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My current body weight is 57 KG (125.6 pounds) and am 179 cms tall.

I am on stronglift 5*5 and my squat weight has reached 110 pounds and deadlift at 155 pounds, while the weights for other exercises are comparatively lower than my body weight, I'd like to know what would be the correct weight to start wearing a belt while squatting and deadlifting or even consider wearing a belt at all?

The idea of wearing a belt came to my mind because I noticed some lower back soreness today, which has never happened before. Also I am wondering if the belt provides some support to the back, all I know is that it gives your abs something to push to.

  • The last sentence in your question is actually an important point: the purpose of a belt isn't to support your back per se. It's to give your abs something to push against (which yes has the side-effect of stabilizing your back). – G__ Apr 4 '15 at 16:04
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My advice will be a bit different, but there's some preliminary things to understand first:

  • Determine the nature of your soreness first:
    • Back pump (where there is an uncomfortable tightness in the lower back) is normal and nothing to be concerned about.
    • Sharp pain, or even a dull pain that is different from general tightness is a symptom of bad form which needs to be fixed before you consider getting a belt.
  • Even small changes to your set up can make a big change in the amount you can lift, and the relative comfort of it.
  • A belt does not directly lend support, it merely provides something for you to brace against. It is the bracing that protects your back.

There's no right or wrong answer on when you decide to use a belt, but there is a right and wrong way to use it. Based on studies, you can lift more with a belt, and core strength is similarly engaged both with and without the belt. Eventually, you should wear a belt for the work sets. The important thing is that you learn how to use it properly as a training tool, and don't think of it as a safety net. The truth is, you can get injured wearing a belt and those injuries will be worse mostly because you can lift more than you can without it. You need a strong core either way.

When shopping for a belt, look for these things:

  • Same width all the way around (about 3-4").
  • 10mm thick should be enough for all but the strongest people (greater than 600 lb squats/deadlifts).
  • Single prong or lever belt makes it easier to fasten and remove by yourself.

You will see belts that are wider in the back, but they do not lend any more support. They also tend not to be as thick as belts that are made for performance such as what I described above.

Before buying a belt, make sure of the following things:

  • Your lower back is not excessively rounding.
  • For Deadlift:
    • Your shoulders are in front of the bar
    • Your hips are between your shoulders and your knees
    • You breath into your spine and brace your back before you pull
    • You hold that breath until you are fully upright
    • You get a new breath or keep holding the one you stood up with when you put the bar back down. (don't go slow, but keep it controlled)
  • For Squat:
    • The bar is across your shoulders
    • You breath into your spine and brace your back before unracking
    • You can catch a new breath when you are fully upright, but keep bracing while the bar is on your back.
    • You breath into your spine and brace your back during the squat. The cue "bend the bar" can help with keeping the tightness you need.

The only thing that changes when you add a belt is that you are trying to fill the belt with your breath--you still have a responsibility to brace your back.

Anything you can do to strengthen your core will also help.

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  • Thanks for your detailed answer, focussing a lot on correcting my form, will keep your points in mind about bracing the core. – Prakash Wadhwani Sep 3 '14 at 17:25
  • Sounds good. NOTE: when I say make sure your lower back is not excessively rounding, I'm talking about looking like a cat showing their displeasure. On max effort lifts, it's not unnatural to have a little rounding. However, when the lumbar is supporting the bulk of the load (particularly in deadlifts), that's a recipe for injury. Bracing your core spreads the load over a wider area and protects your spine. – Berin Loritsch Sep 3 '14 at 17:57
  • Because of my thin frame, I have been able to prevent rounding, but what I have feared is excessive inward arch, like the letter C. – Prakash Wadhwani Sep 3 '14 at 18:03
  • It's the same solution in either case. Your aim is for as neutral a spine as you can muster. Excessive lumbar extension (looking like the letter C) is a symptom of weak abdominal muscles, or some hyperlordosis. A combination of stretching and strength training will help. For the short term, just concentrate on keeping a neutral spine. If you have to take some weight off the bar to do that, then I would work on building reps at that weight until you can do 5x8. Then start increasing weight at 5x5 again. – Berin Loritsch Sep 3 '14 at 19:13
  • I deloaded a bit on the squat this morning, don't know about my spine (I will shoot a video this weekend and post it here) but the shoulder and knee pains that used to happen after the squat are gone. This worries me about my form a lot. – Prakash Wadhwani Sep 4 '14 at 16:48
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First off, and most importantly - A belt should not be a fix for bad form!

That said, a sore back is common when deadlifting. You should get a professional - a real professional - not your local gym-head or 5 $ a hour trainer to coach you. Good form is crucial, especially on heavy exercises. The money you invest in learning the basics will come back hundreds of fold in regards to injuries.

I would not recommend a belt to someone who has trained less than a year.

It is fine to use a belt, as long as you don't use it every time. Use it sometimes on your last set if you feel you need a little extra, but don't do this everytime you go over 80%

Only use it for big lifts. Squat or deadlift.

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  • Good trainers are non existent in my country - India, that is the reason I have been struggling to achieve proper form. The bad thing about these local trainers is everyone has his own version of deadlift and squats, unfortunately they don't have the ability to teach or correct other persons form even when they are doing it correctly. Thanks for your advice! – Prakash Wadhwani Sep 3 '14 at 17:17
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IMO, a belt shouldn't be necessary until you get to a weight about 2 times your bodyweight, if even then. Fix your form, don't try to patch the problem with a belt. If your back is hurting, you're probably leaning forward and rounding your back to compensate for tight hip flexors or limited ankle dorsiflexion. Video or have someone else video you while you squat and examine your form.

And remember that a rep with bad form doesn't count and that on SL, you don't go up unless you complete all your reps. So don't go up until you fix the problem. I suppose it could be a problem of your legs outpacing your core. But SL's method of slowing down or deloading should give your core time to catch up, if you're honest with yourself when you miss a rep.

But in the end, it's all about you and your body. If it turns out that your form is impeccable and you still have pain and repeating the weight or deloading didn't help, then by all means, use the belt. But try to limit it to only when it's absolutely necessary.

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  • 300 pounds weighing 57 kilograms corresponds to 2.38 bodyweight. You should not use a belt sparringly, but you can't base you recommendations on absolute numbers. – Thorst Sep 3 '14 at 7:25
  • That's true. I was thinking in terms of average bodyweight. 300 is about 2.0 bw or less for most, so I'll update to that. – Tyler Sep 3 '14 at 12:11
  • Will focus on correct form, one of my shoulders also pains a little after squats that kind of limits my weight for OHP. Thanks for your advice! – Prakash Wadhwani Sep 3 '14 at 17:19

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