Are your looking for a way to improve your weightlifting technique and increase the weight you shift? A weight lifting belt is essential. Read on to find out more.
It seemed that years ago, everyone who went to the gym wore a weight lifting belt. Some people even wore them out of the gym (remember Mr. T anyone?). Today though it seems fewer and fewer people wear them when working out. Why is this? Surely they haven’t become any less essential?
The Problem With Weight Lifting Belts
The problem resides in a lack of information regarding lifting belts. Back in the day, half the people that wore belts didn’t need to. As more information became available, the pendulum swung the other way, and all of a sudden people who should have been wearing lifting belts weren’t.
This article aims to put the record straight. We will explain what a weight lifting belt does, who should use one, and the best sort of belt to buy. At the end of the article, we also bring together some of the best lifting belts on the market for you to choose from. First of all though, let’s break a few myths and explain what a weight lifting belt isn’t.
Things Weight Lifting Belts Do NOT Do
Weight lifting belts do not weaken your core strength. This is one of the most common misconceptions, and what logic it is based on is a mystery. None of the exercises you would use a weight lifting belt for are aimed at your core, so why on earth would wearing a lifting belt weaken those muscles?
Wearing a belt does not reduce the strength of your back muscles. Again, where this myth come from is baffling. The purpose of a weight lifting belt is not to brace the back from behind. Rather, it is to brace it from inside. More on this later.
Put simply – a weightlifting belt is not some sort of crutch that weak or injured people have to rely on. It is instead a valuable tool which will help you train more efficiently, and develop greater lifting power and strength,
What A Weight Lifting Belt Does
This is the important bit! At the most basic level, a weight lifting belt helps you to lift more. It does this by helping the body stabilize itself. By having the belt tight, and by holding your breath as you lift, your spine is stabilized which leads to your leg and hips muscles being able to work that little bit more.
Think of your torso as a tire. If you can imagine placing a weight on a tire which has not got enough air in it, the bottom of the tire will bulge. Put some air in that tire, and it will cope with the weight better. The same can be said of your torso. By increasing the pressure,you are able to lift more and with greater comfort. Here are 3 key benefits to wearing a lifting belt.
A Weight Lifting Belt Stabilises The Spine
It does this by helping you to increase the intra-abdominal pressure when used with a correct breathing technique. In fact, some studies have revealed that this pressure can be increased by up to 40 percent by people who wear belts when lifting. The compression of the intervertebral discs is reduced at the same time. In some cases by up to 50 percent.
Imagine a balloon inflating inside your stomach, and how it will strengthen everything around it from the inside out. This is what wearing a weight lifting belt does, as it helps you to safely increase the intra-abdominal pressure. Think about what that might mean for you and your training. How much more might you be able to lift, whilst avoiding injury?
A Weight Belt Enhances Biomechanics
It is a misconception to believe that a weightlifting belt acts as a support for weakened parts of the body. Instead, it enhances them and the body biomechanics. Wearing one reduces the amount of spinal flexion, extension, and lateral flex of the spine. In plain English, that means it helps to keep it stabilized and strong. At the same time, it increases the flexion of the knees and hips.
To summarize the above, wearing a weight lifting belt will cause you to lift more with your legs than it will with your back. It enhances the biomechanics used in performing squats and deadlifts.
Belts Increase Performance
Due to the fact that it enhances the body biomechanics, you will in turn notice an increase in performance. This will lead to you being able to lift more, improving your strength and encouraging bigger muscle growth. It is particularly noticeable for performing squats.
A number of research projects have been carried out into weight lifting belts and their use. They all conclude that people are able to squat more when wearing one than when not. One study suggested that experienced lifters were able to squat 10 pounds more on average. This might not sound a lot, but imagine the muscle growth your will experience by consistently being able to perform at a higher level.
How To Use A Weight Lifting Belt
Of course, you need to know how to use a weight lifting belt properly in order to maximise the benefits that it can give you. To start with, your belt should fit you properly. It should be tight, but you should still be able to breathe! A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to inhale fully without lifting the shoulders. You should also be able to push your core against the belt to increase the abdominal pressure, which then stabilizes the back.
With the belt fitting properly, you should also know how to lift and breathe correctly at the same time. The technique you need to master is the Valsalva maneuver. It is somewhat counter to the traditional form of breathing when exercising, but becomes second nature very quickly for powerlifters.
The Valsalva Maneuver
We will use the Squat as an example exercise. Stand with the loaded bar on your back ready to begin. Then, just before you lower yourself down, take a deep breath. Hold this breath as you go down, and push your abs out against the belt. When you reach the bottom, you should then try to exhale forcefully with a closed glottis, and then drive back upwards. It is this action which will increase the pressure in your body. Breathe normally when you are at the top, and repeat as the exercise as necessary.
This breathing technique is essential when using the weightlifting belt. If you don’t use it, you may as well not have the belt. Remember, you are increasing your intra-abdominal pressure in order to lift more, and that is what the belt is for.
If you would like to find out more about what weight lifting belt may be suitable for you, we have created a useful guide to lifting belts. We have brought together the highest quality belts in one place, and take you through their stand-out features. Take a look here at our weight lifting belt guide.