Let talk about the belt and its role in your journey to get strong. I am a pretty active member in several online communities that deal with weightlifting and power lifting and Crossfit and what not. Many times I hear people claim "I don't want to use a belt because I want to be as strong as possible". This is a silly notion and lets explain why.
We talked last week about pushing the abs out in order to maintain a good strong squat position. We start with the Valsalva Maneuver (taking in a deep breath and pushing out on the abs with that breath). When we put on a weight belt, we are giving the abs something to press against. If the volume of air we take in stays the same, but the size of the container gets smaller (via the belt), we will have a larger air pressure in our abdomen. Larger air pressure means more support, which in turn means we can lift more weight.
So yes, the belt can add a few pounds immediately to your squat when used properly. However, when using a belt, your abs are now pushing against something in order to increase the pressure. The abs are now doing more work than when you were squatting without a belt. Go ahead, give it a try. I bet your abs are sore the next day after your first full session with a belt. So this means that the belt will also have a cumulative effect of strengthening the abs over time. WHAT? So if I wear a belt, then I will actually get a stronger core faster than without a belt? That is crazy, but it is true.
Does this mean you have to wear a belt while doing kipping pull ups, or when you are doing your 75# snatches 75 times for time? No. Lets face it your form is probably terrible while trying to do 75 snatches in 5 minutes. Belts aren't gonna help you there. But when trying to go heavy, a belt is your friend every time.
But Jason, How should I go about using this belt?
Well for lifting, you should warm up and stretch without a belt. Try to reinforce good form into habit with out the belt for your first few sets. I say 2 - 3 warm up sets with out the belt. When you get to about half way to your working sets, you should belt up and continue to warm up from there. Wear the belt all the way through your working sets.
If you still disagree with me and think you won't be strong while using a belt, you are welcome to not use it, it is no skin off my back. Next time you run into Ilya Ilyin tell him about how he is missing out on core strength because he wears a belt.