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Weightlifting Belts: Good or Bad Idea?

by Meaghan posted January 25, 2016

As our Advanced Concepts students are simultaneously learning about heavy lifting and the importance of core stability as pertains to both preventing and improving spine injuries, the always controversial topic of the use of weightlifting belts was bound to arise.

weight belt

Why the controversy?

Well, for starters, weightlifting belts are widely misused by the general population. As one of our students pointed out, some guys use them for every exercise, regardless of the need for additional spinal support.

curling with belt

And that’s just silly.

Others view them as band-aids, thinking that their use provides false support to the spine, reinforces core weakness and teaches the body to lift more than it’s actually capable of, thereby increasing injury risk over the long-term. While this may be true when they’re used for every exercise and/or when adequate core stability is not present or trained, when weightlifting belts are used properly (meaning on an as-needed basis under challenging loads), they can actually help facilitate core stability – even over time.

How can that be? Well, think about it: When you do an exercise that requires force transmission through the core and where spinal stability is crucial to injury prevention (e.g., a squat), using a load that requires a lot of core stability to simply complete the lift, the presence of a belt around your waist can actually serve as a tactile reminder to brace the core and push out against the belt, thereby training your abdominals and enhancing your natural core stability over time. Sure, the belt adds support and helps protect the spine as well, but it also allows you to strengthen your natural buttress in the meantime, which should help improve your performance and prevent injury in other exercises as well – without the belt!

Filed under: core training, exercise Q&A, strength training, workout tips

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