A weight lifting belt can be a great addition to your strength training equipment, sometimes when you hit a plateau, it can be necessary to use one just so you can avoid injury.
However, so many people forgo the weight lifting belt and simply do without, not because they don’t want to use them, but because they don’t know how, or for some reason they think it is simply a tool to make lifting heavy weights easier. Those who use weightlifting belts know that this is not the case.
Knowing when to use the belt, when not to use the belt and exactly how to use the belt properly are all very important topics. Here we will show you exactly how and when to use them:
What do they do?
Before we get into when and how to use a weight lifting belt, it is first important to understand exactly what they are used for and how they work.
Stabilize the Spine
To put it simply, the belt helps to stabilize the spine by creating a wall that your abs will push against, this wall ensures that the force you employ is limited to a certain space, allowing increased pressure to the spine in order to fulfill the roll of stabilizing it.
This leads to a more stable torso overall, which makes for a more efficient transmission of force to the bar, this is especially practical for overhead lifts as it creates a more solid foundation, reducing the overall risk of injury and for many increasing confidence in their lift, allowing for the user to push themselves that much more in order to make the gains they desire.
When to Use a Weightlifting Belt
It is completely unnecessary to wear the belt at all times, and I don’t just mean when doing the obvious exercises that don’t require a belt, such as cardio of calisthenics.
The belt is meant to keep you stable, sure. But this does not mean you should use it whenever you lift or even whenever you lift heavy! The belt is designed to help you when you are lifting VERY close to your limit. While it would make every squat easier, this is not the mentality with which fitness is approached.
Think of it as a way to get that one rep that you can feel you are near achieving. That weight that is just beyond your ability to perform a single rep with. The belt will help you get there so that you no longer need the belt after you have succeeded several times with it. A weightlifting belt is simply a tool to get you that little bit further, not a tool to make going to the gym an easy feat.
How to Use a Weightlifting Belt
When you first set out to use a weightlifting belt, first ensure that it is of good quality and will fit your needs correctly. A basic rule of thumb in this regards is that the belt should be between three and four inches wide.
Any smaller and it is unlikely to provide the support needed to ensure you do not get crushed underneath the weight that you intend to lift.
If your belt is any larger than that, aside from the fact that it is likely starting to look ridiculous, it will likely not fit correctly between your ribs and your hips and you DO NOT want the belt to be applying pressure to any area except for your abs.
Firm but Flexible
Finally the material that the belt it made from should be something that is firm but flexible. Suede is sometimes used but I find that the best belts are usually made from good old fashioned leather.
Okay, so now down to the business of actually wearing the belt, now that you have an understanding of how it works and why it is used, you are much better equipped to avoid the common mistakes people make when wearing a weightlifting belt.
First, make sure that the belt is positioned correctly, many people get this wrong as they move the belt to where it feels most comfortable, DO NOT make the mistake of getting this wrong. The belt should be positioned across the abs as this is where you want the pressure to be applied, if you place it somewhere else, say, underneath your stomach, it may feel more comfortable but you are going to receive none of the benefits of belt use and you also risk injuring yourself.
Most people are well aware that the belt shouldn’t be too loose and this is also very easy to notice. However, a large number of people make the even worse mistake of having the belt on too tight, if you can’t properly contract your abs then you are once again setting yourself up for injury (as well as negating all the benefits and actually making the belt work against you).
In order to fit the belt properly, take a deep breath, hold it, place the belt in position and draw the belt until it ever so slightly restricts your braced abdominal muscles.
Follow this guide and you will ensure nothing but benefits from using your weightlifting belt.