Hey there! I’m Brett McNeil, the fitness consultant for FitMinutes. Throughout the month, I’ll be answering questions from our readers. This week, we’re talking lifting belts. Do you really need to wear one? I get into the meat of it below.
Q: Should I use a lifting belt?
A: With lifting belts becoming more and more popular, this is becoming a pretty misinformed topic around local gyms. Yes, they can be extremely beneficial, however, there are tons of people out there who still don’t truly know when and how to effectively use them.
In my personal opinion, people rely on belts more than they should. The first and most important thing to know is your form trumps all, and a belt isn’t going to save you from bad form. Spend time practicing and perfecting your form with lighter weights before you decide to throw that belt on and expect it to fix your bad form with heavier loads. It’s also very important to learn how to brace by using proper breathing techniques and creating what is called intra-abdominal pressure, which in simple terms means your body’s ability to provide cushion and stability to your spine. These are skills that should be practiced and developed before adding a belt into the picture, especially if you’re just getting into lifting weights.
Q: What if this isn’t my first rodeo with lifting weights?
A: If you’re an experienced lifter and you’re wearing a lifting belt for performance, yes, it will more often than not increase your performance. In fact, lifting belts are extremely beneficial for athletes who train and compete in sports that require them to move as much weight as they can, such as Powerlifting or Olympic Weightlifting. It isn’t as easy as slapping the belt on and hoping it’s going to do the rest of the work for you though. Using a belt is just as much a skill as proper breathing and bracing without a belt. When wearing a belt, we are still looking to create that intra-abdominal pressure, it’s just going to be amplified when wearing a belt.
Q: When should I wear a lifting belt? Or, more importantly, when should I not?
A: With most people, I wouldn’t recommend wearing a belt under 85% ish of a 1RM because well, there really isn’t a need to. You don’t want to be that guy or gal that has a belt on from the moment you start your workout to the moment you’re hopping in the shower post workout. It’s key to know what exercises you need to belt for and which ones you don’t. Heavy squats and deadlifts at near maximal weights are a good time to use a belt. Yelling in front of the mirror while doing bicep curls with a lifting belt so tight your face turns a delightful cherry red is a definite don’t.
Q: So what you’re saying is…
A: If you’re an experienced lifter, or someone competing in a sport where moving a lot of weight is the main goal, a belt is going to be extremely beneficial. BUT training under 80-85% should still be done beltless. If you’re new to the iron game and looking to add a belt to your toolbox, give yourself time to develop some sound core strength, the understanding of how intra-abdominal pressure feels and how to properly breathe and brace while under load. This will absolutely play to your advantage in the long run, as a strong core correlates to basically everything you will ever do, whether in the gym or in life.
Have a health or fitness related question for me? Or just want to say hey? Reach out in the comments below! Want more advice and thoughts on the right equipment? Check out our posts on gear.