Weight Belts Are Not A Fashion Statement

When used correctly a weight belt can potentially help avoid injury however, should not be used as an excuse for neglecting to learn proper lifting mechanics. The function of the weight belt is to brace the lower back increasing intra-abdominal pressure and stabilizing the spine from the inside as shown in one study. Another study showed decreased spinal compression forces when inhaling before lifting while wearing a belt. Contrary to popular belief the belt acts primarily against the abdominals to create this stability. Given that the belt’s purpose is to protect the low back, the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends a belt for near maximal loads and exercises that stress the low back. Included in these exercises are squats, deadlifts and overhead press. Strength and conditioning expert Mark Rippetoe recommends a belt that is 4” in diameter for the entire circumference to maximize effectiveness as shown below.

Fitting the weight belt properly is essential for optimal function. The belt should be worn around the natural waist (between the ribs and pelvis). Tightness of the belt varies with preference and experience, however it should be snug enough that you can exert pressure against it with the abdominals. Weight belts are special equipment designed to assist in lifting safely, they are not an excuse to attempt lift more than you are capable of.  

References:

Baechle T.R. Earle R.W. National Strength and Conditioning Association. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning 3rd Edition. Human Kinetics 2008. 328

Kingma I, Faber GS, Suwarganda EK, Bruijnen TB, Peters RJ, van Dieën JH.Effect of a stiff

lifting belt on spine compression during lifting. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006 Oct 15;31(22):E833-9.

Miyamoto K, Iinuma N, Maeda M, Wada E, Shimizu K. Effects of abdominal belts on

intra-abdominal pressure, intra-muscular pressure in the erector spinae muscles and myoelectrical activities of trunk muscles. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 1999 Feb;14(2):79-87.

Rippetoe M. Starting Strength Basic Barbell Training 2nd Ed.

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