A weight belt is an essential piece of weight lifting equipment that every serious lifter should own. Here’s how and why they should be used.
It’s pretty easy to spot people who know how to use a weight belt, and those that don’t. The people who know, use them just for the exercises they are designed for. Those that don’t, never take them off. We’ve even seen a couple of people trying to do crunches wearing weight lifting belts! (Please don’t do that!). This might be an extreme example, but it just goes to show the lack of knowledge out there. Let’s solve that problem right here.
This short article will help explain why, where and how a weight belt should be used. We also include information about the best weight lifting belts and where to buy them at the end. If you are wondering whether or not a weight belt is for you, please read on!
What Are Weight Belts For?
Many people think that you should wear a weight belt if you have injured your back. They also think that they can help prevent further injury. while there is an element of truth to this, there is much more to the story. In fact, you should wear a weight belt in order to prevent injury in the first place.
The purpose of a weight belt is to help you lift more. It does this in several ways. One, is to provide support, thus preventing injury and developing strength. The other though, is to do with breathing.
Breathing and Weight Belts
Using a weight belt is very much linked with breathing. So, when you wear a belt, it should be tight, but you should still be able to take a full breath. There is also a technique to breathing that will help you lift more, and the belt helps support this.
Let’s start by talking about how most people breath during exercise. They inhale on the negative part, and then exhale as they are exerting. This is fine for some exercises, and especially those that require rapid repetitions. It is not best for producing a large amount of force though. In this case, you are better holding your breath as you exert with maximum force. An example of this might be if you were to push a heavy object such as a couch. You would hold your breath as you pushed, exhaling only after the movement had been completed.
The technique is known as the Valsalva Maneuver, and all powerlifters use this. By holding their breath against a closed glottis, there is an increase in thoracic abdominal pressure which has the effect of stabilizing the spine. It is this that allows people to lift more weight.
The weight belt aids this process, by providing a solid wall for the abs to press against. With a more rigid torso, the spine is stabilized, and the hips and legs are used more. So, while the belt does help your back, it does so in a way which most people do not realize. It actually helps it by giving the stomach something to press against with a full breath at the point of maximum exertion.
Information On Weight Belts
A weight belt should be around 10 cm wide all the way around, although some people prefer tapered belts when switching between squats and deadlifting. Serious lifters that know what they are doing will have a weight belt specific to squats, and another for deadlifting.
The best material for a weight lifting belt to be made from is leather. This is firm, and long lasting. A good belt will last literally decades, and although it might cost a little more initially, is worth it in the long run.
The way a belt fastens is not so important to its performance as to how more or less irritating it is to adjust when using it! We would suggest a single-pronged buckle is better than a double pronged one, and to avoid a lever system if at all possible.
When To Wear A Lifting Belt
So, we come full circle on where to wear a belt! You really only need it for exercises in which you will hold your breath on the full exertion of an exercise. Typically, this would be squats and deadlifts. You don’t need to wear it at any other time, as it will be more of a hindrance than a benefit.
The Best Weight Belts
If you are interested in finding out more about which weight belt might be most suitable for you, we have put together a useful review of the best weight belts on the market today. Each one has been selected in regards to quality and value for money. If you are serious about lifting and want to know more, please check out our weightlifting belt guide here.