Do weight lifting belts actually help?
We’ve all seen people wearing weight lifting belts in the gym, but is a weight lifting belt necessary and does it help? There are differing opinions on the subject - some are against wearing them as they believe belts can interfere with core building, whilst others swear by them and would not perform heavy weighted squats or deadlifts without them.
Research has shown that wearing a weight lifting belt is in fact beneficial in most cases for performing squats and deadlifts. What is key here though, is that the belt is worn correctly and that the exercise is performed properly.
Wearing the belt
The belt should sit above the hips and below the ribs across the middle of your core. Weight lifting belts are only meant to be worn for the duration of your lift and not kept on indefinitely. This means, you should tighten the belt right before your lift and loosen the belt straight after it. Your belt should be tight enough to brace against but not too tight that it becomes uncomfortable. Pressing your abs out against the belt as you perform your exercise helps to stabilise the spine allowing for better performance and lower injury risk. If the belt is too loose, you won’t be able to use the belt in this way which defeats its purpose.
Be sure to checkout out our detailed 'how to wear a weight lifting belt guide' to ensure you get the most out of your belt.
Intra abdominal pressure
Wearing a weight lifting belt helps to increase your intra abdominal pressure. Research has shown that increased intra abdominal pressure creates support for the spine, which reduces the risk of injury to the lower back. The belt also has the effect of reducing the opportunity for flexing your spine backwards, forwards or sideways during a squat which means your legs are doing more work than your back - just as they should be.
There are many positive reasons for wearing a weight lifting belt when performing various exercises including squats and deadlifts, particularly on your heavy sets. However, weight lifting belts are not for everyone and it is important to check with your personal trainer or medical professional before using one.