A good belt is one of the most important items in your kit bag. But why do we need them? Do they actually help? Will they stop you from injuring your back?
First for all a belt is not a replacement for good form, having a strong core and actually training hard and correctly. If you are doing all of the above, then perhaps it’s time to look at using a belt.
How do Lifting Belts actually work?
Most of us think that a belt supports the back, this is true to a degree however not in the way you think. They work by increasing intra-abdominal pressure by up to 40 percent! Increasing the intra-abdominal pressure which provides spinal stability leading to greater force output. This intra-abdominal pressure pushes against the spine from the inside, whilst the core muscles of the abdominal wall and lower back push on the spine from the outside. These two forces (inside and outside pressure) acting against each other stabilise the spine and reduce the stress on it. This is how your belt actually protects you from injury. This study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise confirms this statement.
Does a Belt actually help Performance?
Short answer is YES! Research shows that WHEN USED PROPERLY wearing a belt can help you generate more force and bar speed on the squat and deadlift, which translates into higher one-rep-maxes and more reps with any given weight.
When should you use a Belt? And when not?!
It is not a fashion accessory, it is a tool and should be treated as such. You don’t need to nor should you wear a belt all the time on every exercise. You do not need a belt for biceps curls or lat pulldowns! Your belt should fit tight, if it feels comfortable and you can leave it on for your whole workout then it is not tight enough and you will not be getting any of the benefits from wearing it. It gives most of its benefits on lower body dominant exercises - such as squats, deadlifts, lots of strongman events and Olympic lifts. But not all the time - as you get closer to maximum weight then you may want to use the belt for performance and safety.
You should definitely NOT wear a belt if you have health conditions like uncontrolled high-blood pressure or conditions that can be exacerbated by intra-abdominal pressure like a hernia.
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