Today I want to talk about weightlifting belts, why you use them and what the purpose is. You see a lot of people in the gym using belts. Both novice and advanced lifters, weightlifters and bodybuilders. Most of them aren’t even benefitting from a belt.
Why Do You Wear A Weightlifting Belt?
Short answer? Easy. To lift more weight. And I really mean that. A weightlifting belt should add a minimum of 40 to 50 pounds (20kg) to your squat.
How It Works
It let’s you press your abdominal muscles and core against the belt causing an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. This will create a couple effects:
The first effect is artificial stability. It let’s you keep your core more stable. All your abdominal and core muscles have something to press against and so they don’t have to exert as much force because the belt helps them engage more so it keeps your torso more upright. This will help you handle a heavier load or if you’re doing a workset you’ll be able to do more repetitions with the same weight before you start having forward-lean issues.
Btw, you don’t have to wear a weightlifting belt for safety at all. They will not protect your lower back if your technique is bad.
The second effect is neural efficiency. By letting those muscles tighten against the belt and raising the intra-abdominal pressure, it creates what we call a ”splash-over effect”. When a muscle contracts hard, it increasing neural efficiency of other muscles nearby. It splashes over as a wave-like effect, hence the name ”Splash-over effect”.
Just like with the benchpress, if you grip the bar harder, you can press more weight. The same goes for any movement that requires a lot of torso involvement.
Therefore, you’re using it to create more neural efficiency so that you can recruit muscle fibers at a higher rate.
It creates artificial strength in the same way as a preworkout supplement with stimulants.
Now, the downside of the weightlifting belt is that it doesn’t allow your core to get as strong. You’ll find that you can build up your strength over time with a belt but as soon as you pull off the belt you find out that you don’t have a strong enough core to lift the weight that you were lifting with the belt.
So for the people that want to build true athletic performance and strength, you’re going to have to spend alot of time training without the belt.
There are a lot of top level powerlifters, world record holders, who spend probably 6 months or more out of the year training without a belt. Guys like Dan Green and Jamie Lewis. A lot of these people train beltless for this reason and that they will only train with a belt to help them prepare for a powerlifting meeting.
The Fitness Models and Bodybuilders
Who would want to use a belt all the time?
Very serious competitive bodybuilders, fitness models and people who are obsessed with esthetics. And the reason is that if you wear a belt for all your heavy squats and deadlifts, your core isn’t going to be as thick. It might help you keep an inch of extra muscle developing on your core when you get really strong. Because let’s be honest, if you start doing 500 pound squats and 600 pounds deadlifts without a belt, your core will thicken up a bit. It’s not going to be 4 inches of muscle but you can add up to an inch of muscle around your waistline if you start doing that.
- If your goal is to have an 29′ or 30 inch waist for modeling or to step on stage while squating and deadlifting heavy, you might want to use the belt.
- If you want to be a true strength athlete or an athlete that needs strength in their sport, including core strength and stability, you want to spend most of your time training without a belt. Because remember, it’s there to give you artificial stability and strength.
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