Grant Broggi, SSC
Reposted from Starting Strength. Updated with video Sept 2022.
In 2011 while stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma I began going to a local gym owned by Jim Denofa, who is now a good friend of mine. I had been weight training for some time, utilizing the big lifts and linear progression-style lifting, but I had never really received any coaching on how to correctly do any of the movements.
When I joined the gym I told Jim that my goal was to squat 405 while staying in tip-top Marine Corps physical fitness shape. He developed a plan for me, and as a result I was doing one lift per day, coupled with some HIIT work to keep my conditioning high.
On one particular Monday I remember he had me squatting ascending sets for two reps. On my third or fourth set he told me to go grab a belt off the wall. I argued with him for a split second, before remembering that I was paying him to coach me, and I quickly just shut up and listened to him (hint? hint?).
As I walked over to the belt rack I saw a variety of belts hanging on the wall. Some were thin, some were fat, some were Velcro, some had a wide back and a skinny front, some leather, some suede; it was overwhelming. I called back to Jim and asked him which belt he wanted me to grab. He described a belt on the back that was hanging on the back of the hanger, covered up by a few others.
As I pulled it off I remember feeling the leather in my hands and realizing this was a serious belt, different from the others. It was a deep navy blue, 4” in width and 10mm thick. It was stiff, yet you could tell it had been used for quite some time. A couple of the holes were more worn than the others, yet it was in fine condition and ready for use. It has sweat stains, but didn’t stink and the color was faded from its original dye job.
As I walked back over to Jim, belt in hand, he said to me, “You like that belt?” I told him yes, and asked him what brand it was. He didn’t tell me at first, instead he told me that that was the first belt he had ever purchased, and that he bought it at age 16. He was in his early 30s at the time, and he began to describe to me why it was the best belt you could use for squatting.
He talked about the thickness, and how he preferred a 10mm to a 13mm because a 13mm was just too much belt for him. I asked him why it was the same height all the way around and he explained to me that the function of a belt is to help stabilize the lumbar erectors and that the best way to do that is by creating pressure in the abdomen. After showing me how to properly put it on, I squatted another double somewhere in the mid 300s and knew right then and there that I wanted to use a belt for my heavy training.
I ordered a 4”, 10mm, red, white, and blue single prong belt that night and was appalled when told that it wouldn’t be delivered for 6-8 weeks. Over the next two months I used Jim’s belt until mine finally arrived. I still remember pulling it out of the box, it was incredibly stiff and I thought there’s no way that this is the same belt that Jim had. It was – it just needed its own story.
Jim had bought his, trained with it in high school, joined the Army, and allowed a bunch of bull-headed Marines like me to use it in his gym over the last 10 years. The holes were worn from where he had gained weight over time, and it had wear marks from tons of workouts and personal records. It was Jim’s belt – and it had taken care of him for over 15 years.
I still have, and predominantly train with, that same belt I bought 8 years ago. Every record I’ve ever set has been in that belt, along with every time I’ve missed my 500 lb squat. It’s been to Afghanistan, the Republic of Georgia, Turkey, Germany, Lithuania, and to lots of gyms throughout the U.S.
I tell you this because it’s probably time for you to buy your own belt. If you’ve read this far, and are still intrigued, it tells me that you’re serious about your lifting. Lifting is now a part of your life, and something you want to be good at. There are always plenty of belts at my gym for you to use. But owning your own belt is something you should do, and something you’ll be glad you did for as long as you keep training with barbells.
The Strength Co. produces a customized weightlifting belt right here in the USA, hand-made with American leather.