So you've decided to start barbell training and heard that using a weightlifting belt can help. With several manufacturers out there, which should you choose?
If you're searching for the ultimate in customization, look no further than Pioneer Powerlifting by General Leather Craft. Of all the belt companies out there, Pioneer Powerlifting is one of the most respected names in the sport.
Started in Nebraska in 1979, their main focus was creating products to support people in the industrial sector as back injuries were on the rise. They expanded into the fitness industry and increased the number of product lines.
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Today they are located in central Texas and as a trusted partner, make private labeled products for several companies.
Now, onto the review…
Pioneer Belt Review
Most belts have holes that are one inch apart but by drilling two sets of holes offset, this allows the wearer to have half-inch adjustments through the entire range of sizing.
This is very helpful because just like a regular belt, one inch might not be specific enough and some movements like the deadlift may require a looser (but snug) fit. Functionally, I found this to be the most exciting part of Pioneer's lineup.
Men of modest height should opt for a three-inch belt that way it sits nicely above the hip and below the ribs. Men shorter than say 5'5″ may need a 2.5″ belt. For this design, I went with a single piece of leather at 7mm thick but adding suede to both sides increased it to 10mm.
According to their site, this thickness tends to be their best seller and receives the best feedback from customers. I would agree.
Old school belts do not have suede, but I believe there is some added grip to your body when it's installed on the inside.
Some belts are also very uncomfortable and take many uses to break in, but this guy felt like a glove from the very beginning.
As a client of Barbell Logic Online Coaching (BLOC), I've had this belt in operation for nearly six months at the time of this writing.
When putting it to the test, the belt performed well on all lifts. With a thinner strip of leather and the softness of suede, I found the belt to have some flex.
It was not my favorite for squats but it was far more comfortable than any other belt I've tried on the deadlift.
The half-inch adjustment is also clutch in the event you lift after a big meal or trim that waistline with a lean diet.
Okay, so the function of this belt is excellent but the fashion is on another planet. The exterior designs I chose were inspired by my favorite author, Nassim Taleb.
He's an avid deadlifter and wrote the introduction to The Barbell Prescription, a must-read for people of all ages.
The outside is labeled after the title of one of his books ‘Antifragile‘ and the logo on the tongue is a lopsided barbell from the cover of his book ‘Skin in the Game'. I threw my last name on the inside for the final level of personalization.
After visiting their site, it was hard to believe that a company could offer so many options for something as simple as a weight lifting belt.
To see the diversity of their skill along with some of the wildest customized fitness products on the market, I strongly suggest checking out their Instagram @Pioneer_Fit.
The only thing Pioneer lacks is speed. Because each one of their belts is handcrafted one by one, it takes anywhere from 6-8 weeks from order to delivery.
If you need a belt ASAP, this probably won't be your best option. If you already have a belt and looking to create the most intriguing piece at the gym, Pioneer will not disappoint.
Wrist Wraps Review
Just when you thought belts were their only jam, Pioneer also customizes other products. As my bench and press have increased, I've started to use wraps to keep my wrist positioning nice and straight.
Pioneer sent me a pair of their Phantom Wraps in black and grey. They added my last name in red to match the belt. Like their belts, the wraps are also made in the USA.
One feature different from most is the thumb loop is universal so you don't have to worry about which one is for the right or left hand.
The wraps I tested have now replaced the set I had by EliteFTS. Other wraps I've tried were also too soft.
Pioneer wraps are made of elastic and are as firm as they get. They come in three lengths: 12″, 24″ and 36″. With a 6.5″ wrist, I went with the 24″ for added support.
While wrist wraps are not the first thing you should buy when starting your barbell journey, they will definitely come in handy as the weight goes up.
As mentioned before, Pioneer is not the fastest when it comes to the turnaround time for a custom belt but life is all about tradeoffs.
This a small family-owned business that makes several quality products right here in the USA.
My conversations with the owner Matt were great. He, along with the rest of the family strive to provide the best they can in customer experience.
If you're thinking about supporting this business by picking up a belt, I definitely encourage you to check out their FAQ on how to choose the right belt that will work for you.
This is a lot of money to spend so as my dad always said “If you're going to do it once, do it right!” Happy lifting!