If you’re lifting weights with the big boys, it may be time to step it up and get the big boy toys. A weight belt, while controversial, may be beneficial in supporting your spine during heavy lifting. There are some schools of thought that disagree with using a weight belt at all and others that advocate them as useful. When deciding on using a weight belt during exercises, choose wisely and use safety measures first and foremost.
How it Works
There are several different weight lifting belts to use at your local gym or to purchase at a sporting goods store. The ideal reason to use a weight lifting belt is for support for the lower back during certain exercises. Improper lifting form can lead to injuries, such as joint problems, muscle pulls and muscle tears. In order for a belt to work you need to position it correctly on your body. Just as with any other belt you’ve worn, position a weight belt right above your hips and around your waist, according to Bodybuilding.com. This belt should be tighten, but not to the point where breathing is difficult. Once you’ve tighten the weight belt, take a deep breath before you lift free weights or other weights off the racks.
Not all strength training exercises require the use of a weight belt. As you are warming up before strength training a weight belt shouldn’t be used. Olympic weightlifting coach, Nick Horton prefers wearing a weight belt during heavy lifting exercises. Exercises that require serious intensity and added weight benefit from the use of a belt. Examples of exercises that benefit from the use of a weight belt are squats, jerks and deadlifts. Tony Gentil, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, also recommends not using a weight belt for every exercise. On top of using one for squats and deadlifts, Gentil recommends using the belt for competition bench presses and farmer carries.
Lack of Scientific Support
A 2006 study published in the journal "Spine," reported that wearing a tight and stiff back belt and also while inhaling before lifting can reduce the load on the spine. Nine experienced weightlifters lifted barbells that were 75 percent of their body weight. They lifted while wearing a weight belt and inhaling and also without wearing a belt and inhaling. The results favored the use of weight belts and suggested the belts reduced the compression forces of the spine by approximately 10 percent. Despite these results, more research is needed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that there is a lack of evidence to support or negate the usefulness of a weight belt. Even with a weight belt, you are still at risk for back injury.
Whether you decide to use a weight belt during power lifting, it’s important to take certain precautions. According to MayoClinic.com, you should learn proper form and technique in order to reduce the risk of injury. Keeping your spine stable and in a neutral position when picking up weights and placing them on the ground is essential as well. Always lift with your legs and spare your back.
- Bodybuilding.com: 3 Pieces of Basic Equipment for the Expert Lifter
- BreakingMuscle.com: Weightlifting Belts: Should You Use One? Pro and Con; Nick Horton
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Back Belts – Do They Prevent Injury?
- MayoClinic.com: If I Lift Free Weights, Do I Need to Wear a Weightlifting Belt?
- Spine: Effect of a Stiff Lifting Belt on Spine Compression During Lifting; Idsart King, et al.; October 2006
- TonyGentilcore.com: What’s the Dealo with Weightbelts?
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.