So you’ve been squatting and deadlifting for a while, your strength is increasing and you see other people using weight lifting belts at the gym. Should you use one?
Just to get it out of the way, a belt is not something you need especially as a beginning lifter.
A belt is merely going to enhance your performance when used correctly, not magically make you lift more. I didn’t start using a belt until at least 1.5-2 years into lifting heavier weights. (Fun fact: at first I HATED using a belt.)
When performing a heavy lift, such as a squat or a deadlift, it is important to “brace” your core to protect your spine and maintain its rigidness. If you can’t do this well without a belt, work on improving this before adding a belt. The belt is there to give you feedback on how well you are bracing by being there physically as something to push against.
ANALOGY: Think about a soda can in a koozie (cozy?). Your torso is the soda can and the belt is the koozie. You want to breathe in filling your torso (not your chest) as if the soda could expand to stretch the koozie.
As a rule of thumb, the more tension the better in a lift. It helps keep your spine safe, helps you create more force and potentially recruit more muscle fibers. That’s the reason why belts are helpful.
I find that I feel more confident in my form at heavy weights with a belt but when last week I forgot to put on my belt during a lift, I was still able to do it well however, I definitely didn’t feel like my core was engaged as much as is it with the belt.
Moral of the story: a belt helps give physical feedback as something to brace against to help you create more tension and lift more weight. You definitely don’t need one, but if you’ve been lifting heavy for a while it could be a good investment.
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