Lifting Weights

Should I Use A Weight Lifting Belt When Lifting Weights?

Are you unsure as to whether you need to wear a belt when lifting weights or not? Take a look at this article, and see for yourself the benefits that wearing a weight lifting belt offers.

If you are a true power lifter, and train to bulk up and get big, you will already be doing squats and deadlifts. And if you aren’t, you should be! The thing is, we all know that some exercises can cause injuries to the back, and the deadlift can be one of these. So how do you prevent injuring your back? It’s simple, you lift weights when wearing a weight lifting belt.

There’s much more to it than that though. A weight lifting belt will actually be able to help you lift heavier loads, and bulk up even faster. This article covers how wearing a powerlifting belt can help you lift more, whilst keeping you safe from injury.

But Doesn’t Wearing A Weight Lifting Belt Weaken The Core?

This is one of those myths that circulates the weight training world. Let us state categorically here, that it is UNTRUE! Quite frankly, people who say this sort of thing have no clue. They either do not know how the muscles and body works when squatting or deadlifting, or have simply listened to other people without doing their own research.

Lifting weights with a belt does not weaken your core, simply because in deadlifting and squatting, the core muscles are not the primary muscle groups being exercised. It really is that simple.

What Is A Powerlifting Belt For?

A weight lifting belt is used to support your back when you are lifting heavy weights, however, it does not do so in the way which most people think. The common belief, is that the lifting belt acts as a support from the outside, in effect bracing the back. A lifting belt doesn’t work like this though. Instead it helps stabilize the spine from the inside.

From the inside? How?

The purpose of a weight lifting belt, is that you should push your abs against it when lifting weights. This then increases the intra-abdominal pressure, which results in stabilizing the spine. It is this which enables people to lift more, and in a safer manner.

“The Effectiveness of a weight-belts during multiple repetitions of the squat exercise”

This was the name given to a 1992 study, and as you may have guessed, looked into what effects using a powerlifting belt had when performing squats. The study focused on 5 men between the ages of 23 and 24, who were experienced lifters.

The lifters performed squats both wearing a powerlifting belt, and without a belt. Whilst the exercise was being performed, the researchers focused their observations towards the following.

  • Ground Reaction Forces
  • Intra-Abdominal Pressure
  • Joint Angles
  • Muscle Activity
  • Time Needed To Perform Reps

The study produced some very interesting results, all of which pointed towards the fact that wearing a weight lifting belt is better than not wearing one when performing squats.

Benefits Of Lifting Weights Wearing A Weight Lifting Belt

Let’s start with intra-abdominal pressure. This was measured between 25-40% higher when wearing a weight lifting belt when not wearing one. The stress on the lower back was thus greatly reduced, indicating that injuries would be lessened when wearing a belt. Lifters would also feel more comfortable shifting more weight.

Another big difference, was the time it took to perform the exercises. Almost everyone knows that the upward part of squatting takes longer than the lowering part. Surprisingly though, people who wear a belt can perform the upward motion faster than those who don’t. There is no difference in the lower motion.

The study showed that there was also a difference in muscle activity in the hamstrings and vastus lateralis. It seemed that when the study subject wore a belt, their quads and hamstrings were used more when squatting than when they did not wear a belt. This was probably linked to the speed with which they were able to perform the upward motion.

Areas Of No Difference

There were also areas where no difference was shown between those who wore a weight lifting belt and those who did not. One of those, was that people who tend to ‘lean’ as the set goes on, did so whether they were wearing a belt or not.

Another area on which there was no difference, was in the amount of force and pressure exerted during exercise. This remained the same whether wearing a belt or not. Finally, there was no difference in the activity of muscles in the lower back and the outer oblique abdominals.

What Does This Mean?

Basically, the study suggest that there are only benefits to be gained when lifting weights with a weight lifting belt, and no negatives. The idea of a weight lifting belt weakening the core muscles is therefore an urban myth. The quads and hamstrings are exercised more. The increase in intra-abdominal pressure keeps the spine more stable.

When To Use A Weight Lifting Belt

Of course, a weight lifting belt should not be worn for EVERY exercise you do! If you see someone wearing a belt whilst curling, you can bet they never read this article! If you see someone wearing a weightlifting belt whilst doing crunches, cancel your gym membership straight away!

A weight lifting belt is ideal for squats and deadlifts when it comes to lifting more weight. Whilst some people also use a belt as a back support, this is not its primary function.

What Sort Of Belt Should I Use

This is another topic completely! We have some more information throughout the site regarding what sort of belt is best for lifting weights. The brief summary though, is that you should buy one which is made of leather, and about 4 inches/10cms wide. A single pronged buckle is the best type of fastening.

The Best Weight Lifting Belts

If you would like to take a look at the best selection of weight lifting belts available, we have put together a useful guide. Inside, we include belts suitable for all budgets, as well as high quality weight lifting belts built to last. To find out more about the best belts for lifting weights, take a look at our weight lifting belt review here.