A weight lifting belt is a thick belt made of leather, about 4 to 6 inches wide. The belt is worn at the waist and secured using a metal buckle. A weight lifting belt is used to ensure proper breathing and safety during heavy lifts. The belt works by stabilizing the core and the lumbar spine.
Uses of a Weight Lifting Belt
It is hard to keep the spine in a neutral position when pulling a heavy lift. When the spine is at the wrong position, it folds into a flexion position under load during a lift. The pressure could shoot an intervertebral disc out of the lower back, causing spine injury. A weight lifting belt keeps the spine stable so you can lift heavy weights without sustaining lumbar injuries. Controlled breathing also helps extend the spine during a lift.
The main function of the weight belt is to control breathing during a lift. When you breathe properly as you lift a heavy load, the core stabilizes. The core is comprised of muscles attached to the abdomen and pelvis. Pulling any weight activates the core. You want to keep the core as rigid as possible when lifting heavy weight. This can be done by regulated breathing. A weight lifting belt supports the core, which causes the muscles in the midsection to become rigid when lifting.
Perfect execution is a must if you are lifting heavy weight. You want to take in the largest breath you can take to expand the midsection, contract the abdominal muscles, and push outwards against them. The sensation is similar to bracing the muscles for a punch; you want the muscles to be rigid enough to reduce the effects of an impact. A weight lifting belt keeps the muscles rigid and ensures proper execution to reduce injuries.
The Benefits of Using a Weight Lifting Belt
Increases Intra-Abdominal Pressure
According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a weight lifting belt increases pressure in the abdominal area to improve core strength, increase muscle power, and stabilize the spine. It keeps the spine from collapsing under heavy weight!
Studies show that wearing a lifting belt reduces the amount of spinal flexion, spinal extension and lateral flexion of the spine while boosting the amount of flexion at the knees and hips. The belt improves the biomechanics of the body by allowing you to lift more with your legs than with your back.
Increases Muscle Activity
According to multiple trials, wearing a lifting belt while squatting boosts muscle activities, particularly the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Increasing muscle activity on these areas promotes better muscle growth.
The Drawbacks of Using a Weight Lifting Belt
Will Not Protect from Re-Injury
If you recovered from a previous injury, the belt does not provide ample protection from a re-injury. The belt does not provide sufficient support to protect the spine from heavy loads. Before lifting heavy weights, consult your doctor.
Although a weight lifting belt keeps the core stronger during a lift, taking it off will leave you with weakened muscles. Once you remove the belt, your muscles won’t be capable of handling loads that are much heavier. That’s because the belt only works as a support for the back, it does not strengthen the spine.