Should You Wear a Weightlifting Belt?

20 Feb


First of all, if you wear a weightlifting belt, why? And, if you don’t, why not — what is your rationale?

Perhaps you’ve seen others wear a weightlifting belt and you think it’s probably a good idea.

Maybe you have a coach, teammate, friend, workout partner, etc. who has recommended the idea to you.

You may have lower back soreness, and think the belt might help.

Or, you might wear it prophylactically, thinking it’s a good way to protect your lower back from injury.

Here is the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s stance on the use of weightlifting belts:  The use of a weightlifting belt can contribute to injury-free training.  However, its appropriateness depends on the type of exercise and the relative load lifted.  (Baechle, T. and Earle, R., Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; 2000)

A weightlifting belt should typically be worn when performing exercises that place stress on the lower back (squat, deadlift, Olympic lifts, etc.) and during sets that involve near-maximal or maximal loads (1RM testing, etc.).

The use of a weightlifting belt in these situations may help stabilize and reduce stress on the spine; create better body biomechanics; and even improve performance.

Keep in mind that a weightlifting belt only has the potential to reduce the risk of lower-back injury when combined with proper lifting and spotting technique.

No weightlifting belt is needed for exercises that do not stress the lower back or for exercises that do stress the lower back but use light-to-moderate loads.

There are some drawbacks to the (inappropriate) use of a weightlifting belt:  Wearing a belt too often reduces opportunities for the abdominal muscles to be trained — strengthened and stabilized. In other words, it can hinder you from developing your own core musculature. Additionally, weightlifting belts tend to give people a false sense of security, enticing them to try to lift more than they normally (or safely) would.

So, if you’re a competitive weightlifter and/or someone going after your own personal best on the squat or hang clean, buckle up.

But for all your other strength training activities — including your day-to-day strength and fitness efforts — maintain proper technique, use a spotter when warranted, and skip the belt.


Your thoughts?


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