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Lever and Prong belts are the two most common weight belt mechanisms. Depending on your lifting style and preferences, both are ideal options for serious lifters. Lever belts are slightly more expensive, but they’re much faster and easier to use. Prong belts have better adjustability, but they take longer to set up.
Differences Between a Lever Belt vs. a Prong Belt
When it comes to weight belts, the two most popular fastening mechanisms are levers and prongs. Found exclusively on leather belts, both are very secure systems that have advantages and disadvantages.
The main difference between lever and prong belts is usability, which you can break down into a few segments:
- How tight can you make the belt?
- How quickly can you engage and disengage the belt?
- How easy is it to achieve different levels of tightness?
In addition to these main factors, lever and prong belts differ in durability, price, popularity, and more.
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 lever belt or a prong belt is right for you.
Wearing a lifting belt correctly is essential for increasing intra-abdominal pressure, supporting your back, and lifting more weight. Your belt should fit tightly around your core, but not so tight that it affects your ability to breathe and brace.
Lever and prong belts are great at creating a tight and secure belt, but levers allow for a tighter fit. That’s because you can use the built-in leverage on the buckle.
On a prong belt, you may have to place the tongue of the belt on a squat rack to create external leverage. Alternatively, some lifters have to squat down to get their prong belts tight, while others get assistance from a partner.
You’ve probably seen this happen if you’ve ever been to a powerlifting meet.
In general, a lever belt can achieve tightness more easily and at a higher level.
Ease of Use
The beauty of a lever belt is how easy it is to use, especially compared to a prong belt. You can engage and disengage a lever belt in 1 second (literally), whereas it can take 5-10 seconds (or even more) on a prong belt.
Not only is it faster to use a lever, but it’s also effortless because it does most of the work for you. To engage, you pull back on the lever with minimal force, locking it in place. To disengage, you push the lever away, immediately unlocking it.
The instant release can be a breath of fresh air after a hard set. The act of releasing, known as the ‘lever flick,’ is also one of the most satisfying feelings in powerlifting. After hitting a big lift, flicking the lever is the ultimate power move.
Prong belts come with either a single prong or a double prong. The single-prong variety is easier because you’re only lining up one hole. Double-prong belts can sometimes be frustrating and lead to longer setup times. In either case, prong belts take longer and require more effort than lever belts.
While lever belts can be easier to use and get tight, prong belts offer greater adjustability.
With a lever belt, the lever is attached to the belt with a back plate and two screws. This creates a fixed position and locks you into one level of tightness. If you want to adjust the tightness because you train with a partner or prefer different levels on certain lifts, you have to remove the lever and reposition.
Some companies have designed levers with built-in adjustments, including the Pioneer Adjustable Lever (PAL). While the PAL costs extra, you can purchase it separately and install it on any 10mm or 13mm lever belt.
Prong belts can readily be adjusted to different tightness levels, making them a more adjustable option. Do you prefer a tighter belt for squats than deadlifts? That’s no problem. Do you share your belt with a training partner who’s bigger or smaller than you? No problem. Do you cut or gain weight frequently? That’s no problem, either.
Most prong belts offer 1″ spacing between the holes, but it’s possible to get even more tightness options with the unique hole pattern of Pioneer Cut Belts. By offsetting the holes along two rows, Pioneer created a way to achieve 0.5″ increments, making them the most adjustable weight belts you can buy.
Performance & Versatility
Lever and Prong belts are both excellent performers. It’s unlikely you’ll find one outperforms the other unless you can’t get a prong belt to match the top-end tightness of a lever belt. In that case, a lever belt may inch out a prong belt in terms of performance.
However, there is a significant difference in versatility.
Because you can adjust a prong belt on the fly, it’s a more versatile belt. Furthermore, you can use a prong belt for other lifting styles, including Olympic weightlifting, bodybuilding, Strongman, CrossFit, and more.
A lever belt is made for powerlifting and Strongman, so if you don’t train one of those styles, you’re better off buying a prong belt.
Prong and lever belts are naturally durable because they’re made for leather belts. Some of the world’s biggest and heaviest lifts have been achieved using both styles.
However, a lever has more moving parts, making it more susceptible to malfunctioning. This is more common with cheap lever belts, where breakage can occur. I’ve been using lever belts since 2013, and while I’ve never experienced a failed lever, it can happen. Quality levers from reputable companies are much less likely to break. The good news is that you can easily and inexpensively replace a lever.
Prong belts are less likely to fail, but it’s still possible. Some lifters have experienced cheaply-made prongs snapping under pressure. Unlike a lever, if a prong breaks, you’ll likely need to replace the entire belt.
Generally, these are the two most durable types of belts you can buy, and they should withstand years of abuse.
Lever belts are marginally more expensive than prong belts because they use more steel. Depending on the manufacturer, you can expect to pay between $5-$30 more for a lever belt.
The price gap between high-end belts tends to be smaller than the price gap for budget belts. For example, a budget lever belt may cost $80, while a budget prong belt costs $50. Alternatively, the difference between a 13mm Rogue Prong and Lever Belt is only $5.
While both belt styles are popular among lifters, I took the lever belt vs. prong belt question to Instagram and polled the Garage Gym Lab audience.
58% of respondents said they prefer a lever belt, with 30% picking prong and the remaining 12% voting velcro.
From experience, talking to the community, and watching many powerlifting events, lever belts are the most popular choice in powerlifting.
However, prong belts are the obvious choice for other training styles, making them more popular for Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, etc.
Lever Belt Pros and Cons + Recommendations
I recommend lever belts for most powerlifters. The immediate feedback from the lever makes the belt much faster and easier to use. It also requires less energy, allowing you to focus on what matters most: lifting weights.
The lever operation, especially the lever flick at the end, is just fun. As someone who owns over 15 weight belts, I reach for a lever belt almost every time I perform a squat, bench, or deadlift.
Given the popularity of lever belts in powerlifting, most lifters agree.
The Gymreapers Lever Belt is an affordable IPF-approved leather powerlifting belt. It has a fast lever fastener and is available in several colors.
- Material: Leather
- Locking Type: Lever
- Width: 4″
- Thickness: 10mm
- Size Range: XS (24″) – 2XL (46″)
- Color: Multiple
If you’re looking for a quality lever belt, I recommend the Gymreapers Lever Belt. It’s available in 10mm and 13mm, both of which are IPF-approved.
The 10mm option is available in multiple colors with interior and exterior suede coverings to control moisture and reduce slippage. The 13mm option has a suede interior and exposed black leather on the outside. Both options have a matte black lever.
Having owned and used this belt extensively, it performs similarly to higher-priced belts and is a clear step up from budget lever belts.
Prong Belt Pros and Cons + Recommendations
I recommend prong belts to lifters looking for greater versatility, more adjustment options, and a cheaper price tag.
If you like different tightness levels across lifts, a prong belt is better than a lever belt. Similarly, if you share a belt with someone bigger/smaller than you or fluctuate in weight often, you’ll appreciate the built-in adjustability.
Prong belts are also great for powerlifting, and they can be used for virtually every training style.
I recommend the Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt to those looking for a high-quality leather prong belt. This USA-made belt uses 10mm vegetable-tanned leather for a beautiful aesthetic and a rigid feel.
It has a wide size range from 21″ to 45″, and the universal 4″ height is perfect for most lifters. I’ve owned and used this belt for years – it’s a great prong belt at a fair price.
Is a Lever Belt or Prong Belt Better for Powerlifting?
Both are excellent for powerlifting, but lever belts are the most popular because of their fast and easy operation. However, a prong belt is the best choice if you train different lifts at various tightness levels.
How Thick Should a Weight Belt Be?
Lifting belts can range in thickness, but 10mm and 13mm are the most common. Levers only come on 10mm or 13mm belts, but prongs are common on all leather thicknesses from 4mm to 8.5mm.
Should I Buy a Leather or Nylon Weight Belt?
Nylon weight belts are flexible and use a velcro fastening mechanism, making them great for functional training and Olympic weightlifting. Leather is more durable and rigid, making them better for heavy weight training. You must purchase a leather belt if you want to use a lever or prong system.
When comparing a lever belt vs. prong belt, it comes down to your preferences.
If you want a fast, easy-to-use belt that will hold tightly, I recommend a lever belt. It’s an excellent choice for powerlifting, in particular.
If you want a more versatile belt that allows you to adjust tightness levels easily, I recommend a prong belt. You can also use this belt style across multiple training styles, including Olympic weightlifting and more.
Lever belts and prong belts are the most popular styles for a good reason. You can’t go wrong with either.