Why do we use a specific belt in kettlebell sport ?

Publish date: 06/07/2022

If you are passionate about kettlebell sport, and you have watched some online videos of athletes competing or training, you will have seen that they almost always wear a belt. But what kind of belt is it exactly, and what is it for? In this article I’ll explain why a specific type of belt is used in kettlebell lifting and why very often belts for weight lifting are not suitable for this sport..

The main reasons why we use the belt in kettlebell sport

The main reasons why a belt with different shape and thickness is used in the kettlebell lifting compared to weightlifting belts that you wear in the gym are the following:

  • Elbow support during the push phase in jerk and in long cycle
  • Elbow support in rack position
  • Relaxation in rack position (jerk)
  • Support / protection of the low back in rack position

It is difficult, if not impossible, to give a clear and exhaustive explanation of all the points listed above; for which it would not be enough an entire treatise on kettlebell lifting. Of course, I can say that the first 2 aspects are key to having good performance in momentum and full momentum. I also add that, if for maximum and minimum height the reference values for a belt oscillate between 10 / 12cm for the first and 5 / 6cm for the second, as for the thickness, it would be good not to go below 10 / 11mm. The belt you see in the photograph has a thickness of 11mm: going below this thickness risks significantly worsening the quality of the support that the belt provides us until it is practically nil, as in the case of weightlifting belts they are extremely thin. And all of this takes on more importance as the weight of the kettlebells increases.

How to properly wear a kettlebell sport belt

The answer to this question needs to be slightly articulated and requires a premise. If, as I think, you have already seen several online videos of athletes doing kettlebell lifting, you will have noticed that some of them keep the belt very low and at times apparently very wide. From my point of view, this is not ideal because, specific individual needs aside, wearing the belt too low, it’s likely gonnq nullify all the elbow support you could otherwise get. On the other hand, wearing it larger than you should, does not allow for almost any protection of the lumbar area in rack position.

The correct way to wear a kettlebell lifting belt is to fasten it in the following way (make sure to tuck your t-shirt in your shorts and to bring the waist of the pants up towards the navel):

  • locking of the belt must feel firm to prevent it from slipping up and down on the body; and must allow for complete and relaxed breathing. It should be fastened less and less tightly than a weight lifting belt, because it is not intended to facilitate the Valsalva maneuver.
  • the height at which it is fastened, should allow the elbows to rest on its support base

These two cornerstones are the reason why the maximum height of a lifting kettlebell belts varies, as I said above, between 10cm and 12cm. Below 10cm, you risk having to fasten it too high thus loosing thrust power. Above 12cm, besides being no longer compliant with common kettlebell sport regulations, there is a risk of constraining too much the movements of the trunk and the pelvis on the sagittal plane. In any case, both individual preferences and one’s anthropometry and technique should make one opt either for the first or for the second type.

For this reason, we at Kettleblaze have decided to make two different types of kettlebell sport belt which will be available from October 2022. The first, similar to the one already on sale, with a maximum height of 12cm, and the second one with a maximum height of 10cm.

In the video below, you’ll see a prototype of one of the new types of kettlebell lifting belts coming October 2022:

What the belt is NOT used for in the kettlebell sport

Before ending this post, I would like to clarify two aspects sharing the same importance as those already described. Keep in mind that kettlebell sport belts not meant to:

  • Provide abdominal compression (Valsalva maneuver)
  • Protect the lower back during swing with 2 kettlebells

The first aspect, alludes to the fact that the fastening of the belts for kettlebell sport must always allow for a correct and complete breathing. I know I’m repeating myself, but it must be reiterated that these belts are not intended to facilitate in any way the Valsalva maneuver; indeed, if used for weight lifting (squats, for example), they should be fastened much tighter. My second point, equally important, is intended to help you understand that in the kettlebell sport, and especially when you being handling two kettlebells weighting more than 20kg, the most important tool that will help protecting your belt during the swing will be your technique.
No belt, not even the best one, can protect you from potential injuries in this phase of the movement! My advice is therefore to take care learning the proper technique of the pendulum swing with two kettlebells which, for some it will be obvious but I express it anyway, requires a different approach than the swing with just one kettlebell, and has critical steps that are partially overlapping but partially differing from the two-handed swing with a single kettlebell.

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