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Do You Really Need Weight Lifting Belt?

May 3rd, 2010 · 5 Comments ·


Talking about weight lifting belt, I have much to say. I am glad that I followed a good fitness instructor’s advice of not using it. After all these years, I am still lifting without the belt. Actually, the practice of wearing weightlifting belts used to be limited to Olympic weightlifting games and powerlifting. However, in recent years, even recreational lifters of varying degrees of skill and experience are wearing belts. Like I said, many think that they look more professional with the belts on.

Why You Need Weightlifting Belt?
A weightlifting belt has two main purposes:

  1. It reduces stress on the lower back while the person is lifting in an upright position and prevents back hyperextension during overhead lifts. A belt reduces low back stress by compressing the contents of the abdominal cavity. The abdominal will exert the pressure outward, providing more support in front of the bones of the lower back.
  2. Wearing a belt may help the lifter to be more aware of the position of his or her back. What it means, the physical sensation of a belt against the skin provides additional information prompting the lifter to consider his back position and what muscles must be activated to maintain good posture. Therefore, in this case, the belt does not need to be worn too tightly for an effect. In other words, the belt is worn because of the feeling of security, but this sense of security can backfire (which I will talk about later).

The truth is that weightlifting belts actually are not necessary for weight training exercises in which the spinal erectors do not work against heavy resistance. The use of a belt does not affect your performance on exercises such as the lateral pull down and leg extension. Belts also have no effect on performance weight loads that are fairly light.


When To Wear Weightlifting Belt?
Belts should only be used on three primary occasions:

  1. The first is when performing maximal lifts in exercises such as the squat or deadlift, in which the weight is supported by the lifter’s back and your back may in a vulnerable position. For example, if one is trying go for 85% to 90% of one-repetition maximum, like squatting with 300 pounds of weight.
  2. The second is while performing exercises, such as the military press, which may cause the back to hyperextend. The belt should be loosened to allow blood pressure to return to normal levels in between sets.
  3. Only if you are in competition lifting heavy weights.
  4. People who have back injury or another medical reason may use the belt.

Note: Even if you are going to use a weight lifting belt, do not neglect strengthening your abdominals and back extensors before or after you do those heavy lifts.

You do not need belt for bench press, pull up, laterals, etc. If you need a belt for those exercise, you are doing them wrong.


Disadvantages of Weightlifting Belt
The disadvantage of weight lifting belt, if used wrongly:

  1. The muscle goes around your tummy is what we call transverse abdominus muscle. Its function is to pull in and tighten your waist while you are exercising. Try to do this, when you pull your navel towards your spine and continue to breathe normally, this muscle is actually working. That is the correct way of getting core stability. If you are wearing weight belt, the belt forces you to push against it, which is the opposite of what you supposed to do. In short, constantly wearing a belt can also cause decreased strength development in abdominal muscles in the long run.
  2. Elevated blood pressure that results from using a belt can increase over time, even when fairly light work or aerobic activity is performed. Lifters with heart disease and blood pressure problems should exercise caution when wearing a tight belt for long periods of time.
  3. Another risk associated with wearing a back belt is that some people may lift heavier objects while wearing them. These belts give them a false sense of security and ended up increased risk of injury.

But again, a weight lifting belt should be used in above situation if ever, would be during power lifting training or competitions as well as when going to maximal or near maximal effort. Simply put, you do not need one if you are still a beginner lifting light weights.


Instead Of Wearing Weightlifting Belt, You Should…
Here is a something you should do instead of a weight belt when you are lifting weights:

  • Just before each set of exercise that could compromise your back, breathe in and suck in your gut.
  • Hold it in and keep your chest and ribcage high. This will activate the Transverse Abdominus muscle which acts as a natural weight belt inside you.

It is more important to focus on using proper form and posture when bending and lifting to keep your trunk muscles strong. As you keep using this technique regularly, your back and abdominals will be much stronger. You may even find that your back pain goes away. Until today, I still remember what the trainer told me, “Use your own natural weight belt – your abdominals, obliques and spinal erectors”.

If you always rely on weight lifting belt, and when you go into everyday life to lift boxes, groceries or pick the baby up, you may have to wear that belt too. Sound funny, I know.

Sometimes, what most people doing may not be right. Too many people wear weight belts too often.


(For some unknown reason, WWF wrestlers use the belt for something else…)



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Category: Fitness Gadget/Equipment · Weight Training

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5 responses so far ↓
  • emilio // May 3, 2010 at 11:07 PM

    I for one don’t use a belt myself. However I remember in Sports Physiology Class in college the professor saying that weight lifting belts were really meant to help with the vasalva maneuver (which ties into the last section of this article about breathing and how that helps with lifting).

    All in all, bottom line is that belts are most functional when used to control breathing while lifting…most often with heavy lifting/power lifting.

  • Troy Beauregard // May 4, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    I think that people over use belts and lose the ability to correctly use stabilization muscles. A belt should be used once intensity increases and reps are in lower ranges. Most people sacrifice form and should concentrate that instead of high weight.

  • iamyuanwu // Jun 14, 2010 at 4:38 AM

    I disagree with your Disadvantages #1 & #2.

    #1 The proper technique should be to tighten up the abs muscles WITHOUT sucking in or pushing it out (bracing the abs). Then push a little air (add some pressure) into the stomachs to create a tight & stable mid section.

    Sucking in the navel will instead reduce the pressure of the mid-section –> less stability —> risk of injury.

    Reason for lifters to wear belts is because pushing against the belt is easier/more effective than bracing the abs and pushing against his own abs (Vasalva manoeuvre). I agree that using the belt too often will decreased strength development in abdominal muscles in the long run.

    #2 Elevated blood pressure is not from using the belt, it’s from the Vasalva manoeuvre.

  • Jay // Mar 2, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    I had more back pain when I was wearing a belt when doing deadlifts. Now, I can easily deadlift 450lbs without a belt (sometimes even w/o straps). No more back pain.

  • Android Kane // Jul 13, 2015 at 5:54 AM

    I’ve had a Diastasis/Divarication* for 4+ decades. (* aka vertical abdominal hernia).

    Simple sit ups or pull ups or just getting out of bed can make the abdominal wall protrude like an alien’s trying to get out. So, I tell people I tried to create a 6-pack but the first beer bottle I swallowed got stuck in the upright position. No pain but scary gross and I’m told surgery and internal patching is usually not successful. Couldn’t afford it anyway.

    When lifting heavy objects or simply standing at the kitchen counter bearing down on a knife to slice through a tough bit of food on a chopping block can bring out my inner “alien.” At least it doesn’t talk.

    Now well into my 60’s, I still maintain a healthy v-shape torso but I always don a weight-lifting belt or preferably a Velcro & webbing back brace with anti-roll stays for exercising or lifting dense objects so I don’t risk tearing the weak muscle wall and don’t gross out whoever might be nearby.

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