Weightlifting belts have always been a hot topic in the iron world. Some believe they are a crutch while others see them as insignificant, yet useful addition to the safety measures a lifter needs to take.
The main argument of purists, who are 100% against belts, is that similar to knee wraps and bench shirts belts help you lift more weight that you otherwise won’t be able to. Those who support belt usage argue that belts actually help you build stronger abs by pushing against the belt. What’s the truth here?
Are weightlifting belts really a crutch?
The gym is one of the many places where Homo sapiens does stupid things as a result of mind control and lack of thoughт. The guys who wear those cheap bodybuilding belts during exercises such as wrist curls with the pink dumbbells prove it all the time.
Belts are supposed to be used only during intensive exercises such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, power cleans…etc. If you do everything with a tight bell, your CNS will become dependent on it, not to mention the fact that your belt will acquire unpleasant smell.
If you don’t need a belt, don’t use it. We understand that it feelс cool to wear a belt with Ronnie Coleman’s name on it, but this is not 3rd grade anymore. It’s time to think. Harder.
With that being said the belt could become a crutch. If you don’t feel safe lifting without one, it already is. However, I think that people get too caught up in the term “crutch”.
In this life everything can be considered a crutch, even your shoes. Have you ever though why are humans able to lift so much weight in the first place? Well, some of you will say because we’re smart and know how to build strength, but this is not exactly the right answer.
The right answer is: a rotating barbell.
Not many people think about it but most barbells have bearings and rotating ends. The rotation of the ends is meant to allow the plates to move freely while the actual bar stands still. If there were no bearings, the bar would have to rotate along with the plates, digging a “hole” in your hand, back or other body part depending on the exercise. Also, a barbell has knurling and is pretty well balanced. That makes gripping much easier. Nobody seems to see that as a crutch but putting some sort of a belt on is.
Well, it’s not a bigger crutch than the barbell itself.
While people in general should avoid belts unless they absolutely need them, I don’t consider belts cheating. It’s just another element that can provide comfort during lifting. Nothing more. However, it would be naive to deny that belts allow the usage of heavier poundages.
Weightlifting belts help you lift more weight.
Weightlifting belts help the lifter in many ways. Of course, the added poundage is not that significant and rarely goes over 25-30 lbs. The ways through which weightlifting belts help you achieve higher lifts are:
– mental support;
The placebo effect is quite powerful and with belts there is sometimes a lot of it. When you put on the belt and zip it tight, you will immediately feel stronger. That sends a direct message to your brain that everything is in check. As a result you feel more confident and this translates to more weight on the bar and solid performance. Often the effect on the mind from using a weightlifting belt is more significant than all else.
– back support;
When used correctly the belt will take off some stress from the lower back. That could be considered good or bad depending on the situation. If you are injured, it’s great but if you are just using the belt to look cool, your depriving your lower back from getting stronger. Whatever the case when your back feels more secure, you feel so too.
– bouncing off of the hip flexors;
When you are at the bottom of the squat the belt clashes against the hip flexors. This increases the tension and you end up lifting more weight.
– feedback on the back position;
The spine should not round during exercises such as squats. When you are wearing a belt you have a direct confirmation of your back position. As soon as it rounds the contact with the belt will feel different.
– warmer waist;
On top of everything a belt is also keeping your lower back and waist warm. This is also beneficial and will help you avoid injuries and probably catching a cold too.
They told me that if I push hard against the belt with my abs, my core will actually get stronger than if I train without a belt. Is this true?
Not really. Only a complete narcissist will tell you that your core will get stronger with the use of a belt than without it. Think for a second – a regular powerlifting belt is about 4-6 inches wide. When you first put it on, you will immediately feel that your waist is stronger. On the other hand when you’re “naked” all the work is done by your muscles. There is no outside support.
There is a belief that if you don’t use a belt for your warm-ups and only for your work sets, you will get stronger faster.
The idea is that lifting with a belt will get you to a point where your warm-ups done without a belt will be higher than the number you would be able to achieve , if you train without a belt all the time.
Since a belt will usually give you no more than 20-40 lbs and the fact that similar reasoning is extracted from the finger tips of weightlifting belt lawyers who always look for ways to justify belt addiction, we consider it – over-thinking and nitpicking. It may be true in some cases but in the grand scheme of things it makes no difference.
When should I use a weightlifting belt?
If you use a belt to just add 20 lbs to your squat and you’re not setting world records anyway, the usage of belt is not needed.
Belts should only be used for protection after an injury or prevention during really heavy sets. All other use is not justified and most of the time is caused by the ego quest for “a few more pounds on the bar.”