Should I wear a weightlifting belt in the gym?
If you’ve been wandering around a gym recently, particularly in the free weights section, you may have noticed people walking around in big leather belts. Why? You ask.
Well the idea of these belts is to increase intra-abdominal pressure when lifting heavy stuff. The theory is that this increases the stability of the spine, particularly when going heavy, for exercises such as deadlift/squat/bench etc.
So, should you be wearing one?
Well that depends on how you are training. What the belt is doing is trying to mimic the action of the Transverse Abdominis (TA). This muscle is part of your core and plays the vital role of bracing the spine during movement.
If you are going really heavy and training for your up and coming strongman competition doing one rep maxes or if you are using Olympic lifting as part of you program, then a lifting belt may help you to add that extra little bit of stability to hit a new PB by assisting the TA.
However, studies have shown that an over reliance on a lifting belt can actually reduce the TA’s efficiency and essentially make it lazy. Therefore, why not try adding some specific core bracing exercises to your routine pre and post workout to help supplement and activate you core stability when lifting. Once you then get to the top end of your limit the belt can be brought in to sure things up for those final few lifts. There will be a certain level of personal preference as to whether you wear a belt or not. Some people will find that it just offers that bit of reassurance to push themselves and help them hold correct form.
If you are struggling to hit that PB it may not be the belt that you need but guidance on how to improve your mobility and stability through training. If you are lacking mobility in the lumbar or thoracic spine or hips it may be that you need to address this first to enable you to engage your core effectively. That’s is how a Chiropractic plan of management generally works. Initially we work on restoring pain free range of motion and mechanics. This is followed by a tailored rehabilitation/exercise plan to restore stability. Finally, we work on maintaining and cementing that progress by clearing out any restrictions that crop up as a result of your training.
So, don’t ditch the lifting belt straight away, but try adding variation to your training and work on the underlying function of your spine before turning to kit.
Dr Aaron Plant