All Things Being Equal, Size Does Matter!!!!

Joes Barbell
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Guess which one provides more support

Equipment.  When you do stuff you need the right equipment.  You wouldn’t bring a knife to a gun fight, well unless your Italian (What movie is being referenced all you die hards with no life?).  Well for the last few weeks, actually my entire weight training career, I have been operating with subpart equipment.  Mainly my weight belt has been trash.  There have actually been instances when the thing could have really done some damage.  Like the times (yeah its happened a few times) I was coming out of the bottom of a heavy squat and the Velcro latch came undone.  Or, there was that time (two Tuesdays ago) I was going for a 3 rep power clean max and it came undone during the second rep.  It’s never fun to lose support while whipping 245 pounds on and off the floor.  Worst part of the last experience is I had to cut my session short and that my lower back just hasn’t been right since.  No injury, just super tightness all the time.  Any who, I have remedied the situation.  No more cheap belt for Joe.  No more Velcro for Joe.  And, hopefully no more surprises while under duress for Joe.  
With my new equipment in hand I thought I’d let you all in on a few secrets regarding weight belts.  Mainly, what it should be doing for you and what you should be strapping in with.  For some more and much more useful info this topic check our the book Strong Enough.
First, tapered belts just aren’t what you want.  If you are using your weight belt correctly its function is to support your mid section, not just your lower back.  In order to do this properly the belt should be the same width across the entire belt.  If you fancy yourself a competitor you don’t want a belt any thicker than 4 inches.  Why?  Well because the people who run powerlifting meets say so.  If you don’t care and can find one thicker get it – if that’s what you want.  Just make sure it’s the same thickness across.  My new belt is 4 inches across on the dot.  
Second, make sure the latch won’t come undone.  There are all kinds of options to ensure this doesn’t happen.  Obviously I wasn’t aware of them but now I am.  A simple Velcro set up won’t work, especially as you get stronger and your core really starts to do its job.  My new belt is a simple latch system that you would find on any standard belt, except the one I have been using for the last few years.  I am sure there is fancy name for the mechanism but I don’t know it and just won’t google it.  Its pictured above.  Get a belt like that or one better.  
Third, you want it to be made of an unwavering material.  Meaning, that when your tummy muscles push against it to build up all that pressure there is little to no give.  If the material gives whats the point.  However, you do want a material that will form a tight fit against your entire lower back and mid section.  My new belt is made of a leather and is about a quarter inch thick, maybe thicker.  The thing is stout.  Dirt is convinced that you could tow a truck with the thing.  Which is what you want. 
That brings me to my last point.  Don’t just go for cheap.  You really should only need to buy one weight belt.  Well, that is unless you loose or gain a few inches around your mid section.  One thing I have learned during my 29 year adventure is that you usually get what you pay for.  And, when a piece of equipment is paramount toward keeping you from buckling under hundreds of pounds of pressure you should be confident in that piece of equipment.  Also, the longer its with you the better it will get.  I plan on seasoning my new belt with gallons of blood, sweat and tears over my next 60-70 years of weight training.  Yeah I said it and if you do the math I plan on hitting the racks hard well into my senior years.  When I stop squatting you can plan on me cutting the breathing game as well.  Back to the belt, it ran me about 60 bucks – Hawaiian.  I did receive a discount when I let the proprietor know that I was part of Dirt Nasty’s entourage.  Name dropping is great especially when it saves you a few clams.
When performing personal feats of awesome, which most definitely includes heavy squats, deads, and most recently overhead squats (check it out on facebook) good equipment matters.  If for any other reason you want to operate with confidence.  The last thing you want going through your head while committing to a heavy back squat is will my belt hold up.  Me, I know for sure what my new belt is going to do, PROVIDE SUPPORT, and ALLOW ME TO BE JUST A LITTLE MORE AWESOME.  Please people, go heavy.