This is among the most common circulating questions in the fitness world: “Should I wear a weightlifting belt?” Depending on your goals, you may get a straight-up yes or no.
Let us take this for an example: powerlifters are often obsessively seen using specialized weightlifting belts, as opposed to Crossfitters who tend to stay away from the belt. Some bodybuilders may be seen wearing one, mainly for aesthetic purposes, safety, and performance enhancement reasons, while others simply ignore the use of a belt. And Olympic lifters on one hand generally do not care. That said, it can be difficult to give an “accurate” answer to the question of whether or not one should wear a weightlifting belt.
The Pros and Cons
- Wearing a high-quality weightlifting belt may aid in lifting heavier weights
- Wearing a high-quality weightlifting belt prevents lower back injury
- Constantly relying on a weightlifting belt, in terms of strength, may not be good in strengthening your lower back
- Some weightlifting belts may restrict certain movements and inhibit the abdominal muscles from learning motor movements
A more in-depth look at the pros and cons
There has been a couple of studies related to the benefits acquired from wearing weightlifting belts when training. One of it has specifically concluded that the intra-muscular pressure of the erector spinae muscles is increased significantly by wearing a belt, especially during maximum isometric lifting. In simpler words, a weightlifting belt increases the pressure in your abdomen, creating a much stable area that is generally a lot safer for the spine and adds up to your ability to lift heavier. The other study, meanwhile, has concluded that wearing a stiff weightlifting belt while inhaling before lifting reduces the overall load on the spine. This is caused by the moment that is generated by the belt, rather than the intra-abdominal pressure. This alone is another reason why wearing a weightlifting belt is beneficial.
As far as for the cons of wearing a belt, one major issue that has been associated with this is the inhibition of proper motor learning that involves the abdominal muscles. Typically, many of the best exercises require an accurate and perfect pattern of recruitment of the abdominals, obliques and transverse abs included. For beginners, wearing a belt may not be beneficial for this matter. Why? Weightlifting belts limit their ability to learn how to properly brace their core (abdominals), especially during heavy lifts. In simpler words, the weightlifting belt simply takes over and gets all the job done. Easy peasy.
The takeaway: Should you wear a weightlifting belt?
The simple answer: yes and no.
Whether or not you wear a weightlifting belt is totally dependent on you. If you think that you need the assistance to boost your performance and lift significantly heavier weights, then by all means, yes, go ahead and wear a belt. On the other hand, if you feel like a weightlifting belt is doing a bit too much for your performance and you want to practice better techniques without it, then do not wear one. As stated earlier, the preference for wearing a weightlifting belt is all dependent on you and your own choices. After all, it is your body, and no one else will be precisely aware if it does or does not need the aid of a weightlifting belt.