Welded Gear: Weight Belts

By: Kris Thompson

The strength portion of the class calls for a heavy or maybe even a max lift, once the movement is reviewed and technique is explained everyone breaks off to warm up. You look around and you see some of the more experienced members grab a weightlifting belt, you think the weight is heavy for you so you grab one too.

Now what? You strap it on tight around your waist and you start your lift. But do you really know what you’re doing or why you might want to use a weightlifting belt?

Well I’ll tell you. A belt can help prevent injury to your lower back during heavy lifts and may increase performance. However, it may also inhibit motor learning of the abdominal muscles and lower back muscles may not get as strong as they could if a belt is not used so you don’t want to use it for every single one of your lifts, just the really really heavy ones.

The belt gives the abdominal muscles something to push up against during your lift. Increasing the pressure in the abdomen allows you to better stabilize the whole area, protecting your spine and it can also increase the ability to lift heavier. Think of it like this: an unopened soda can is harder to step on and crush than an open one, because there’s that built up pressure pushing out against the inside of the can making it more solid and stable.

So, when it comes to weightlifting, more pressure equals more stability, which translates into more weight. Pretty simple, right?

If you’ve never used one, ask a coach how to wear it correctly. Don’t just go grab one strap it on and think you can lift a bunch of weight just because you’re wearing a belt.  You won’t become Hercules just by putting a belt on, sorry.

A couple of things before you start lifting with a belt:

  1. Don’t use a belt unless you really have to, I personally don’t start lifting with one until I’m at about 80-85% of my max (if that) depending on the movement. You still want to build up core strength to where you can lift heavy without the aid of a belt. Do not just use one because you think you might need it or because everyone else has one.
  2. The belt goes around your waist, not your hips. Where are your abs the strongest? If you’re like most people it’s going to be more towards the upper portion of your abs, not the lower part. So that’s where you’re going to want to wear your belt so that you can use those abs to push up against the belt to brace your spine.

So if you’re interested in using a belt next time you lift but have no idea what you’re doing, hopefully this cleared some stuff up. If not, ask your coach, we don’t mind. I mean, that’s what we’re here for, so use us!