Weight lifting belts are one of those accessories you should not forget to bring to the gym and wear when you are to do power lifting or dead lifts. Unfortunately, the current generation of bodybuilders doesn’t realize the many benefits of wearing a weight lifting belt.
In fact, one study done back in 2003 showed that only 2 out of 10 gym members used a belt. Those numbers may have likely dwindled even further; something which speaks volume about the lack of information the younger generation of gym goers have about the importance of wearing weight lifting belts.
Reducing Stress on the Spine
Perhaps the most important benefit of wearing a weight lifting belt is that it can reduce the stress on the spine. It keeps the spine in the correct position while you lift a heavy weight.
What many people believe, though, is that the belt’s primary function is supporting the back per se. The truth is that it increases intra-abdominal pressure, which in turn, works like a brace to strengthen the spine.
When you wear a weight lifting belt, the pressure inside the abdominal cavity is enough to push on the spine from the inside. Then the core muscles found in the abdominal wall as well as the lower back push on the spine from the outside. Hence, pressure coming from the inside and outside stabilizes the spine and lessens the stress it receives when you lift weights.
Studies have shown that the use of a weight lifting belt can reduce intervertebral disc compression by up to 50 percent, while increasing intra-abdominal pressure by as much as 40 percent.
Promotes Better Body Mechanics
Wearing a weight lifting belt can also promote better body mechanics, forcing your body to use more of your legs instead of the back. When you wear a lifting belt the amount of spinal flexion, spinal extension, and lateral flexion of the spine are all significantly reduced. Spinal flexion pertains to the forward bend at the spine; spinal extension is the bending back of the spine; while lateral flexion refers to the bending side to side of the spine.
Simply put it, wearing a belt improves your biomechanical position. It forces your body to use more force from the legs, instead of getting power from the back. This is something you’d want to get when you perform deadlifts and squats.
There have been studies, too, that support claims of weight lifting belts improving the performance of weight lifters. This is particularly true when doing lower body exercises like the squat.
Using a power lifting style belt with a width of 4 inches can enable lifters to squat 10 pounds more than what they can do without a belt. And speed of repetitions can also increase by as much as 10 percent.
When is a Weight Lifting Belt Unnecessary
However there are times when you don’t need to wear a weight lifting belt. These instances include:
1. When you have high blood pressure. Wearing a belt is a no-no if you are suffering from health conditions like high blood pressure. Wearing a belt can only increase your blood pressure. The same goes for other conditions that can be affected by intra abdominal pressure such as hernia.
2. You perform exercises that don’t need much strength or power from the core muscles and legs. Yes, this means you don’t have to wear a belt when doing bicep curls.
3. You don’t lift with good technique. Many novice gym goers think that wearing a belt will magically give them a good form when lifting. But this isn’t the case. You should aim to lift with good form first before you even think of wearing a belt.
The bottom line is that wearing a weight lifting belt can support your spine and back while you perform exercises such as dead lifts and squats. It can also improve your performance, as your body will be using more strength coming from the legs and your core instead of the back. There are many weight lifting belts available in the market today so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be able to bring one for your next trip to the gym.