There's one piece of equipment that can instantly put on pounds to your squat and deadlift numbers:
A vegan (power)lifting belt.
Properly utilized it can help you lift heavier weights, in a safer and more efficient manner.
Unfortunately for us who value cruelty-free products, almost all decent heavy-duty lifting belts are constructed out of leather.
So I set out on a quest to find the best vegan lifting belt... and in today's post I will share with my discoveries with you so you can lift heavier weights in a cruelty-free manner.
The vegan powerlifting belts from Strength Shop blows all of the competition out of the water.
Constructed out of artificial leather that hold up to the real deal; these are just incredible heavy-duty, durable and have been used for 800+ pounds squats and deadlifts. I don't get a dime from this recommendation, they are simply the best products on the market as of 2018.
The Benefits of Wearing A Lifting Belt for Heavy Lifting
Many decide to purchase a weightlifting belt for the complete wrong reasons.
A lifting belt is not supposed to A. act as a crutch for your incapacity to brace properly or B. to help mend your poor lifting technique.
So what does it do?
Does it serve as an adhesive so you stick to the bench press, is it a fashion statement - is it the gym equivalent to the giant hipster scarf?
To adequately explain the benefits of a weightlifting belt, we first have to dive into proper breathing and bracing technique for lifting.
Breathing is one of the most crucial aspects of proper lifting technique.
It can be the difference between a successful or a failed lift.
It might also be the difference between a minor back tweak or a herniated disc - so listen up.
The Importance of Bracing When Lifting
When you find yourself in a situation where you're lifting or pushing something heavy you instinctively hold your breath - this is also referred to as the valsalva maneuver.
You can try this right now as an exercise.
Inhale deep into your diaphragm, hold this breath and simultaneously forcefully push your breath against the abdominal cavity.
The pressure you feel building up is called intra-abdominal pressure. And this is the foundation of every efficiently executed heavy squat, deadlift or compound movement.
Performing the valsalva maneuver produces a more stable and rigid body that has the capacity to lift much heavier loads...
...and what a good lifting belt allows for is to even further augment this intra-abdominal pressure.
A heavy-duty lifting belt acts as another set of abdominals, adding another layer that you can use push a deep belly breath against (you can think of it as like an exoskeleton).
The same philosophy also applies to footwear. You want shoes that are stable as hell - designed to glue you down to the floor and keep you there. For advice on vegan weightlifting shoes check out The Best Vegan Weightlifting Shoes.
"But isn't a lifting belt unnatural?"
It could be argued that using a lifting belt is not natural. That is masks weaknesses in your body and that you instead should seek to fix those weaknesses.
To counter this argument I would say that going to the artificial man-made dungeon we call gyms, squatting down with an arbitrarily shaped steel bar on our backs isn't very natural either.
800 pounds on your back is not 'natural' and I'd argue that it's a damn good idea to lift in the safest and most efficient possible manner and preventing serious injuries from happening.
Who Should Use a Lifting Belt?
Any complete beginner in the gym should probably not be using a lifting belt.
The first objective of any new lifter should first be to correctly perform the lifts and brace using the core musculature.
After having gotten a solid lifting and breathing technique established, sure go ahead and put on a belt.
At the point where you're pulling and squatting some decent weights there's really nothing stopping you from benefiting from a lifting belt...
...especially if you have a history of back injuries and you want to stave off any future similiar accidents.
When Should You Use Your Belt?
Essentially you should put on your lifting belt whenever a big, strong braced core comes in handy.
This could be in exercises and movements such as:
Qualities You Should Look For in a Good Vegan Lifting Belt
So first and foremost let's ensure that no animals was harmed in the making of the lifting belt:
The Best Vegan Lifting Belts
Most vegan lifting belts are incredibly flimsy and of poor quality.
There is really only one brand that makes lifting belts that actually rival authentic leather belts.
The belts found at the Strength Shop website.
I don't make a dime from this recommendation. Its just that these vegan lifting belts simply blow all the other competition out of the water.
As a proof to the sturdiness they are even IPF approved, that is qualified apparel for elite powerlifting competitions.
Let's take a look at what makes them so awesome.
Strength Shop offer tough, durable and heavy-duty belts made out 100% artificial leather that provide excellent support for heavy squats and deadlifts.
They can be used by either casual lifter or for competetive powerlifting, strongman, olympic lifting, or other types of strength sports.
The material used is slightly more supple than standard leather belts. Because of this they sort of mold to the contours of the back whilst simultaneously providing stiff support and protection when training.
As mentioned these are IPF approved meaning that you can use them in elite level powerlifting competetions.
Highly recommended are the specific belts featuring the lever system, this makes them very easy to use compared to the traditional prong system. You simply tighten the belt with a push of the lever instead of having to fiddle with an old-fashioned prong belt.
All in all, these belts are incredibly high-quality and have a proven track record as they've been used during 800+ pound deadlifts and squats. Hell, it speaks volumes that Strength Shop offers a lifetime performance warranty for it.
How the hell is anything even supposed to compete with the previous review?
True, nothing can.
However judged in its own category, for a lifter that doesn't have plans of squatting or deadlifting more than 400-500 pounds, a belt such as the Harbinger Lifting Belt still manages to impress.
This belt is made out of thick and flexible cell foam, surrounded by abrasion-resistant nylon, that provides both support and comfort.
A heavy gauge steel roller buckle along with a velcro system makes tensioning secure and simple.
Additionally, as this belt is not quite as unyielding as the belts from Strength Shop, you can also use these in other scenarios than heavy lfiting.
The flexibility and not as stiff material makes this belt suitable for CrossFit, or some other functional fitness type training, where you want to transition between heavy lifting and doing box jumps and burpees in the same workout.
I hope that was informative and that you learned something about lifting belts and their usefulness. Safe lifting!