Weight belts are common in most fitness centers. Some centers usually provide weight belts to people but you can bring your own.
Weight belts are made of thick leather and they have a thickness of about four to six inches. They also have a metal buckle that keeps the belt secure at your waist. Weight lifting belts are great and can boost your performance.
Many people who use lifting belts think that the belt acts like a brace to support their torso which is false. The main purpose of the lifting belts is to help you increase the use of the lower-back muscles and reduce stress on those muscles.
Studies show that wearing a lifting belt can increase the use of your erector spinal muscles. Lifting belts can also increase the muscle activity of your rectus abdominals.
Therefore, you should wear lifting belts to protect your spine from injuries.
A weight lifting belt fastens tightly around the torso increasing the intra-abdominal pressure. This means that your spine is held in a neutral position. To maximize the usefulness of a weight lifting belt, you must fasten it tightly on your torso.
The lifting belts actually help you to keep your back in that neutral position when lifting weights. These belts come in different sizes, colors, and materials. There are also belts that are air-filled.
Most of weight lifting belts are made of leather and usually wider at the back. Traditional belts are lighter and less stiff than powerlifting belts.
There is no clear distinction in belts for female and male wearers but experts recommend the ten-centimeter belt for women.
Why you should first learn to lift without belts before wearing a belt
Some lifters relay too much on belts during their training and this can make their bodies not have the ability to create intra-abdominal pressure.
However, a weightlifting belt is important in the event of weight lifting competition because it can increase the performance of the lifter.
There is no need for you to wear a weightlifting belt if you are only interested in general strength training and not in maxing out.
Belts are usually useful for those who that are interested in testing their maximum levels of strength.
If you intend to become a powerlifter, it’s recommended that you undergo a minimum of training cycle so that you can learn how to use your core and back muscles.
This is because relying on a belt can be detrimental to your mental aspect. You should not rely on a weightlifting belt to protect you from breakdowns or injuries.
Belts or any other tool you intend to use are supposed to help you improve your performance.
Lifting without wearing a belt helps you learn how to create stability while under heavy loads. Active stability, passive stability and air pressure are the three different ways of stabilizing your joint.
Inactive stability, multiple muscle groups usually contract together to stabilize your joint, while air pressure involves pressurizing the thoracic cavity by filling your belly and lungs with air to stabilize your spine.
Passive stability involves bringing a joint closer to the end range to create stability.
How to brace as you wear a weightlifting belt
It does not matter whether you opt to use a belt or not, you need to learn how to brace and breathe properly for maximal lifting. You should wear a belt tightly around your natural waist or belly button.
You should avoid wearing the belt loosely and it should not be too tight. Once you have completed your workout set, you should remove the belt since it’s not comfortable staying with it and you may experience soreness on your abs.
The belt should not be tightly wrapped around your torso because it can cause bruises and you may have a hard time taking deep breaths while lifting.
If you are using a weightlifting belt for the very first time, you should start by doing warm-ups without the belt and then wear it on your last warm up before your work set.
The type of weight lighting belt you should get
There are two types of belts which are weightlifting belts and powerlifting belts. The powerlifting belts are mainly used by people who frequently lift heavy loads in deadlifts and squats.
On the other hand, weightlifting belts are used by people who perform CrossFit, Olympic lifting and bodybuilding.
The main difference between these two belts is their width. A weightlifting belt features a width of about four inches for the back support part but the width drastically reduces at the front.
A powerlifting belt is four inches wide all around. Belts that are not made of leather are designed to be light, durable, provide lower back support and maximum comfort.
Powerlifting belts are available in three basic designs which are ratchet, lever and prong. Prong design is the best you can use because it’s more flexible than the lever design and cheaper than ratchet design.
Most powerlifting belts have a thickness of ten millimeters and thirteen millimeters.
Types of material
There are two main types of material used in weightlifting belts and they are leather and nylon. You may notice that there are other materials used in manufacturing belts but the commonly in most belts are leather or nylon.
The stiffness or rigidness of a weightlifting belt depends on the type of material used to make the belt. Leather belts are commonly known to last for longer compared to belts made of nylon.
Most of the leather belts are usually oiled and tanned and these two properties can assist you to know the quality of a belt. You will find out that there are belts that have a certain tanning method, for example, that one in Rogue Ohio weightlifting belt.
Suede belts are stiffer than other leather belts and they are often used in double prong competition. There are also softer leather belts that bend easily and hug your waist and are great for fitness styled workouts.
Belts made of nylon are not stiffer than leather belts but they are known to provide more comfort and versatility.
The stiffness of nylon belts depends on the inserts and width added. For example, the Harbinger Flex Fit belt has about six-inch width and some more kidney pockets to provide more support to the kidney areas of your torso.
Other nylon belts have extra width to support your torso but don’t have extra inserts.
Below are the benefits of wearing a lifting belt
It helps to reduce stress on your spine
Research has shown that wearing a weight lifting belt can actually increase the intra-abdominal pressure.
As you lift weight loads, the pressure inside your abdominal cavity presses on your spine to brace it while the muscles in your lower back and abdominal wall push on your spine to support it from the outside.
This means that the pressure from the inside and outside acts to neutralize and reduce stress on your spine when you lift heavy loads. This is how a lifting belt protects you from back injuries when lifting loads.
Helps you to have better body biomechanics
According to studies, wearing a weight lifting belt can reduce the amount of spinal extension, lateral flexion and spinal flexion but it instead it increases your flexion at the knees and hips.
In addition, wearing a belt helps you to lift more weight with your legs with is a great biochemical position when lifting things from the ground.
Therefore, you should use these biomechanics when doing squats and deadlifts during your workouts.
A belt can increase your performance
Wearing a belt an increase your muscle growth, power and strength according to research. A power-style lifting belt of about four inches can increase the number of reps you perform during your workouts.
This means that a belt can help you increase your muscle power and also maintain a better power throughout your workout.
Studies have shown that wearing weight lifting belt can increase your muscle activity of the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles. Having a lot of muscle activity during your workouts can promote muscle growth.
Using the right weightlift belt to achieve your goals
It is important you choose the best weightlifting belt that will help you achieve your sport-specific movements and your goals.
Choosing a belt that is too thick, too rigid and not sanctioned can influence on your power performance and maximal strength.
Below are several types of strength and power athletes that benefit from using belts during their training cycle.
Strongman sportsmen usually use different weightlifting belts based on certain movements that are performed.
As a strongman athlete, you need not only be strong in overhead pressing and deadlift events but also you need to be strong while moving in events like throws and stone lifts.
If you are participating in activities that need less movement, you should use a weightlifting belt that is thicker, flexible and offers more support.
In case of events that require more movement and strength, you should choose a more flexible but supportive weightlifting belt.
Participating in Olympic weightlifting requires you to use a belt that is strong and rigid to help you lift heavy loads but it should be more flexible and less thick compared to those used in powerlifting.
You can choose to use a nylon belt since it’s more supportive in events that require more mobility and increased ranges of hip flexion in the clean and snatch.
If you want to have extra rigidity and movement you can opt for leather belts that more rigid and have an extra tapered belt design.
Powerlifting is a sport that tests your maximal strength on three lifts which are deadlift, bench press and deadlift.
This sport has decreased ranges of motion than strongman and weightlifting and hence, does not necessarily require a more flexible belt.
You should preferably wear thicker, wider and more rigid weightlifting belts due to the different sporting movements in powerlifting.
General weight training and fitness
It is not necessary to wear a weightlifting belt when performing general weight training and fitness exercises that don’t require maximal effort in training.
You may find out that some newbies and intermediate lifters often use weightlifting belts in their general weight training leading to dependency on the belts.
In addition, such individuals develop poor breathing techniques and bracing when lifting weight loads which usually lead to a false sense of support and rigidity.
As you do your weight training, you should be aware of some tools that are useful if you want to maximize your performance.
For example, if you are a powerlifter and loves doing squats in wraps, the tools you should have are knees sleeves, a belt and two to three-meter wraps if you are a starter.
If you are not using a weight lifting belt in a gym or fitness center, you should reduce your risk of lower-back injury mastering the technique of your exercises before increasing the amount of weight you are lifting.
When doing exercises that put stress on your back such as deadlifts and back squats, you should keep your spine in a neutral and straight position. The belts also contract your back and abdominals when lifting weights to increase your intra-abdominal pressure.
Not all types of weight lifting exercises require the belts especially if your spinal erectors don’t work against heavy resistance.
For example, it’s not necessary to wear a weight lifting belt when doing leg extensions or lateral pull down because it won’t affect your performance.
In addition, the belts have little effect on weights that are light. Incorporate beltless training during your workouts to build confidence and also stimulate your training.
You should stop relying on a weightlifting belt most of the time during weight training because it can cause mental harm whereby you are unable to lift relatively light loads without a belt.
This does mean that you totally stop using a weight lifting belt. Wear a belt only when you are doing strength training when lifting heavy weight loads.