Serious lifters should consider several factors when choosing a powerlifting belt. A comfortable fit that provides rigid back support is important, as are the material, width, and locking mechanism of the belt. The belt should also conform to the standards set by the organization or contest in which the lifter is planning to participate.
A good powerlifting belt should fit around the waist and hips without restricting mobility. Only when lifting, should the powerlifter feel some pressure around the abdomen and back. Try out a few sizes to make sure you have one that fits comfortably.
Another factor to consider is the material the belt is made of. Nylon and leather are the two most common materials used for powerlifting belts. Nylon is more flexible, comfortable, and easier to adjust. Leather, however, is more rigid and provides more support but is harder on the skin.
The average width of a powerlifting belt is 4 inches (10.16 cm). A taller weightlifter, however, would probably be more comfortable in a 5 or 6 inch (12.7 or 15.24 cm) wide belt. The width should be uniform around the belt, to help sustain the intra-abdominal pressure that supports the spine during lifts. Look specifically for width uniformity when choosing a belt. A common mistake among new buyers is purchasing an Olympic style belt, which is wider at the back.
The locking mechanism might also affect which powerlifting belt you choose. Lifters can choose between single pronged, double pronged, and lever buckles. Pronged buckles are easier to adjust but are more difficult to remove. Double pronged locks are said to be more durable than single pronged, as the load is distributed more evenly between the prongs. Levers, on the other hand, are easier to put on and take off but are harder to adjust.
Before buying any kind of weightlifiting belt, make sure you need one. A lifter can become so accustomed to the belt that he cannot lift properly without it. There is also a risk of ignoring the proper lifting form, as the belt usually guides the lifter throughout the movement. Core training may also be neglected which can be harmful, as the core is essential to the transfer of power from the legs to the upper body. Before buying any kind of weightlifting belt, consult with a physician to check for any spinal problems, as the belt can aggravate previous injuries.
Weightlifting clubs and competitions typically have powerlifting belt regulations. These will most likely indicate the maximum width and allowable belt material. Make sure to inquire about organizational guidelines before buying a lifting belt if you intend to compete or join a club.