Weight lifting belts reduce the risk of injury

Weight lifting belt - useful or not?

Weight lifting belts are not a fashion accessory. They were originally developed to make it easier to lift heavy loads - not only during fitness training, but also in the everyday work of movers and warehouse workers, for example. They are also designed to protect against injuries to the intervertebral disc and lower back.

Today I want to look at how weight lifting belts can be used in strength training.


The idea behind it

If you visit our site regularly, then you probably already know: full-body exercises are an excellent way to build muscle. But they require the safest possible execution of the exercise in order to avoid injuries. For example, squats and deadlifts put a lot of weight on the spine. In order to protect this sensitive part of the body, especially during maximum loads, many athletes wear weight lifting belts.

The belts commonly used for strength training are usually made of leather or a solid synthetic material. When they are used, they are applied tightly. The belt is loosened or taken off completely during breaks in sentences or during less stress.

The belts are designed to protect the lower back in various ways, but above all by increasing the internal pressure in the abdomen and thus providing more stability [1] [2].

Should I wear a weight lifting belt?

So what about the initial question? Does it make sense to use a weight lifting belt when exercising? That is a difficult question to answer.

On the one hand, science has repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of weight lifting belts [3] [4] [5]. It has also been pointed out that wearing such a belt during training leads to a significant increase in diastolic blood pressure, although it is limited to the duration of the stress phase [6]. That would rather speak in favor of doing without the weight lifting belt.

On the other hand, however, it cannot be denied that the belts are established in practice - and that is probably not entirely without reason. In weight training, the big brother of bodybuilding, weight lifting belts are a common aid. They are designed to prevent injuries to the lower back and help achieve top performance - in competition as well as in training.

So what applies to the common fitness athlete? At this point we would like to advise you to either do without the weight lifting belt completely or to wear it only in very specific training situations.

There are two main reasons for this:

1. If the stability of the lower back is "artificially" brought about by the weight lifting belt and not achieved by activating the core muscles, then the core muscles remain underdeveloped. It is less challenged and cannot “grow with you”. The weight lifting belt then becomes a muscle replacement. With him you are strong - without him you are weak. Your goal should be to strengthen your body as a functional unit so that it can cope with the challenges of everyday life as well as all conceivable challenges in sport. If you wear a weight lifting belt all the time while exercising, you will not be able to achieve this goal.

2. Weight lifting belts give a false sense of security, which can lead to injuries. Because even if the belt reduces the risk of injury - it doesn't cancel it. According to a study, athletes tend to rely too much on the supportive strength of the belt and consequently choose excessively high training weights [7].

Wearing a weight lifting belt does not eliminate the need to properly perform the exercises, either. Incorrect strain can lead to injuries - whether you wear a belt or not.

What are the exceptions?

There are only two scenarios in which wearing a belt makes sense to me: First, in competitive situations. If you one day compete in the strongmen or in the Olympic weightlifting, then you would also be happy to wear a weightlifting belt. Second, for training sets with extremely high loads. For example, if you're squatting with a weight that's more than 85% of your 1 repetition maximum, you can protect yourself with a belt. However, such training methods are especially recommended for experienced athletes. And even in such cases, wearing a belt is not an obligation, but depends on personal preferences and experiences.

Conclusion

The conclusion: weight lifting belt - useful or not? Neither science nor training practice have so far been able to give a definitive answer to this question. However, for the reasons given above, we clearly tend to discourage wearing a belt.

Instead, focus on properly performing the exercise to avoid improper loading. Strengthen your core muscles to give your lower back more stability. And focus your training on strengthening not just individual muscles, but your body as a functional unit. The belt must not become a prosthesis - that would contradict the basic idea of ​​our sport.


Footnotes

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10619094
[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2709981
[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2141312
[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7709282
[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7660236
[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8877843
[7] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0169814188900327

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