Weightlifting Belts: Pros and Cons

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Everyone is excitedly gathered around the board knowing today is the best of all days: HEAVY SQUATS! We gallop to our bags to gather our PB making kit. Lifting shoes, knee sleeves, weightlifting belt, wrist wraps, copious amounts of chalk and of course we set up for our phones to make sure we capture this incredible day, because did we even squat if we didn’t film it? We PB (woo), get back home, complain about lower back pain and accept this is just the Fit life. 

 

But is there something we could have done differently? 

Weightlifting belts:

 Pros

Belts are an incredible piece of kit when used properly. The most commonly agreed upon (and truthfully, only agreed upon) benefit to wearing a weight belt is that they increase intra-abdominal pressure. In laymen’s terms, you want to be able to support your spine as much as possible when lifting heavy and belts can do this by increasing intra-abdominal pressure (think of it like a balloon inflating behind your abs). A belt gives you a barrier to press out against and in turn makes your core more rigid. 

 

Cons

Relying on a belt can often mask injuries and weaknesses. I have heard many athletes over the time say, ‘I’m going to pop my belt on, my back is sore.’ When in reality the belt is the problem as it is stopping the core and lower back from strengthening (especially in high rep, low weight workouts). 

Frequent use of a belt might inhibit motor learning in the abdominal muscles meaning you will never fully learn how to brace without wearing a belt. 

Wearing a belt too much can become a mental crutch. Weightlifting requires both physical and mental strength. Relying on a piece of kit can often throw you off and create negative links towards the lifts. Try and rely on your body as much as possible instead of kit. 

 

So bearing the above in mind, here a couple of simple questions to ask before reaching for the belt. 

·      Am I lifting heavier than 80% of my 1 rep max? If so, get a belt and create a strong brace.

·      Is my back sore? If yes, remove the belt, reduce the weight on your bar, focus on rehab, stretching and good form. Your spine will thank you a few weeks down the line. 

·      What is the intention for today’s WOD? Remember not every day is designed to be a heavy WOD. Speak to your coaches about what weight they think you should have on the bar if you are unsure. 

 

Move well, build strength, smash those PBs! Coach Liz x