Wearing A Weight Lifting Belt
Wearing a weight lifting belt can help give you a greater sense of security when lifting heavy weight but is it really necessary to wear a weight lifting belt? The answer can vary depending on your training and history of injuries. Originally the weight lifting belt was designed to protect your lower back during heavy lifts. It does this by minimizing movement in your lower back and pushing in your core. Lets take a closer look at whether or not you should be wearing a weight lifting belt when training.
As I mentioned above, the main purpose of a weight lifting belt is to minimize movement in the lower back and prevent it from hyper extending. Ideally this should help prevent any serious injuries to your back. However, let me explain to you why you shouldn’t rely on a weight lifting belt.
False Sense of Security
Yes weight lifting belts can give you confidence to lift heavier poundages but for some it can give a false sense of security. Just because you have a weight lifting belt on does not mean you can add 50 pounds to your squat and expect to squat down to the floor and make it back up. If your going to squat then squat correctly. It also doesn’t mean that simply because you are wearing a weight lifting belt you can use sloppy form on other exercises such as bicep curls, overhead press and deadlifts by hyper extending your back and rocking your body to get the weight up. Deadlift properly and keep your form solid on all other exercises.
Supporting Muscles Will Not Get Stronger
If you constantly rely on a weight lifting belt then your supporting muscles are not going to get any stronger than they already are. For example, when performing the squat, your core, abdominal and lower back muscles are all working hard to help support the weight and keep form tight. Constantly squatting with a weight lifting belt every set takes a lot of work off of the supporting muscles causing them to lag behind. Who wants to squat 300 pounds with a weight lifting belt but struggle to squat 250 pounds without one?
Raise Blood Pressure
Wearing a weight lifting belt has been known to raise blood pressure when training. Main reason being is because the weight lifting belt is strapped on tight for long periods of time. In fairness the weight lifting belt does need to be nice and tight against the lower back and abdominal muscles but should not be worn for prolonged periods of time. Take it off between sets if you are resting or take it off completely if you are not performing a squat, deadlift or overhead press.
It is common belief that if you have never suffered from an injured back then weight lifting belts will do nothing for you. The weight lifting belt is geared more towards injury prone people with back issues rather than an injury free athlete. Injured athletes will also tell you that injuring yourself while wearing a weight lifting belt is often more severe than injuring yourself without one.
Unless you are injury prone and have previous issues with your back then its best to not wear a weight lifting belt when training. Lifting without a belt will force you to focus on form and perform the movement correctly. If you don’t perform the movement correctly you will injure yourself because you used sloppy form not because you didn’t wear a weight lifting belt.
Lifting without a belt will also strengthen your stabilizer muscles as well as your supporting muscles throughout lifts such as the squat, deadlift and overhead press. Just to clear up, this article was not written to give weight lifting belts a bad name and discourage you from wearing one. It was simply written to show you that you don’t need to be wasting your time with one unless it is entirely necessary.
Here’s why I would recommend you wearing a weight lifting belt. Wear a belt if you have previous history of back injuries or back pain. This is important as failing to do so may ruin your training attempts permanently. If you’ve had previous back injuries train smart and wear a belt when it comes to lifting heavier weights. You will probably be fine without a belt for warm up sets etc but when the weights get heavy use a belt.
The second reason I would recommend you wearing a weight lifting belt is when you are attempting a maximum lift. This is still optional however unless you are shifting 300 pounds + on the bar. Attempting to lift a heavy weight you have never lifted before always has a slight sense of danger to it. A weight lifting belt will make you feel more confident about getting the lift and will help keep your core and back tight. Since the belt keeps you feeling tight and more stable you should be able to lift an extra couple of pounds with it, making it ideal for a maximum lift attempt.