Have you ever wondered, “Should You Bench Press With a Belt?”
You’ll often see lifters wearing a belt to bench press, especially when it comes to pushing heavier weights.
There are certain benefits to benching with a belt, which include core stabilization and somewhere to target your breathing.
However, a belt can also hinder your bench press, which is definitely not what you want.
I’ll introduce you to the advantages and disadvantages now.
Should You Bench Press With a Belt?
The vast majority of lifters shouldn’t need a belt to bench press. Realistically, you would only wear a belt when pressing very heavy loads. However, you shouldn’t expect a belt to help as much as it does with squats and deadlifts. In fact, wearing a belt may only increase your bench press by around 5lbs. The main reason that you may want to wear a belt is because it helps to keep your core tight and gives you somewhere to target your breathing. That being said, a belt could restrict your back arch, which will hinder the movement.
1. A Belt Won’t Help as Much as it Does With Squat & Deadlift
Firstly, I will say that I don’t believe that most of us need to wear a belt when bench pressing.
Yes, if you’re a powerlifter who’s pressing extremely heavy singles, then it makes much more sense.
However, for us mere mortals a belt won’t actually make that much of a difference.
Additionally, powerlifters wear belts for a variety of reasons.
And one of these is that it stops their top from riding up and literally choking them when they perform a heavy bench press.
But, if you’re hoping that the addition of a belt is going to take your bench press numbers into a new stratosphere then you’re sadly mistaken.
Whereas a belt can add some pretty impressive figures to your squat and deadlift, the same cannot be said for the bench.
In fact, I would be surprised if the inclusion of a belt added much more than 5lbs to your bench press.
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2. A Belt Will Help to Target Your Breathing
You’ll typically wear a belt when squatting and deadlifting to secure your core and protect your lower back.
I guess the same can be said for the bench press.
However, one of the main reasons to wear a belt while benching is that it gives you somewhere to target your breathing.
Basically, as you take in a deep breath when you lower the bar you will typically push your stomach out.
So, a belt can give you something to “aim for”.
This will also ensure that you are breathing correctly on both the lowering and pressing stage of the movement.
In fact, it is breathing correctly that will generally help you to add those few extra pounds to your deadlift.
Okay, you can thank the belt for the additional support it provides, but having somewhere to target your breathing will definitely help to raise and lower the bar.
3. A Belt Can Restrict Your Back Arch
Something you should be wary of is that a belt can actually restrict your bench press.
This is especially true if you bench heavy loads and have an arch in your back.
There is much debate about the back arch when you bench press, but I think it can be a good thing for any lifter.
That being said, it does depend on your training protocol.
A back arch during the bench press shortens the range of motion the bar has to travel.
It also provides some additional protection for the shoulder joint.
The result is that you can generally bench more weight safely.
So, realistically back arching is fine when you are lifting very heavy loads and training for strength.
If your aim is more hypertrophy or muscular endurance then you would be better off going through the full range of motion.
Plus, you will also be benching less weight.
However, if you’re wearing a belt while you bench you may find that this restricts your back arch.
So, it’s a bit of a catch-22 situation.
If you’re lifting heavy you will generally want to wear a belt.
If you’re lifting heavy you’ll typically use a back arch.
But, a belt can get in the way of your back arch.
So, if you find that this is happening it’s probably best to try a thinner belt, or even ditch the belt altogether.
Bench Press Back Arch
4. A Belt Can Keep Your Core Tight
I’ve mentioned that you’ll typically use a belt during squats and deadlifts to protect the lower back and keep your core tight.
Once again, wearing a belt while benching can help to provide the same support.
There’s a lot more to the bench than simply pressing and lowering a load over your body.
In fact, as with most compound exercises, there are many muscles at work during the movement.
And keeping your core tight and stabilized will definitely improve your bench press.
I’ve spoken of the importance of proper breathing while you bench (and obviously with any exercise), and the fact that a belt can better help you to achieve this.
By the same token, wearing a belt will also help you to concentrate your mind on what your core is doing.
You’ll want to keep the various muscles of the core (including the glutes) tight and contracted throughout your set.
And you should find that this can even increase your bench numbers ever so slightly.
5. You May Need to Work on Your Core Strength
It’s all well-and-good wearing a belt to help stabilize your core during the bench press.
However, weak core muscles will certainly impact on the exercise.
In fact, many trainees will typically have a weak core, and wearing a belt will do nothing more than mask this problem.
You could find that if you overly rely on a belt your core may become even weaker.
Personally, I believe it all comes down to why you’re training.
If you’re purely a strength athlete who regularly presses 90% plus of your one-rep max then wearing a belt makes a lot of sense.
But, if you’re simply an avid gym goer, or even if you’re training as an athlete for a specific sport, then having a strong core is essential.
Admittedly, the bench press doesn’t stress the core and lower back as much as other compound exercises.
However, weak core muscles can impact on your everyday health, and it’s definitely not something that you want as an athlete.
If this is the case, it’s probably beneficial to lose the belt and work on strengthening your core muscles.
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From a personal perspective I don’t believe that most of us should wear a belt to bench press.
There are certain advantages, such as keeping your core tight and having somewhere to target your breathing.
But, I would only really recommend wearing a belt if you’re an out-and-out strength athlete.
Furthermore, wearing a belt won’t add as many pounds to your bench press as you would hope.
I would much rather train without a belt and focus more on overall athleticism.
Plus, you can certainly get much stronger without the help of a belt.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.