should you wear a weightlifting belt

When you start stacking heavier weight on the barbell, it may be time to start thinking about, getting a weightlifting belt.  Weightlifting belts can you give that extra core support you need to get the most out of your squats and deadlifts. Yet, it’s important to understand when, why, and how weightlifting belts can benefit you, in order to get the most out of your lifts and maximizing your performance.

What Do Weightlifting Belts Do?

A common misconception is that by wearing a weightlifting belt, you’ll be able to lift more weight. Well, that’s just plain wrong. You won’t necessarily be able to lift heavier, however, you will have extra core support to avoid injury when lifting heavier or trying to hit a new PR.

How Do Weightlifting Belts Work?

Contrary to popular belief, weightlifting belts don’t actually support your lower back. It modulates a signal to your torso to squeeze and tighten your core muscles harder, thereby increasing inter-abdominal pressure to give greater support to your lower back when you’re lifting heavier weight [R]. In addition to increasing inter-abdominal pressure, weightlifting belts aid in increased intra-muscular pressure of the erector spine muscles that stabilize the lumbar spine. Therefore weightlifting belts, can help avoid injury by stabilizing the your spine and reduce spinal loading [R].

When Should You Use A Weightlifting Belt?

*IMAGES taken by Jennifer Pope Photography

Before you go spend a bill on a brand-new weightlifting belt, there are a few things you should probably consider. Weightlifting belts are used mainly for two reasons, injury prevention and performance improvements with heavy lifts.

Training History – Injury Prevention

Weightlifting belts should be utilized by those with a firm understanding of their training, and in what situations they may need to apply a weightlifting belt. Weightlifting belts are most beneficial when used to prevent injury by providing intra-muscular pressure to stabilize intra-spinous muscles. Those with previous spine injuries can benefit from weightlifting belts, to ensure added inter-abdominal pressure to ensure proper biomechanics and form during their lifts.

Training Intent - Performance

The second part of knowing if you need a weightlifting belt is training intent. What are you lifting for, and what are your training goals? If you want to get stronger, build more muscle mass, and or compete in sports such as CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting, then applying a weight-lifting belt when your stacking heavier weight, can help to reduce spinal loading and provide an added layer of support for improved performance.

A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in New York and published in The Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research surveyed 352 health center members. Of those members, 90% (85/94) of belt users and 63% (55/88) of former belt users utilized belts to prevent injury, whereas 22% (21/94) of belt users and 28% (25/88) of former belt users utilized belts to improve performance. However, many of the weightlifting belt users were found to utilize belts during inappropriate situations such as lifting light loads or during exercises that do not typically stress the trunk and/or the lumbar musculature [R]. 

What this study suggests, is that a majority of people do not understand, when, why, or how to use a weightlifting belt. When participating in sports such as CrossFit or Powerlifting, heavier loads are often used in conjunction with Olympic lifts, such as snatch, split-jerk, overhead squat, deadlifts, and power cleans. These types of lifts require a concentrated amount of force, and spinal loading, thereby justifying the use of a weightlifting belt. If you’re at your local YMCA or Golds Gym, hamming out some bicep curls, and dumbbell bench press, chance are you do not need a weightlifting belt.

A study published in the journal Spine examined conducted a study, to determine if and how a stiff back belt affects spinal compression forces in weightlifting. Nine study participants lifted barbells at 75% of their body weight while inhaling and wearing a weightlifting belt, compared to inhaling while not wearing a belt. Through EMG the results showed a 10% reduction in spinal compression by increasing intraabdominal pressure, by the belt itself, rather than abdominal pressure [R]. Therefore, inhaling as you lift, is an important factor to consider while wearing a weightlifting belt, for maximum performance benefits.

Should You Wear A Weightlifting Belt? Takeaway

If you’re trying to prevent injury while lifting heavier loads, wearing a weightlifting belt can help in assisting your lifts, to stabilize your spine and reduce spinal compression and loading. Weightlifting belts should also be used if you plan on throwing heavyweight overhead with Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, and if you partake in training programs like CrossFit, to increase performance and maximize lift effort. If you’re looking for the best weightlifting belt, I recommend 2POOD performance.


SWOLVERINE is an endurance athlete and active lifestyle brand. Made for the elite athlete, and the strong-willed our products were designed to fuel your athletic performance. We perform when you perform. 

We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle. 

 

References 

Finnie SB, Wheeldon TJ, Hensrud DD, Dahm DL, Smith J. Weight lifting belt use patterns among a population of health club members. J Strength Cond Res. 2003;17(3):98-502.

Lander JE, Simonton RL, Giacobbe JK. The effectiveness of weight-belts during the squat exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1990;22(1):117-26.

Miyamoto K, Iinuma N, Maeda M, Wada E, Shimizu K. Effects of abdominal belts on intra-abdominal pressure, intra-muscular pressure in the erector spinae muscles and myoelectrical activities of trunk muscles. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 1999;14(2):79-87.

Kingma I, Faber GS, Suwarganda EK, Bruijnen TB, Peters RJ, Van dieën JH. Effect of a stiff lifting belt on spine compression during lifting. Spine. 2006;31(22):E833-9.

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