When you go to your gym you see many different things, but one thing you may notice is that many guys, and even some girls, are wearing weightlifting belts. Why?
Well, besides the fact that it kind of makes you look more bad ass (why I think many wear a belt in the first place), it’s to help support, strengthen, and prevent injury to your lower back by helping you create intra-abdominal pressure as to prevent lower back hyper-extension and compression (spinal cord shrinkage) (source). What many people fail to realize, however, is that often times they don’t need a belt, and if they do, it should be only used for maximal or submaximal lifts, such as in the deadlift, squat, overhead press, and/or olympic lifts.
You should not being using a belt for bicep curls! (Bros take notice, haha!).
Every time I see someone in the gym wearing a belt for his/her whole workout I shake my head because they are doing more harm than good. When you wear a belt that often gives an excuse for people to not tighten their core and relax because they think the belt will do everything for them. Wrong! The belt is only an accessory to help you lift at maximal or submaximal force. A good rule of thumb I follow is to only wear a belt for compound lifts that are 90% or more of your one rep max. That’s it. Otherwise, it’s making you weak.
The goal of lifting, at least for me, is to have strong structural integrity for your body, so it can perform in the proper way. Just look at Lü Xiaojun above for proof. He’s setting a world record in the snatch (388lbs) without a belt! He knows that wearing a belt all the time only gives you an excuse (for the majority) to not be tight in your core in which all movement and strength emanate from.
In addition, wearing a belt can also elevate blood pressure if used excessively, risky for those with heart conditions (source1, source2), and cause a situation where you can’t activate your core muscles (such as your transversus abdominis) for function and stability for everyday life and recreation.
Learn first how to lift without a belt and beat it to hell in your progression as you start lifting heavier, so the need for a belt is something only used for maximal lifts if that. This way your body will become acclimated to lifting heavier without the need of any accessory equipment which leads to a strong and functional body capable of almost anything. Be smart first and bad-ass second.
Do you use a belt? Let me know by leaving a comment below to share your thoughts.
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