Last Updated 11th August 2016: Weightlifting belts are used in multiple exercises to prevent injury whilst training in the gym. But what are the real benefits when it comes to these? In this article I will be aiming to outline what I personally believe to be the biggest benefits to using a belt. As well as a couple of elements on what not to do, hope you enjoy. Remember to comment and share if you did!
There are a number of benefits to using a belt. Below are what I believe are the top 4, but feel free to comment
Protection / Security (Of the Lower Back)
The number one reason people wear belts is to prevent injury. If you go into the gym and ask people why they are using one, this is the answer you get about 60% of the time. It may also be mixed with one of the reasons below too. Protecting your lower back is extremely important. During a squat or deadlift there is a lot of strain on this area and as many people know injuring this area is not difficult!
Belts help create pressure (your core against the belt), ideally you should be doing this naturally through a number of breathing techniques you can learn, but if you are a beginner you might want to be safe before you fully understand these techniques, in this case it would be recommended to use a belt to avoid injury. Below is a quick video that outlines the breathing techniques I’ve just referred to.
The next most common response is “to improve their lifts.” AKA to lift heavier. This is actually a good reason. I’m a big advocate of using large compound movements to build muscle, and generally the heavier you go the better (assuming form is not comprimised.) Espically when an individual is training for a specfici competion where a belt should be worn, for example when competing in a powerlifting meet or a weightlifting tournament.
We touched on this previously. Core engagement is how secure (and hence safe) you are when performing a lift. Before descending in a squat or before attempting a deadlift you should have a “belly full of air”, this creates a pressure against your abs, lower back and generally your core, this is what will keep you safe when you are attempting a lift. A weight lifting belt is just an artificial way of creating this intra-abdominal pressure that is required.
Peace of Mind
One of the reasons I’ve heard people use belts is for the peace of mind that comes with wearing a belt. It’s a strange benefit as we don’t usually associated mental benefits from a physical additional to our bodies, but it is one that is quite common. Although one thing to remember is just because you are wearing a belt, you are not invincible! Remember to always learn proper form before evening purchasing one. I personally didn’t purchase a weight belt until I was 22 and could hit 180kg deadlift beltless and a 140kg squat also beltless. So although it does give you peace of mind, remember that does not make you unbreakable, no amount of equipment will remedy bad form!
What to Avoid
This is something I see all the time in the gym. Overusing your weight lifting belt is detrimental for your gains, both muscle and strength related. Using a belt will mean there is less pressure exerted on your abdominal muscles (not just the front ones), this will lead to a weaker core and hence a higher chance of injury. It is ironic that overusing of a piece of equipment that is meant to keep you safe will in fact make it easier for you to get injured, but that is the truth. Ensure you are not using your belt on all of your sets, only the top sets. Whatever you do, do not start with your belt when you are warming up! Warming up with it on is a silly and quick way to create an unnatural motor pattern. This will also lead to you relying on your belt even for non-max rep work.
Wrong Sizing / Type
Again this is another commonly seen mistake in gyms all over the world. Although weight lifting belts do come with pre-determined measurements (holes), you should carefully test which one is best for you. Remember if you are on a bulking and cutting cycle which I know most of my readers are, then you should remember to update your belt accordingly. Another key element is the type of belt being used. I see many people still using the normal original belts with the clips. Personally I highly recommend the lever belts nowadays, in the coming months we will be releasing a lever belt product but until then just wait!
Poor Ab Engagement
Finally I wanted to make a note on poor ab engagement, even when using a belt. Although belts help create that intra-abdominal pressure that we discussed is extremely important earlier in the article, there is still a chance that you are not engaging your abs properly. When I say abs I’m not just referring to the “6 pack”, I’m referring to engaging all of the muscles in the abdominals, these may be behind you too! Ensure you can feel your abs engaged before squatting or deadlifting diflucan tablets 150mg. You should feel some Ab doms the day after squatting, if you don’t then it might be time to re-think the technique.
Hope you enjoyed the post and remember to like, share and all that good stuff. If you have any questions on weight lifting belts in general or want to leave a comment, feel free to do so below!