Are Weightlifting Belts Really That Good For You?

The Pros & Cons Of Using WeightLifting Belts

man holding a Weight Lifting Belt

If you’re just starting out on a weightlifting program, or you’re a veteran lifter, then you might have asked yourself this one question, “are weightlfting belts a good idea?” 

These’s so many pros and cons to using a weightlifting belt that it’s hard to know if using one is right for you, especially with all of the variables involved.

So, the short answer to your question is “it’s up to you!” 

Okay, I know that wasn’t the answer you were looking for, so let me break it down for you.

Using a weightlifting belt depends upon just some of the following:

  • Your current ability in the gym
  • Do you have an injury?
  • Do you know how to activate intra-abdominal pressure?
  • What your goals are
  • And so on…

You see, it’s not as plain as you thought. Luckily for you though, we’ve put a heap of info here so you can figure out if a weightlifting belt is the right choice for you.

How Weightlifting Belts Work

Long story short, and among other things, a weightlifting belt helps the lifter to increase the amount of weight they can lift, sometimes by an extra 20%.

They do this by creating extra intra-abdominal pressure. Which is basically a pressure inside your core that pushes outwards against your spine, and core muscles providing extra stability and power.

However, if you’ve never used a weightlifting belt before, and you don’t already know how to create intra-abdominal pressure with the muscles you already have, it’s best to learn this practice first (more on this later).

Weightlifting belts also help to stabilize and restrict movement in some lifters, helping them to avoid over stretching a movement which could cause injury.

In summary, a weighlifting belt increases the amount a person can lift with a slight restriction in movement.

Pros & Cons Of Weightlifting Belts

Pros

  • Restricts some movement, which may prevent injury from over extension.
  • Helps to create mind muscle connection with the core, and muscles being used.
  • Increases intra-abdominal pressure, great for lifting more weight.
  • Allows a greater sense of control and form when exercising.

Cons

  • Overuse may prevent the build up of natural muscle development.
  • Could provide false sense of security leading to injuries.
  • Creates imbalances in areas where the belt is not positioned.
  • May cause a dependence when lifting.

As you can see, it’s about 50 / 50 when it comes to the pros and the cons of using a weightlifting belt.

It all really depends on where you are right now, and your current goals as to whether or not you should be using a weightlifting belt.

Your Current Level of Strength

Something to take into account is where you currently are in terms of strength, ability, agility, and overall fitness.

If you’re a new lifter with no history of back injuries, the you’re probably better off building up your core strength with basic exercises such as hanging leg raises, the plank, ab roll-outs and squats.

This will help to build up a solid core, so when you do come to squat, dead lift etc with heavier weight, you’ll have the ability to create your own intra-abdominal pressure without the need for a belt.

You can practice this by starting with light weights, and creating a tight pressure around your core while you perform weightlifting exercises.

In short, you want to keep your core tight and activated throughout the whole movement.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced lifter who already has a good level of strength, and a solid core to back it up, adding a belt to the equation may further increase your body’s intra-abdominal pressure, helping you to smash your PR’s!

How To Increase Intra-Abdominal Pressure Without a belt?

Below are just a few ways you can actively increase your intra-abdominal pressure using different training techniques.

By no means are they the only way to increase the amount you lift, or are they here to totally replace the need for a lifting belt, but they are here to help you increase your body’s own ability to produce more lifting power and internal strength.

Internal & External Core Muscles

There are four areas you need to focus on when building a strong core for llifting, and these are:

The Rectus Abdominus and the External Obliques & The Transversus Abdominus and Lumbar Multifidus.

Here are some of the exercise/practices you can use to improve these abdominal areas;

  • Static core exercises – Exercises such as the plank, side plank, and the planche help to create overall core strength.
  • Mobility core exercise – TRX core twists, crunches, and mountain climbers etc. Help to hit multiple angles of the core while improving overall strength.
  • Vacuuming – A classic bodybuilders exercise that is used to exercise the internal and external core muscles. AKA; the Rectus Abdominus and the External Oblique. These muscles support posture, and control deep breathing during power movements, such as heavy squats.
  • Controlled Breathing – When you control your breathing, while performing exercises, you allow your body to lift more weight. Such as breathing in during a downward squat, then holding on the upward movement, which creates more intra-abdominal pressure.

Other Uses For Weightlifting Belts

Weightlifting belts aren’t only for lifting heavy weight with your feet planted on the ground, they can also be useful when lifting your bodyweight, such as weighted dips, or weighted pull-ups.

Ideally, you’ll have a separate belt for this, but you can find weightlifting belts that double up for these uses.

Other exercise you can perform with a weightlifting belt:  

  • Weighted Dips
  • Weighted Pull-ups
  • Lift & Carry Movements such as tire flips

Conclusion

It’s a no-brainer really, if you want to increase your lifts, prevent yourself from injury and feel stronger, it pays to use a lifting belt.

However, if you’re new to lifting, and you haven’t mastered intra-abdominal pressure techniques without a belt, I’d highly suggest you practice this first.

Once you have that nailed, then, the added extra of a belt will see your PR’s skyrocket.

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