I have been coming to CF Factory Square for about 3 years now and I still have questions. I love all of the WOD’s, however I really really love the ones that do not include the barbell. That being said, I get the most core strength and stability from our barbell work:)
I see weight belts on our CF athletes and decided to do outside research on the do’s and don’ts, pros and cons, and what might be preferred for each athlete. So, there is no right or wrong answer here. Just information. Information is POWER.
- May help prevent injury to the low back during heavy lifts.
- Can increase performance.
- Might inhibit motor learning in the abdominal muscles .
- Lower Back might not get as strong.
Should You Wear a Weightlifting Belt? Pros
All of the upsides to wearing a belt come down to the idea of intra-abdominal force or pressure. A study done by Miyamoto, et al. found that “Intra-muscular pressure of the erector spinae muscles increased significantly by wearing the abdominal belt during Valsalva maneuvers and during maximum isometric lifting exertions”. In short, if you increase the pressure in the abdomen, then you better stabilize the whole area which makes for a safer environment for the spine and can increase your ability to lift heavier weights.
Let’s go over the three kinds of belts that are in use most widely and the potential benefits of each.
1. Powerlifting Belts
Powerlifters wear belts like the Inzer Forever Beltprimarily because it allows them to squat and deadlift more weight. The potential safety benefit is a secondary concern.Belts designed specifically for the sport of powerlifting are heavy duty, stiff, and the same width all the way around. The fact that there is more surface area of your abs in contact with the belt, combined with the fact you’ve got a buckle that can be pulled as tight as you want without coming undone makes for a remarkable amount of internal pressure build up.
More pressure equals more stability equals more weight. It really is that simple.
2. Velcro Belts
Velcro belts are generally made of some synthetic material and because it is being held onto your body with only Velcro, there is a limit to how much force can be exerted against it before the Velcro simply pops off and your belt loosens. The amount of intra-abdominal pressure they generate is far less. You may get some added injury protection out of these, but you won’t get much of a performance boost.
3. Bodybuilding or Traditional Belts
These belts are made of leather and are thicker in the back than in the front.They are only as thick as the belts that hold up your pants. They buckle and fasten in the same way as a powerlifting belt – they just aren’t as strong.
What this means is that they provide less internal pressure than the powerlifting belts (because of a smaller front) but more pressure than a Velcro belt (because of their ability to be buckled very tight).
They are a hybrid in terms of what you are getting out of them.
Should You Wear a Weightlifting Belt? Cons
There are two major arguments against the use of a belt. Below I go over each, and my response to them.
1. Belts Mess With Motor Learning
The first concern is the belt might inhibit proper motor learning. Many of the best exercises in the gym require a correct pattern of recruitment of the abdominals (including the obliques and transverse abdominals). With beginners, weight belts circumvent their learning of how to “squeeze” their abs tightly and in the right ways during a heavy lift. The belt just takes over.
This issue, however, is pretty easy to get around if you have a good coach or you are paying attention.You should never use a belt in place of proper core work, stabilization, and technical learning. But that should be obvious.
2. Belts Make Your Lower Back Wimpy
The second concern is that wearing a weightlifting belt is going to cause your lower back to be weaker than it would have been without it. Why? Because it will take stress off the back and stress is what drives adaptation.
Let’s think about this for a second. The strongest deadlifters in the world nearly all wear belts all the time in training and competitions. Do you really think they have weak lower backs because of their obsessive use of a belt? Putting on a belt MIGHT lower the amount of stress on the low back by some amount, but that difference is more than made up for by the additional weight you will lift via a boost from internal pressure or even just the psychological boost you get when you feel safer.
To sum it up on my end is wear a belt that is comfortable for you and recommended by a CF coach. Wear it when you feel you need it, take it off when you don’t.
Have a great week.