All About Weight Belts

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Question: I have tried wearing a belt when I train legs but all I get is pinched by it. When should I wear a belt? What exactly does it do? If it helps, how do I wear one so that it does not hurt?
Answer: With proper use a belt is one of the essential tools available to assist you in reaching new goals in the gym while reducing the risk of injury in the process. The current opinion expressed by fitness experts is that belts are used too much and prevent core strengthening by stabilizing your back and abs instead of your body doing the work. If you are using a belt with light weights or exercises that don’t require lower back or abdominal support then this could be true.
Belts are used to support the lower back and the abdominal wall during exercises like squats, standing shoulder presses, deadlifts and power cleans. They would even be fine for heavy barbell curls or heavy leg presses because your lower back is open to risk of injury. When using lower weights during warm-ups sets it is not necessary to use a belt but you may want to wear it loosely to get the belt warm and hold more body heat around your midsection. Also consider that the weight used for warm-up and step up sets will change as your max increases. So, you will get used to ever increasing weights during your warm-up phase which you do without a belt. As you increase the weight and decrease the reps to the 3 to 6 reps range you need to begin to cinch up the belt a little tighter. During your heaviest 2 or 3 sets, the belt should be tightly cinched across your upper pelvic bones and around your lower back. To help prevent your belt from pinching you, wear two shirts tucking in one of them. This prevents the belt from pinching you by being against your skin. This approach works well for all the exercises you do which need a belt. Keeping your belt loose during warm-up and step up sets to reach your training weight will continually increase the amount of weight you do without a belt and strengthen your core. For your heaviest sets tighten your belt until it no longer moves without moving your skin in the process. A belt supports your abdominal wall and your lower lumbar areas while under a heavy load. There are a couple of types of belts on the market. The old school standard is the 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick leather type with a 4 inch back and 2 inch tongue. The 4 inch wide power belts are usually the ones that pinch the most but they are necessary for the extreme weights used by powerlifters. The wider type which is 6 inches across the back is not as effective for support because it tends to support the top of the belted area while the belt doesn’t conform to the contours of the back. The soft type with Velcro is fine for most recreational lifting and tend to be more conturing and comfortable.
Belts, when used properly, assist you in reaching new levels of training while protecting your lower back and abdominal wall. A good leather belt will last you years when properly conditioned.
God bless and keep training,
Daryl

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