SHOULD I USE A LIFTING BELT?
***PLEASE FIND THE AUDIO VERSION AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BLOG**
You shouldn’t need a belt to lift heavy that what your core is for? I can only lift heavy when I use a belt. You shouldn’t do deadlifts without a belt! Using a belt is cheating! He only can lift more than me because he uses a belt! If you use a belt it stop your core from working.
I’m sure like me you’ve heard a few of these yourself, lots of which have ‘some’ truth, most of which are just ridiculous and I’d like to think you’ll know the answers for yourself once reading this.
Firstly, what does a belt do? Well the main purpose of it is, to offer support for your midsection, lots of people think its just about protecting your back, yes it certainly will offer support for your back, but not in the way that most people think. The belt a tool for creating more IAP (intra abdominal pressure) which is actually what offers the support.
When Squatting or deadlifting without a belt requires the same action as with a belt, which is to fill the abdominals with air and brace your core as if someone was about to punch you in your stomach, using the body natural core belt if you like. Not much is different when using a belt but the belt acts as more of a wall, for your core to push into, creating much more intra abdominal pressure and ultimately making a much more stable mid section. Think of it like this, when we fill our belly with air it will expand like a balloon, but now imagine the balloon being smaller(like wearing belt) but with the same amount of air in it. There would be a lot more pressure. Which in most cases will unable you to lift more. So it does help you lift heavier then? Well yes, but there are lots of things you should consider before using one.
The first being, can you execute perfect technique with heavy weights to begin with. Because my other favourite line is, “I where a belt when doing deadlifts otherwise I’ll hurt my back” If your doing deadlifts and hurting your back, a belt may enable you to go a little heavier with out it hurting but will probably lead to your technique getting worst, and the likely hood is, you’ll keep injuring your back. To give you an example, if your a guy weighing 80kg and you can’t deadlift 140kg with out a belt, you probably need to work on technique first. Getting injured during lifting should never really be an excuse for needing a belt. Where I think belts are useful is enabling you to go heavier and give your more exposure to heavy weight. Think about it like this, if before using your belt you could belt-less squat 120kg for 5 reps(with good form) and the using a belt you manage to build up to 5 reps on 140kg, 8 weeks later. Do you think when revisiting belt-less squats on 120kg it will now be easier? Do you think because the belt enable your legs to have more exposure to heavier weights they are now stronger. The other great thing about belts is as we get stronger and training routines become more complex, there are going to be days when you have scheduled back squats and your backs a bit sore from deadlifts earlier on in the week. But rather than backing off, the belt still allows you to go heavier giving you the confidence underneath a heavy loaded bar.
So Ok Dan, but it does make your core weaker though right? Used correctly my answer would be the exact opposite actually. What a lifting belt does very well, is it teachers you to brace your core properly. The belt acts as a proprioceptive cue teaching you to push into the belt. Which directly transfers over into belt-less squats, helping you create more intra abdominal pressure.
To round things up, using a belt will enable you to lift more weight, it’s certainly not cheating and isn’t going to stop you from getting injured. Using the belt as a tool is advisable but you should spend time working on belt-less squats too. During this I’ve spoken super highly of using a belt, but before you go mad and buy one, please understand the main point from this, is using them correctly is more important. A big problem with belts is sometime they can masks warning signs for bad technique, because they enable you to still move heavier weights. But if all the belt is doing, is enable you to go heavier and technique is getting worst, then understand you didn’t really get stronger, all that happened is your body found a way of getting the up, all be it less efficient and less safe.
Hope you enjoyed today blog.
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