a bankable measuring stick that it’s a crucial piece of arsenal for lifters around the globe.

Basically, if you deadlift and squat to your full potential and keep that spine of yours in good order, you should be grabbing your credit card now and purchasing a decent weight belt to ensure your Personal Bests (PBs) keep climbing and you stay healthy in the gym.

The best weight belt to buy is the Bison Longhorn

 

Titan Bison Longhorn

 

The best weight belt for lifters is unsurprisingly from the Titan range and is aptly named the Bison Longhorn (10mm thickness) and comes in either a lever or prong design. These range from about $130 for the premium leather model, or you can opt for a suede model for around the $90-$100 mark.

For those who don’t know, a prong style is exactly the same as a regular belt for your pants with the metal component being inserted into your preferred sizing hole when tightening.

The Bison Longhorn is made from premium Yankee bison hide, handcrafted with skill and precision and finished with quality attachments. The durability of these belts is impressive.

Buying  a Titan belt, regardless of specific model, you can expect a good couple years out of it if looked after.

I could easily fill the entire list of best belts with the Bison range given they are from gym gear supply behemoth Titan who never compromise on quality.

And to be honest, I could end this article right here given the superior quality of the Titan range but there are other decent belts on offer in this price range if for some reason you are allergic to top-of-the-line products.

The Bison Longhorn ticks all the boxes and at a glance is durable, made of high-quality materials, is competitively priced and rates highly in terms of ease-of-use. It also comes with a LIFETIME warranty on the entire belt as long as the leather is cared for as per the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Handcrafted from the Titan pioneers in the USA, the belt is fashioned with high tensile rivets and designed to the highest standards. The Longhorn is a piece of art as much as it is a piece of lifting equipment.

Why so much love for the Bison range??

The Bison is an ox-like creature revered in ancient mythology as being a wild, powerful beast that no man could tame. Naming their range of weight belts on a bullocky beast was pure genius by Titan, as the animal possesses all the traits a lifter would love to have.

Every lifter strives to hit “beast mode” during their workouts and using the raw hide of a creature such as the Bison seems to make perfect marketing sense here. It is tough, durable and delivers outstanding results. It is also approved for lifting in International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) events.

A common term in lifting circles is “grind” and it’s used to describe a lift that you don’t quit on and just keeping pushing to complete. It’s as much as mental achievement as it is physical.

Much like fatigue, the mind gives out 90% of the time before the body does when one is pushing their physical limits in the gym. By harnessing that never give up mentality, Titan’s Bison Longhorn belt helps lifters keep on pushing. The durable, relatively light-weight design ensures the reliable support and compression one needs during those heavy sets.

How do I choose my weight lifting belt though?

When choosing the right belt for you, a range of factors should be considered. Evaluate your frequency of training, training goals, experience level, injury history, body shape and set a realistic budget before deciding on a belt.

While most products do pretty much the same thing – provide some support to your back muscles and spine – some products do it far better and their longevity is superior to the competition. It is for this reason that it is impossible to go past the Titan range in this category of equipment.

I guess one consideration is whether to opt for the lever or prong setup…

Supersize me brah

Most brands of weight belts come in either a 10mm and 13mm thickness and it is purely personal preference or whatever is in line with your competition rules if chosen for that reason. I like 10mm, but more millimetres equals more rigidity so again it is really up to the individual lifter.

In saying that, please don’t confuse that methodology with the physics behind knee wraps (wraps over sleeves as they provide more spring and compression). Weight belts are purely for stabilisation and safety as opposed to adding weight increase to your overall numbers.

Lever or prong, neither is wrong

The lever models (which most lifters prefer) are great for quick release removal. Given how tight these belts are put on to maximise the support and compression during lifts, having an easy method to rip it off immediately after the lift is the way to go.

The lever is quicker and easier, but there are some that believe it is open to more wear and tear than the primitive buckle/prong configuration. This is kind of an irrelevant concern when one remembers about that lifetime warranty…

While the Titan Longhorn takes pole position in this evaluation, let’s also look at the runners-up and the budget performer available.

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Runner-up weight belt award goes to…

 

Inzer Forever belts

Instead of mentioning every Titan Bison belt they offer, I will offer a different brand as the runner-up purely for some variety. The truth is, you can’t go past the Titan range, but if you do then the Inzer range does score pretty highly with lifters.

The Inzer Forever belts come in either the lever or prong design and the 13mm and 10mm model of this particular model are both competitively priced at about $97.

What’s the word on the street about Inzer?

The Inzer Forever belts are touted by their manufacturer as the sturdiest and strongest belts in the world. That’s a big call and I’m afraid the lifting fraternity doesn’t agree despite the fact that the Inzer CEO is John Inzer, a pretty mean powerlifting competitor in his day.

With Inzer at the helm and obviously testing the products himself or having his team offer feedback on them, it is a recipe for success. It is for this reason that the Inzer Forever belt is a worthy runner-up as best belt and a lifter would not regret purchasing one.

That said, while it is a great belt it’s still not a Titan Bison belt and therefore can only be considered a better option due to a lower purchase price. Inzer just don’t have the market share nor the reputation to take the gold medal here.

Besides price factor though, the Inzer Forever belts are durable as hell, made from high quality materials and would suit just about any lifter. I know many lifters who love their Inzer Forever belts and put up some pretty insane numbers in the belts, so they are definitely respected by a cross-section of powerlifters.

If Titan products weren’t available I would have no hesitation in grabbing one of these bad boys.

Everyone bangs on about Titan

Titan has a healthy financial turnover but even successful companies can’t afford to pay every fitness writer to talk up their products. The sheer weight (pun intended) of Titan lovers is testament to the standard of product they offer up.

Google some of the heaviest deadlifts archived on YouTube and you may see a few lifters donning the Titan gear. There is a reason for that; it is the cream-of-the-crop in terms of lifting apparel.

And why should I listen to you?

“Reputation is what men and women think of us – character is what God and angels know of us”

– Thomas Paine

Old pommy Tommy was onto something with this quote. Titan powerlifting gear has both reputation and character. The reputation is built on decades of producing quality products that the elite sports men and women use.

I use and recommend these products based on personal experience but I would never have known of them unless my lifting brothers and sisters in the trenches didn’t spend hours in the gym testing the equipment.

My first powerlifting coach said to me “Son, you will buy Titan gear and then everything else will pale in comparison”. He was prophetically correct.

As a powerlifter by passion, I love to test my physical and mental limits with the support of the best gear on the market. It just seems that so much of it comes from the one supplier – the one that is steeped in powerlifting heritage and tradition. Yes, that’s Titan folks.

How often do you use this stuff?

I have a penchant for testing out gym equipment and seeing what lasts and what doesn’t. I am a picky lifter and much like everyone else, I have my own idiosyncrasies and preferences. To lift your best, you need to use the equipment that suits you and that’s pretty much how I decide on which products I use.  There are no checks heading my way for product promotion just for your peace of mind!

What is a weight belt and why do I need one?

Your back is pretty important… I mean if you like walking, running, moving around and not being in constant searing pain. But hey, if that’s not for you by all means go try lift really heavy weights without any support equipment.

If you care about your back muscles and spine, then this is the nitty gritty you should care about. A weight belt helps you maintain correct body positioning, mechanics and shape while deadlifting and squatting. Helps being the operative word here, not does it for you.

But the main reason to acquire one is to increase intra-abdominal pressure while executing a heavy deadlift or squat, which in turn acts as a super-core that provides enhanced rigidity for your spine. This protects the spine and back muscles but it can create a window of deactivation of your core muscles so don’t slack on the ab work lifters!

It does this by compressing the general area it is applied to and not allowing a cheeky little curve to sneak in where it usually does with heavy lifts. That’s not to say it can compensate for crappy form.

Does it magically make me stronger?

If you have bad form and technique, then a belt is not going to correct that. It is also not going to automatically allow you to lift weights you never have before – that’s more in the slingshot technology like knee wraps and bench slings.

Support is the key word here. Weight belts support your back and spine as you work through the volume of deadlifts and squats needed to keep progressing in either hypertrophy, strength increases or simply the amount of weight you can lift.

 Should everyone buy a weight belt?

Short answer – no. While belts are a protective support item that is capable of assisting you to reach new training goals, it is not necessary for all gym users.

I would typically recommend a weight belt to someone who really enjoys deadlifting and squatting who has desires to set new PBs in the gym. While there is no harm in wearing a weight belt for these exercises even if you aren’t putting up big numbers, they aren’t super-comfortable to wear and can cause small bruises and skin irritation when used.

The well-designed weight belts are quite stiff as you can imagine as they are there to provide support, and while they do soften a little and conform to your size after while they will never be described as a comfy piece of gym attire and nor should they be. They are simply there to serve a very important purpose.

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During heavier squats and deadlifts lifters tend to lean over and curve their spine putting immense pressure on the lower back muscles and the vertebrae/discs in the lumbar region of your backbone.

Generally this is due to bad form or the fact that the weight is simply too heavy. A weight belt can help stabilise you when pushing your limits, but it is not a tool to catapult you into new PBs every workout.

Understanding the function of a piece of training equipment and how to apply/when to use it is vitally important. Weight belts tend to be uncomfortable as they need to be applied pretty tight to be of any real benefit.

A loose belt will probably hinder your lifts and unless you are trying to iron out kinks in your form or are lifting 75% or more of your 1 max rep, there isn’t a lot of science to support you wearing it.

Will I notice a difference when I deadlift and squat?

We’ve established the main reasons for wearing a weight belt and none of them relate to strength/total weight lifted increases. While you may be able to lift a little bit more than usual in a belt, that’s not the idea behind the design.

Given that it takes time to adjust to wearing a belt while lifting, don’t expect to go out and start throwing up huge numbers right away or even as a result of the belt down the track.

Your back muscles and spine will thank you for it one day and by using the right equipment you are adding to the lifespan of your lifting career whether you’re a weekend warrior or pro athlete.

What else is good?

 

When World Strongman contestants wear your equipment (whether paid to or not) you know your wears are held in high regard. SBD (13mm) belts are just such a product but the higher price tag means that a lot of lifters will stick with the tried-and-tested Titan series.

The SBD belts are manufactured in Great Britain and are reportedly prepared for five months to increase strength and durability. It comes in the preferred lever style for quick release and retails for about $235.

When you have sponsored athletes like Jerry Pritchett deadlifting over 1000lbs in one it is easy to see the appeal to get your hands on one. And no one could blame you for wanting to do so. It is a high-quality belt and compares favorably to a lot on the market.

When price is no object then sure, employ the YOLO method and have a crack at the finer things in life. You certainly won’t be disappointed by the craftsmanship and design of this belt.

The belt is durable and the stitching and engineering is top-shelf. The sleek design and fine leather hide make it a desirable piece for any lifter.

“Velcro belt seems okay”

Said no one ever. These Velcro numbers are lovely if your tummy is lacking a little attention and needs a soft warm hug from some overpriced fabric.

There are very cheap Velcro belts out there but they do not provide the stability needed nor do they even stay together on the big lifts. The Velcro will give way to that old chestnut called force and simply undo which is not what you want during  an intense lift.

These belts don’t even feature in the budget section listed below they are that crappy. I would prefer lifters used duct tape around their torsos instead they are that much of a waste of time.

All hope is not lost for these belts though. Despite the fact they will never be taken seriously in the lifting arena, they are useful for workers recovering from minor back twinges who are required to do moderate manual handling at work. That’s the best I can say about them sorry folks. Moving on!

Best budget belt for the squad

Look, if you are shopping in this category and really want to try out a weight belt then this number can give you that experience. But just don’t be surprised when it breaks, frays or splits. The Komodo or Morgan belts on eBay.com range from $35-45 and are allegedly real leather.

They may be, but in this price range you have to be wary that sellers (especially on a third-party commerce site like eBay) are not trying to sell you synthetic PU leather which is nothing like leather. It is but a cheap artificial manmade product using some leather and polyurethane.

While you may simply want to wear something “weight liftery” and see how a belt feels, I’d suggest that you save your coin until you can afford a better belt. These belts are no match for our top three contenders in durability and performance.

There is also usually a fine-print policy that voids any useful warranty or return guarantee with products like this and honestly it is probably more trouble than it’s worth.

Soooo when do I take this thing off?

You will know the right time to tear off your belt. It will be milliseconds after doing the lift given that it feels like someone is squeezing your innards (and pinching the skin if you’re lucky) when the belt is applied properly.

You won’t be able to rip that puppy off soon enough, I guarantee it!

The top two choices aren’t the most expensive though?

Others may disagree with my verdict but for me the price-to-quality ratio is far better with the Titan and Inzer belts when compared to the high-end SBD belt. For the extra money, I just can’t see why it is better than my old fave.

In terms of rating our two top performers, what are the key features we can single out for both of them which leads to our ranking? They are both used by some serious lifters who don’t have to and choose not to use crappy equipment. Again, pretty simple stuff. Much like Wall Street, sometimes you only need to follow the money. formatting

As I always recommend, if you are going to incorporate these types of accessories into your gym regime, spend a little extra cash to get yourself a decent product that will last.

Remember to lift safely at all times and mix up your assistance workouts to bolster complimentary muscle groups, not to mention your ligaments, tendons and joints. So stack those bars, crush those plateaus and spread havoc in your new knee wraps. Bent bars to you all once again.