How and Why To Wear a Lifting Belt
Weightlifting belts (as pictured to the left) are great tools for all levels of athletes. You don't need to be lifting a ton of weight to benefit from a belt.
You do need to make sure you put it on correctly and use it correctly though, so be sure to read on for those tips!
What does a belt do?
A belt does the job of your core muscles, but 5 times better. It helps stabilize your midsection to help keep your back flat.
What does a belt NOT do?
It does not prevent your back from rounding. It does not fix bad technique.
Why do some people wear a belt?
There are three main reasons people wear a belt.
First, is if they want to lift really heavy weight. Typically their core is the weak point, so by giving extra support to the core, it allows their legs to lift extra weight and really train the legs. [Example: You can backsquat 150lbs without a belt, and 180lbs with a belt]
Second, is if a workout involves a lot of volume (reps) of a movement that taxes their back, they want to provide that extra support. [Example: A workout that is 5 rounds of 20 deadlifts + some other stuff. The athlete may be fine for rounds 1, 2, and 3, but come round 4, their back may fatigue, but their legs are still good to go. By putting a belt on, it allows the athlete to safely continue to workout with less risk to their back]
Third, is if someone has had a prior back injury, and wants to provide extra support for it.
Why are belts good?
As mentioned above, if used properly, it can allow the athlete to train at heavier weights and do longer workouts safely.
Why are belts bad?
As defined above, a belt does the job of your core for you. So, if you wear a belt all the time, sure, your legs will get stronger, but you will actually be weakening your core. A belt should only be used sparingly, once per week for example. If you rely on it more than that, there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed [weak core or unhealed injury]
How do you wear a lifting belt?
If you just slap the belt on and start lifting, you are missing out on the big purpose behind a belt.
First, make sure the belt sits centered on your belly button.
Next, make sure that sucker is TIGHT.
Third, and most importantly, you need to breath DOWN through your diaphragm, trying to make a "gut" with your stomach, and push OUT against the belt. This should created an incredibly stable pressure around your core.
Belts can be a great investment that help you lift more weight and help keep your back safe.
But they are just another tool in an athletes toolbox. Same as chalk, lifting shoes, running shoes, grips, or any of the other things people "put on" when working out. A tool used properly will help make you a better athlete. Improper use at best will just be a waste of money and at worst will cause an injury or dull your athletic potential.
Be acutely aware of the beginners belt curse. Do not rely on a belt as a bandaid for your weak core or injured back. Rely on your core. Keep training your core (deadbugs, planks, anti-rotational movements like Paloff Press, situps, and toes to bar) to be a strong and injury free athlete.