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SBD Apparel produces some fantastic powerlifting equipment and their belt is no exception.
The SBD belt is a beast of a belt and is used by some of the strongest people on the planet, including powerlifting great and world record holder Ray Williams. This belt has been shown to stand up to 1,000+ pound squats, but before I talk about the belt’s performance, let’s first dive into its construction.
SBD manufactures exclusively in Great Britain using both traditional methods and new technologies to perfect their craft. They use a combination of genuine English leather and hardened aluminum alloy to make a belt that is equally appealing to the eye and functional. It is the IPF and USAPL maximum 13 millimeters thick and 10 centimeters wide and utilizes a unique lever-prong hybrid buckle to maximize stability and adjustability.
The leather for the belt is treated for five months to achieve the ideal hardness, longevity, and durability before its three layers are pressed and double stitched together. It is then coated with a smooth black oil finish. The finish gives the belt a sleek look while also allowing it to be easily cleaned, helping the belt continue to look like new, even after repetitive use and abuse.
The inside of the belt is coated with a thin layer of red suede to improve comfort and reduce any slipping that may occur. While the suede may help in this area, it is also one of the few complaints about the belt. SBD themselves warn against wearing any light-colored shirts under the belt for the first few months because sweat could cause the red to bleed onto the shirt, staining it much like a new red shirt would if it were washed with white clothes. Though we did not test this ourselves, if the company sees fit to warn about it, there is a good chance it will occur.
Now to talk about the aspect of the belt that sets it apart from its competition: the patent-pending buckle system. The buckle combines the ease of use and stability of a lever with the adjustability of a prong buckle.
The buckle is made with hardened aluminum alloy to keep it light but still very durable. It is then given a smooth powder coating before the logo is diamond cut to give a smooth, clean look.
The buckle features four prongs, the front two of which have an oval lip to give a firm lock into the cutouts. There are also 10 pairs of holes which allow for the easier adjustment that has previously only been seen in prong belts.
Because the belt is adjustable, there is potentially some overhang that, because it goes on the inside, can pinch the skin on the stomach, but once you get the hang of the belt that won’t be a problem.
The gliding lever system of the buckle secures the belt very well and is very easy to use. Once the prongs are in place, it is a simple pull of the lever to tighten it and a flick to unlock it. We never had any trouble with the lever sticking. The mechanism stays very smooth.
When first putting the belt on, I’m not going to lie, it isn’t comfortable. This should be expected with any 13-millimeter belt though, so it wasn’t a surprise. Once it breaks in, it will be much more comfortable. There is a very slight flare in the leather at the top and bottom that helps it form a little better to the torso, but it is very subtle.
If the stiffness is too uncomfortable for you, you can speed up the break-in process by manually bending and maneuvering the belt to soften it up. If not, you’re just going to have to get over it digging into the hips and/or ribs for a while.
In my opinion, the uncomfortable amount of stiffness does not detract from the quality of the belt in the least. In fact, it probably adds to the quality. The last thing you want in a powerlifting belt is a flimsy piece of leather that adds very little support. If you’re serious enough about your lifting to use a belt like this, the discomfort shouldn’t be an issue.
During our testing of the SBD belt, we were more than pleased with the performance. The belt is incredibly stable, easy to use, and easy to adjust.
There was never a question of stability with the belt. As is to be expected with a belt of this caliber and thickness, there was absolutely no give while bracing. The width of the belt also gave a large surface area to push against, allowing for even greater abdominal pressure and stability.
The lever not only keeps the belt tight and secure, but it is very quick and easy to take on and off. We had three guys with different waist sizes using the belt and we could quickly and easily swap while being able to adjust it to fit each of us perfectly. No other lever belt on the market allows for this kind of ease of adjustment. For most others, the lever would have to be removed and the size adjusted from there, which takes considerably longer.
The belt performed great on both the squat and deadlift. There was never a hint of the belt trying to move or give during either lift. Due to the hinging motion of the deadlift and the stiffness of the belt, it dug into the hips a quite a bit during our deadlifts, but like I mentioned above, this is expected with a belt of this thickness and stiffness.
We were able to directly compare the SBD belt to a 10 millimeter Rogue Ohio lifting belt while doing our testing. The Rogue belt is four inches (10.14 cm) thick and features a single prong buckle. They also use a vegetable tanning process to allow for softer leather and a quicker break in period.
The Rogue Ohio belt is considerably more comfortable, but this is to be expected because the belt is built to be softer, is thinner, and is about three years old with a lot of use.
Both belts do their intended purpose of aiding in bracing, but the SBD belt had noticeably less give, allowing for slightly more stability during the lifts.
Both belts were also able to be adjusted easily when switching between users, which is expected with a prong belt, but is a very welcome addition to the lever system of the SBD belt.
The biggest difference in performance between the two belts was the ability to tighten the belts as much is as needed. It was considerably easier to cinch the SBD belt down nice and tight thanks to its gliding lever buckle. The prong system of the Rogue belt took considerably more effort to tighten down enough.
The true biggest difference between the two is the price, however. The SBD belt costs a whopping $227.50 before the $14 shipping is added. The Rogue belt costs $112.95 after shipping. This is a huge difference in price for a comparatively smaller difference in performance.
Now, to compare the SBD belt to two of its biggest competitors: Pioneer and Inzer. Unfortunately, we did not have either of these belts on hand to do direct comparisons, so we will have to base it off specs and design.
All three companies use very high-quality leathers for their belts and for the sake of comparison, we will use Pioneer and Inzer’s 13 millimeters thick, 10 centimeter wide belts. The stability and durability of the leather in all three belts will be very similar.
The Pioneer belts feature a prong buckle system. Their Pioneer Cut belt has an alternating high-low hole system to allow for adjustability in half-inch increments as opposed to the typical one-inch increments. This means the Pioneer Cut belt will have very easy and accurate adjustments between sizes. The SBD belt uses the typical one-inch increment, making it equally easy to adjust, but slightly less accurate.
Inzer’s Forever Lever belt is the belt we will be comparing the SBD to. As the title states, this belt features a lever buckle system. Because it uses the typical lever system, the adjustability is much more limited. It does have some adjustability, but the lever must be taken off in order to adjust it, making it much more time-consuming and unreasonable for quick transitions.
The lever system of the Inzer does mean that once the proper sizing is found, tightening it to the proper point is much easier than the Pioneer belt would be. The SBD belt has this same advantage, however, with the added benefit of easy adjustability.
The lever systems on both the Inzer and SBD belts are made with quality metal and will stay smooth through repeated use.
While on the topic of adjustability and tightening of buckle systems, I have to mention a belt that could technically beat all three of these belts in both areas. The Inzer PR belt has a unique ratchet buckle, which in theory would allow for very precise tightening. However, the belt literally looks like a ratchet strap bolted to a leather belt. It is just plain ugly. The buckle is huge and it looks very time-consuming to tighten. It also doesn’t look like the strap would be very sturdy, but I have not been able to use it, so this is all speculation.
As far as looks go, in my opinion, the SBD belt has both the Pioneer and Inzer belts beat. It just looks beastly and clean. With that said, I also don’t think you should pick a lifting belt solely based on looks.
The Pioneer and Inzer belts do have two pretty big advantages on the SBD belt though; they are both cheaper and have lifetime warranties. The Pioneer Cut belt costs around $135 and the Inzer Forever Lever belt will run you $97 before shipping. Lifetime warranties also add a lot of value to the belts. The Pioneer Belt is also customizable so you can add just about anything you could want.
Overall, the SBD belt is going to be one of, if not the best belt on the market. If price or comfort are more of a priority, you might want to think about going a different direction. However, if money isn’t an issue and you want a belt that is going to be superbly stable and last a long time, then this belt will be a great investment.
Although the SBD Bet is great, there are a couple of things we'd like to see improved.
Yes, I would like to see the belt listed at a lower price, but, I do understand where they're coming from with their current pricing structure. However, one way that I believe more people could have access to the belt is by selling the lever separately from the belt. The belt's good, but the lever is really what makes it stand out.
Also, although I'm a big fan of the coloring and look of the belt, it would be awesome to see it with the option to be customized. Most belt companies offer customization options and I think SBD should as well.
Regarding the build of the belt, I do think that skiving the edges of the leather could help to increase the comfort of the belt instead of just being cut off and burnished. That said, although I've heard some complain about the belt being super uncomfortable at first, I didn't notice that.
Finally, I would like to see a lifetime warranty on the belt. It's pricey and shouldn't ever be needed, but it would give peace of mind.
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