If you’ve been to the gym recently you might have noticed a spike in the number of people you see wearing lifting belts, including women.
Due to increased interest in the world of powerlifting, lifting belts have gained popularity.
You might have wondered what these belts are used for or whether you need weightlifting belt.
I’m here to answer all your questions!
What is a Weightlifting Belt
A lifting belt is a wide, thick belt designed to fasten around your waist and increase intra-abdominal pressure. This pressure increases spine and core stability which can help you perform heavy lifts that involve your lower back (think squat or deadlift).
Just like any gym equipment or tool, there are a number of variations of the lifting belt. There are even belts designed specifically for women!
From Velcro to leather they range in price and quality. Most people would recommend steering away from the Velcro because they do not provide you with the support you would be looking for. Go with leather.
The leather of the belt allows your core to brace against the belt while allowing you to generate more intra-abdominal pressure and giving you more core stability.
This pressure gives you more support throughout your spine which allows you to lift heavier weights.
Of course, lifting heavier weight may or may not be in line with your fitness goals.
Pros And Cons of a Weightlifting Belt
The pros of wearing a lifting belt are relatively few and simple.
A lifting belt increases stability throughout your core and reduces stress on your lower back when the exercise is performed correctly. This allows you to accomplish heavier lifts once you have mastered form and breathing.
The cons to wearing a belt are a little more complex.
False Sense of Security
A lifting belt sometimes makes you think that you can lift heavier than you really can.
Often times it can even compromise your form because the weight being lifted is too heavy for you.
Abdominal Floor Pressure
For women, a lifting belt can lead to increased stress being placed on your pelvic floor.
Many women, especially mothers, have a pelvic floor that is already weakened.
Due to increased intra-abdominal pressure from the core, the pushback placed on your pelvic floor can cause more stress on that group of muscles, potentially leading to injury.
A Weaker Core
Along with weakening of the pelvic floor, use of a lifting belt can hinder can hinder the development of a strong core.
The core starts to rely on the belt instead of your own muscle strength when performing your lifts, which doesn’t allow the muscles to grow.
When Do You Need A Weightlifting Belt
For the most part, a lifting belt is not needed.
Typically you only need a belt if you are an experienced lifter and you want to work toward going heavier with your weights.
I would not recommend using one unless you reach at least 80% of your 1-RM (1-RM, or one-rep max, simply refers to the max amount of weight you can lift for one rep).
It is key that you have your form and breathing down before throwing a belt on. A belt is not designed to fix improper form or prevent injury due to improper form.
There are also only a handful of moves that might require a belt. These include:
-Overhead Press (multiple variations)
Due to the pressure they put around your core, they are only needed during the move and then should be removed. They should not be worn during your entire workout.
When To Avoid A Weightlifting Belt
If you aren’t lifting a heavy load, then you don’t need a lifting belt.
You also shouldn’t be using a belt if you don’t have the proper form of the exercise down.
If by adding the lifting belt you start to compromise proper form, this is an indicator that the weight is too heavy for you.
If you are unable to stabilize your core without the belt, there is a good chance your core has become too reliant on the belt, causing it to work like a crutch.
You will want to remove the belt until you can work that core strength back up and complete the move with proper form.
If you have a history of high blood pressure or a hernia you will want to avoid adding a lifting belt to your workout. The added intra-abdominal pressure can make these matters worse.
Again, if you are not performing a squat, deadlift or overhead press than a lifting belt is not necessary.
Wrapping Things Up
When it comes to trying out the latest craze, be sure to gather as much information as possible so you do not open yourself up to injury.
While it might look cool to throw on a belt it is designed to help with lifts not symbolize as a championship belt for victories.
If you are not into powerlifting or increasing your 1-RM there is a good chance you will never need a lifting belt.