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10mm and 13mm belts are the most common leather belt sizes. Depending on your goals and preferences, both are great options for serious lifters. 10mm belts are the best for most people because they’re supportive, require less break-in, and are more versatile. 13mm belts provide additional stiffness and support. While they may allow you to lift slightly more weight, they’re less comfortable and more expensive.
Differences Between 10mm vs. 13mm Belts
The primary purpose of a lifting belt is to increase intra-abdominal pressure. With more core support, you’re able to lift more weight with more power while reducing spinal compression and injury risk.
10mm and 13mm belts are the most effective because they’re made with thick leather and provide strong support. The primary difference between the two is their thickness, measured from the inside edge to the outside edge.
In addition to rigidity, other differences include training applications, comfort, shape, performance, price, and availability.
In this article, we’ll look at each of these in detail. I’ll outline the pros and cons and provide a few recommendations. By the end, you should be able to tell if a 10mm or 13mm belt is right for you.
A belt’s stiffness is determined by two things: material and thickness. Leather provides a more rigid structure than nylon, and a thicker width creates a stiffer belt.
Since a 13mm belt is 30% thicker than a 10mm one, it’s harder and more supportive. However, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, or even most people.
A stiffer belt comes with a comfort tradeoff. The thick edges of a 13mm belt can dig into the more tender areas around the hips and ribs, making it less comfortable than a 10mm belt.
Further, a stiffer belt can be more challenging for some lifters to breathe into and brace properly. Wearing a lifting belt correctly is one of the most important factors in achieving good results.
Larger lifters with more torso girth and height generally handle 13mm belts better than others.
While 10mm and 13mm belts are ideal for powerlifting, a 10mm belt is more versatile because you can use it on other lifts. For example, you can comfortably use a 10mm belt on overhead presses, rows, and more. If you’re using a prong or tapered belt, you can even use a 10mm belt on Olympic lifts.
With a 13mm belt, you’re more limited to the squat, bench, and deadlift. Can you use it on other lifts? Technically, yes – but don’t expect a comfortable experience.
Leather belts require breaking in before they relax and conform to your body. The biggest factor in breaking in a belt is its thickness. Depending on how often you’re using the belt, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few months before it fully breaks in.
When comparing 10mm vs. 13mm belts, both will be stiff and uncomfortable at first. Because 13mm is thicker, it will take more time and effort to break in. However, there are some steps you can take to speed up the process.
The most effective way to break in a leather weight belt is to roll it tightly over and over. I recommend putting on a TV show and rolling your belt in both directions. You should notice a big difference just by doing this.
Another tip is to try to fold your belt in half longways. The goal isn’t to actually fold it in half, but bending it in both directions will further loosen the leather, allowing it to relax sooner.
I’ve seen people recommend applying olive oil or rubbing alcohol on their belts to expedite this process, but I don’t recommend this. These are unsubstantiated claims that can leave behind residue and potentially damage your leather.
The break-in period for a 10mm belt can range from a few days to over a month, while a 13mm belt typically ranges from a few weeks to a few months.
A unique quality of some 10mm belts is that they have a tapered design. While most belts have a uniform height of 4″, a tapered belt starts at 4″ in the back and tapers down to 2″ on the sides and front.
This shape accomplishes two things:
- It reduces the risk of the bar coming into contact with the front of the belt because there’s less bulk. This is especially useful for Olympic weightlifting movements like the snatch and clean & jerk, where the bar travels very close to the body through the pull.
- It may be more comfortable when bending down and getting into position for floor-based movements.
Most people use a tapered belt for Olympic weightlifting, but they’re also popular for bodybuilding and some functional fitness programs.
13mm belts do not come in a tapered variety.
10mm and 13mm belts are both excellent options with proven results on the platform. You will rarely, if ever, find a competitive powerlifter using a belt that isn’t at least 10mm thick.
Generally, 10mm is appropriate for most lifters since it balances stiffness and comfort. It’s certainly the most popular thickness. However, 13mm may be a better option for some lifters, particularly those with larger frames.
With the increased rigidity of a 13mm belt, there may be a slight strength advantage that can determine whether or not you place in a powerlifting meet. No studies have concluded this, but elite powerlifters may consider trying a 13mm belt for this reason.
While a 13mm belt may help some people lift heavier loads, too much rigidity could negatively impact results due to discomfort and difficulty breathing into the belt.
13mm belts cost more than 10mm since they use more material. However, the cost difference is relatively small. You can expect to pay between 5%-50% more for a 13mm belt, but when comparing options within the same company, the average premium is around 10%.
You can find quality 10mm belts for as low as $50 and up to $150. Meanwhile, 13mm belts generally range from $80 to $160.
While most premium belt manufacturers offer 10mm and 13mm belt options, there are more 10mm belts to choose from. For example, Gymreapers, Inzer, Pioneer, Rogue, etc., have both varieties, but others only carry 10mm.
Some companies will also have both, but their 13mm option may have limited color options or only come in lever or prong styles.
10mm Belt Pros and Cons + Recommendations
I recommend 10mm belts for most people. This thickness provides plenty of support without being uncomfortably stiff. With a less rigid structure, 10mm belts are more versatile than 13mm. They can also come with a tapered design, more color/design options, and a full line of latch options.
If you’re looking to make your first belt purchase, I strongly recommend a 10mm option. If you need additional support, you can upgrade to a 13mm. Since 10mm belts generally have a better resale value than 13mm, you can recoup a good chunk of your original purchase if you choose to sell.
I recommend the Gymreapers Lever Belt for serious lifters looking for a quality 10mm leather powerlifting belt. A lever provides instant tightening/release and is much easier to use than a prong belt. The Gymreapers belt is very well-reviewed and comes in a variety of colors. It’s also IPF-approved.
I’ve owned, used, and thoroughly tested this belt. It performs well on the Big 3 and is more affordable than some higher-end options. Compared to budget lever belts, it’s a step up in quality.
13mm Belt Pros and Cons + Recommendations
I recommend 13mm belts for elite-level powerlifters and larger individuals. With increased rigidity comes a longer break-in period, and even still, it may never feel comfortable for some lifters. That said, the additional support could pave the way for heavier lifting.
Bigger lifters tend to handle 13mm belts better than smaller lifters. For example, a person with a shorter torso will likely find a 13mm belt especially uncomfortable.
If you decide to purchase a 13mm belt, I again recommend the Gymreapers 13mm Lever Belt. Since 13mm is thicker and more rigid, a lever is an even better idea. Getting a 13mm prong belt tight can be quite challenging and may require the help of another person or a rack for leverage.
This belt has a better lever than bargain belts, and since many 13mm belt owners are competitive lifters, you don’t want to have a lever bust during training or competition. The 13mm option is also IPF-approved.
What is the Best Belt Thickness for Powerlifting?
10mm is the most suitable thickness for most powerlifters. It offers great support with a shorter break-in period, and it's approved for competition (depending on manufacturer). I recommend starting with a 10mm belt and reassessing if you need a 13mm thickness. More often than not, lifters stick with 10mm.
Can I Lift More Weight with a 13mm Belt?
While the increased support of a 13mm belt may lead to increased strength output, there are no peer-reviewed studies to support this. Technique and proper bracing are the biggest factors in achieving higher loads with a belt.
Are there Thinner Leather Belts than 10mm?
Yes, there are several leather belt thicknesses, ranging from 4mm to 8.5mm. A thinner belt may be a better option depending on your size, lifting style, and goals. However, 10mm is the most common thickness.
When comparing 10mm vs. 13mm belts, ask yourself what your goals are.
A 10mm belt is the best option for most people because it provides great support and increased comfort. It’s also a more versatile option, making it better for recreational lifters and those who want to use the belt outside the squat, bench, and deadlift.
A 13mm belt is the best option for high-level competitive powerlifters. The extra stiffness could potentially be the difference between placing and not placing in a competition. However, remember that increased support at the expense of comfort could negatively impact performance.