Belting It Out: 3 Ways Lifting Belts Can Benefit You
Once upon a time, nearly everyone who lifted weights used a lifting belt. From the casual lifter to the professional powerlifter, everyone had one in their arsenal and would wear it without fail. These days it seems that the practice of using a lifting belt has faded out a bit. Putting the relevance of using a belt into perspective, a study showed that only 27% of gym members who participated in a 2003 poll said they used a lifting belt and other recent data suggests that the number has dwindled even lower since then.
The reason for the decline in popularity is most likely attributed to the claim by some in the weight lifting community that a belt is merely a crutch and can hamper strength in the lower back and core over time. This is built from the idea that belts act like a brace to support your torso so your core muscles don’t have to engage and develop, however this is untrue. Belts actually have the potential to help increase the use of ab and lower back muscles and aid in their development. With that being said, here are 3 ways a lifting belt can give you an edge:
1. Belts Improve Body Mechanics
It has been shown that lifting belts reduce the amount of spinal flexion, extension and lateral flexion under a load while simultaneously increasing the amount of flexion in the hips and knees. This means that the belt forces you to lift more with your legs and less with your back, putting you in a more biomechanically correct position.
2. Belts Reduce Stress on The Spine
Research has shown that wearing a belt during lifting increases intra-abdominal pressure. In the same studies, it has also shown that it reduces intervertebral disc compression by almost 50%. Essentially, the intra-abdominal pressure pushes against the spine and stabilize it from the inside while the abdominal wall and lower back push against it from the outside, stabilizing the spine from both sides. This means that lifting belts help stabilize the spine to protect against lifting injuries not by the belt supplying the support itself, but rather by the body’s reaction to the belt.
3. Belts Increase Performance
Lastly, it has been shown that wearing a lifting belt can actually improve power, strength, and overall muscle growth when it comes to lower body exercises such as the squat and deadlift. Scientist have shown that wearing a belt during squats does seem to increase the muscle activity of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. This greater muscle activity during exercise translates into greater muscle growth in the long run.
To Belt Up or Not to Belt Up
Remember, it isn’t necessary to wear a belt throughout every exercise, however for things like squats, deadlifts, cleans, snatches and bent over rows, it can be beneficial, especially during heavy, near-max lifting attempts.