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Weightlifting Belts: What Are They and Do You Need One?

Weightlifting Belts: What Are They and Do You Need One?

One of the most common pieces of weightlifting equipment are weightlifting belts, although it is also one of the most commonly misused pieces of equipment.

Weightlifting belts should be used judiciously and only when necessary, and they are only really necessary whenever there is a heavy load on the spine. The primary exercises where you experience this kind of load are barbell lifts like squats, deadlifts, strict presses, hip hinges and the various Olympic lifts.

Some studies confirmed that wearing a belt during weightlifting increased intra-abdominal pressure by up to 40 percent, while one study reported that compression of the intervertebral discs was reduced by 50 percent. Increasing intra-abdominal pressure is similar to inflating a balloon inside your abdominal cavity. The pressure inside the abdominal cavity pushes on the spine to support it from the inside, while the core muscles in the abdominal wall and lower back push on the spine from the outside. This inside and outside pressure acts to stabilize the spine and reduce the stress it receives when lifting heavy weights. This effect reduces the likelihood of injuries such as hernias, slipped vertebral discs and torn tendons.

Research shows that when lifting items such as boxes, wearing a lifting belt reduces the amount of spinal flexion (forward bend at the spine), spinal extension (bending back of the spine), and lateral flexion of the spine (bending side to side), but increases the amount of flexion at the hips and knees. This is a significantly more advantageous position, through the heightened recruitment of the leg muscles and is biomechanically compatible with the likes of a barbell squat/deadlift

Although many people claim the reason for wearing weightlifting belts throughout the entirety of a session is in order to keep their waist somewhat tight, although there is little scientific evidence to support this statement. In conclusion belts are exceptionally effective when used for the right purpose, they have no benefit when attempting

 

By Tireoghain O’Neill

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Kingma, I., et al. Effect of a stiff lifting belt on spine compression during lifting. Spine 31(22):E833-839. 2006.

Giorcelli, R. J., et al. The effect of wearing a back belt on spine kinematics during asymmetric lifting of large and small boxes. Spine. 26:1794-1798, 2001.

Lander, J. E., et. al. The effectiveness of weight-belts during the squat exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1990 Feb;22(1):117-26.