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Should I Wear A Weightlifting Belt? Are You Using It Wrong?

Learn The DOs and DON’Ts of Using a Weightlifting belt!

Posted by Scott_Herman - February 17th, 2015

Nothing makes me cringe more than when I see someone go after a heavy deadlift or squat and their belt is just flying in the wind moving up and down their core throughout the entire lift.


If you’re going to use one, you need to first learn how.



A weightlifting belt should only be used during heavy lifts to prevent spinal flexion. With that being said, for those of you who wear your belt throughout your entire workout you need to stop. Especially when performing abdominal exercises which REQUIRE spinal flexion to be performed properly.


Many of us were taught as beginners that we should exhale when force is applied to a movement and inhale during the eccentric part. Now this still does hold some truth, especially when endurance training, but as you become a more experienced lifter and you begin to lift more weight you will need a better approach to stabilize your core to prevent spinal flexion and maximize your strength.


This is where the “internal belt” and “weightlifting belt” comes in.


Your internal belt is activated when you hold your breath against a closed glottis while increasing you thoracic abdominal pressure. This will brace your core (abs and back muscles) to make it one solid piece and allow you to lift more weight. To put this in easy to understand terms, you’re basically taking in a deep breath and flexing your abs as hard as you can during a heavy lift to increase pressure in your thoracic cavity (core).


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It will take some practice to figure out the right amount of breath to take in. Too much could cause you to get dizzy and pass out where too little will not brace your core at all. If you’ve never tried to activate your internal belt, I suggest you practice with light weight first on various lifts such as deadlifts, the barbell bench press and the barbell squat.


Once you’ve got a handle on activating your internal belt, now is the time to put on your weightlifting belt for added support. When putting on your belt you will need to draw in your core (suck in your gut) and then tighten the belt. You don’t want to put the belt too tight or too loose. If the belt is too loose it will do nothing and if the belt is too tight you will not be able to properly activate your internal belt as described above.


A simple method to figure out the best way to wear your belt would be to activate your internal belt and then tighten the weightlifting belt just enough to slightly restrict your now braced abdominals. However, I would recommend that you still practice using the belt with light weight before going after your 1 rep max.


Once properly worn the added benefit of a weightlifting belt is that as your back muscles apply force to position and support your spine the weightlifting belt will function to add support by increasing your abdominal pressure in the front. It should feel like you are trying to rip the belt in half by flexing your internal belt.


With the extra support from the belt you will have a more rigid torso which will allow you put more effort into pushing through your hips during deadlifts and squats. The new added strength to your torso will also give you a more stable foundation for overhead lifts as well.


Now that you know how to properly wear and activate a weightlifting belt I would like to make it clear that it should not be used all the time. You do not want to become dependent on the belt. I would recommend only using it when lifting weight close to or when performing your 1 rep max on your compound lifts.


Lastly, whether using just your internal belt or when wearing a weightlifting belt you always first take in a deep breath, perform the movement (push or pull) while holding your breath and only exhale after completing the movement.


Now go hit some new PRs Nation! #HTH #SHFAthlete #ProjectGains



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MEMBER COMMENTS

gmdgeek

What I find amusing is how many guys and gals I meet at the gym that DON'T flex their core (internal belt) during a heavy lift with their belt on.  The belt to me is a tool to assist keeping the core tight and help prevent injury.  One guy asked me how the hell I knew he wasn't flexing (I was spotting him) and I said its easy, your gut hangs out over your belt.  If you are flexed, focused and composed that doesn't happen, at least not on the level I was witnessing.  I then loaded up 225 for Squats (normally I only wear the belt when going over 325 but wanted to demonstrate) and showed him what I was talking about.  He made the change and discovered he had to lower the weight a little.  Practice form and the weight will go back up easy enough.  Great article! 

Scott_Herman

yeah, another easy way to tell if someone is not using it right is if they are NEVER loosening or tightening it.  99% of the dudes in my gym just leave it on and never adjust so I know it isnt tight enough.  Glad you liked the article!

Adawg38

This is very interesting. I am totally using my internal belt but have yet to ever try an external. Maybe I am not to that point yet but it's definatly something I want in my gym bag sometime in the future. Nice article!

Scott_Herman

How have things gone since you wrote this comment man?

Adawg38

Ha ha I have yet to get a belt! I am squating and deadlifting quite a bit heavier now so it's on the list next time I make it toDicks(no pun intended). Repping out 345lbs for Deads and I feel I need to start wearing one.

Brolle81

Good read. I only use belts and straps when going really heavy for squats its when I go above 130kg or more and for deadlift when hitting 120kg or more. I also use straps on heavy deadlifts in order to let back do more work then my grip. And when doing 140kg + on squats i usually put on my knee straps for a bit of extra support not super tight but atleast hard enough to keep things safe. I know there I´d might aswell use "kneewarmers" but I don´t have any atm and I got the straps for a nice price.

Scott_Herman

its good to use wrist wraps for shrugs too.  no need to focus on grip strength to hit traps!

Scott_Herman

I have been using my belt a lot more recently with my increased workout volume.. but I only toss it on when squatting over 300lbs and deadlifting over 405lbs.

This has helped me make more gains in terms of strength because I don't have to wait for my lower back to heal when doing my heavy rack pulls and lifts close to my 1 RM.

As I get stronger overall I plan to also increase the limit of when I start to use my belt.  For example, I would like to get strong enough to do working sets with 505lbs on my deadlifts with no belt.  Will take time, but I will get there! #HTH

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