[Scroll down for Ohio Lifting Belt Review]
A good weightlifting belt should be a staple piece of equipment in anyone’s gym bag. Most you’ll find currently are made of nylon and cost anywhere from $20-40 on average. While they suffice for most lifting, there’s nothing like a high quality leather belt. Why would you want a leather belt over a nylon one? Well, they tend to not give as much as nylon belts do, most won’t pop off because they use roller buckles instead of velcro, and most importantly, they look awesome. The downsides to leather belts is that they don’t give as much as nylon belts do, they’re harder to adjust because they have a roller buckle, there is a break in time, and they cost a lot more for a nice belt.
The first question here is: “Should you be wearing a belt?”
The answer is a resounding, yes. For the most part, people seem to not really get what a belt is there for. The common use for people that wear a belt is to brace their back, but a lot of the time people don’t really get how to do this with a belt. Really, a belt is like a second set of abdominal muscles for your “core” to press against. Flexing (filling your belly with air and pressing it out) your core equals bracing your lower back.
But wouldn’t this make my abdominals weaker?
Truth is, a belt is also a great tool for feedback so that you know you’re activating your core. If you didn’t know what this feels like, you’re probably not activating your core, thus leading to a weaker core. I still don’t advocate throwing a belt on until you’re at around 80% of your maxes or doing crazy volume. But if an athlete isn’t bracing correctly, I’ll put them on a belt to see what it should feel like.
The next question is: “What are you using the belt for?”
Most CrossFitters gravitate towards thin, contoured nylon belts because they’re much easier to WOD in. Powerlifters don’t really need to move around all that much and are generally putting up more weight, so they need something thicker that flexes less. Weightlifters fall somewhere in the middle; since they still need to be mobile the belts aren’t as thick, but they’re still contoured and are made of leather. That’s not to say that you couldn’t use a powerlifting belt for weightlifting, or a weightlifting belt for CrossFit. At the end of the day, it really just comes down to preference.
The last question is: “Why the hell would I spend $100 on a belt?”
Sure, you could spend a lot less on a belt. Chances are said belt won’t be as well made, flex as little, and look as sexy as the Rogue Ohio lifting belt does. If you’re into powerlifting, general gym going, or just have disposable income, it’s really a no brainer. Having the Rogue name stamped on the back of your belt gives you 10lbs to every lift. Fact. There’s a reason Rogue gives special edition Ohio lifting belts to the top CrossFit athletes from each region; because they’re the best, duh.
But seriously, the Ohio lifting belt is one serious piece of leather. I’ve used it from powerlifting to weightlifting and the amount of support it provides is unmatched compared to any belt I’ve used yet, granted a lot of the belts I use are of the nylon kind. My old Rogue 8mm economy belt was great, but pales in comparison to the Ohio belt in both quality and performance. The vegetable tanned sole leather is one of the nicest leathers I’ve put my hands on and the break in took only a few sessions. It’s milk chocolate brown color goes with everything and gives the belt a refined aesthetic. It looks a lot softer in Rogue’s stock pictures but i assure you that it’s nowhere near as soft as some of the suede lined options. The leather is firm, doesn’t give much, but doesn’t ever feel too rock solid that you wouldn’t want to wear it. In fact, you’ll probably want to wear it for just about everything.
You can find powerlifting belts that are 13mm thick, but for me (5’9″ 180lb), and my squat topping out at 400lbs, 10mm is just fine. The height of the belt is a pretty standard 4″, which to me is totally fine once again. Even at this height, squatting with the belt at the wrong position and you’re going to pinch your belly fat, if you have any (I do). Note, when sizing your belt, make sure you’re NOT using your pants size, but actually measuring around the area the belt is going. My size Ohio belt is large, with 4-5 holes to spare depending on how tight I want to wear it.
Rogue also makes the Ohio weightlifting belt, if you’re looking for something that has a shorter front and expands to a wider back if you have issues with pinching or you’re worried about the bar making contact with your belt during lifts. I had a chance to put it on at the games and it’s the exact same leather and construction that tapers to a 2″ front side.
The Rogue Fitness Ohio lifting belt is a prime example of a top shelf belt. It smells as good as it looks, looks as good as it performs and the performs as high as it costs. Most people aren’t willing to spend over $108 on a weightlifting belt, but if you’re serious about your gym time and take pride in wearing well crafted, American made products, it’s a small price to pay. You probably won’t have to buy another one, ever. Over time, every little scratch or dirty fingerprint you put on it is just going to end up making it look cooler and cooler. It’s something you can really take pride in wearing. I’ll still keep my nylon belts and my weightlifting belts around for what they’re best used for, but more often than not, I’ll go straight for my Ohio lifting belt.