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Do I Need a Weightlifting Belt?

Recently a few of our members have asked if it was a good idea to use a belt.

Almost since the beginning of CrossFit Kyoto a belt has been jokingly referred to as “Cheating item no.1” (and yes, there are cheating items 2, 3 and 4, which may come up in future blog articles 🙂

Is using a belt really cheating though?

First let’s look at when NOT to use a belt.


❌ 1. Covering up bad form

This is probably the worst reason for using a belt. We need to be doing squats, deadlifts, cleans etc. correctly without a belt. If the form is bad, using a belt is going to contribute to injury due to poor positioning. In the unlikely event that we don’t get hurt, future gainz 🙂 will be negatively impacted as we won’t have learned how to move effectively and will always be weaker than would be possible with correct mechanics.
Even Tatsuro used to have a rounded back during deadlifts and he fixed this without resorting to a belt, so you can too 🙂


❌ 2. Unstable Core

If we cannot stabilize and maintain a neutral spine without a belt, then when we take it off our ability to perform other movements will be affected. Why? Because the necessary muscles could be weaker than the big movement muscles (legs, hips etc). In addition, injury will most often occur at the weakest link ,and we don’t want that to be the back, in fact we don’t want weak links at all!


❌ 3. Not lifting heavy

If you are still making progress without a belt then you don’t need one. What exactly is “heavy” is a subject for debate but at a minimum you should be able to squat and deadlift significantly more than your bodyweight before thinking of using a belt. The more years you can train without a belt the better as you will build a stronger “Natural belt” of core muscles. As a general rule there is no reason to use a belt on sets less than 80% of your max. If you find you have to in order to complete the set, look at points 1 and 2 above 😉

When to use a belt


🟢 1. To lift more weight

Once you have been training for several years, using a belt can add 5-15% more to your squat or deadlift! Remember points 1-3 above though, if you don’t already have good technique, a strong core and several years of experience, using a belt too early will not allow you to feel it’s benefit later on.



🟢 2. Breaking a plateau

If you have hit a strength plateau (which happens to everyone eventually after consistent training for years) then using a belt can help both physically and mentally to get past that sticking point.

How to use a belt
A belt helps increase intra-abdominal pressure, and therefore stability, by allowing us to push out into it during squats and deadlifts.
The lower edge of the belt should sit on top of your hips and the buckle should cover your belly button.

❌ Don’t tighten the belt so much that you cannot take a full breath.
We want to be able to fill the belly with air and use it to push out into the belt, creating as much pressure in the abdomen (not chest) as possible, this helps stabilize the lower back.

🟢 Keep pushing out in all directions: forwards, back and to the sides, throughout the movement.

❌ Whatever you do, DO NOT exhale at the bottom of a squat or you will lose all that tension, the bar will crush you and you will sadly die 🙁




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