Are Weight Lifting Belts Useless?

Ever met that guy who wears a weightlifting belt the whole time he’s in the gym?

are weight lifting belts uselessToday I’ll discuss the various weight lifting belt benefits – and their huge drawbacks.

Earlier this week, website subscriber Ben emailed in:

“Hey Russ,

Whenever I go to the gym, I see guys wearing weight belts. What are the benefits of wearing a lifting belt, and would wearing one help me to maximize my results?”

The correct answer is yes and no.

Allow me to explain.

weight lifting belt benefits

Overall Weight Lifting Belt Benefits

There are definite benefits to using a weightlifting belt, most notably on heavy lifts, such as when you are attempting a sub-5 rep set on the deadlift, for example.

A 1999 study published in the Clinical Biomechanics Journal confirms that wearing a belt during heavy lifts increases the intra-muscular pressure in the abdomen, making the region more stable and capable of taking the pressure of a heavy weight.

By using the belt, the subjects in this study were able to make their abdomen and lower back so secure and safe, that it could actually enhance their lift. (1)

A 2006 study from Dutch researchers at VU University also discovered that using a belt also reduced compression of the spine during heavy lifting. (2)

Both of these factors point to one thing:

On your biggest, heaviest lifts (such as shooting for a new max on barbell squat or deadlift) a weight lifting belt definitely has its benefits.

So if you are about to attempt to move a weight which genuinely makes you worry about your innards splattering all over the floor, then a belt certainly becomes an asset.

But here’s the thing.

weight lifting belt benefits

Man Up

I see far too many people in gyms reaching for weights belts when they do not need them.

Not only are they unnecessary, but they can even wind up inhibiting the person from reaching their true potential.

That’s right.

And there’s at least one guy succumbing to this mistake in every gym.

He turns up at the gym already wearing his belt.

He doesn’t do any big compound lifts, yet he continues to wear it, every session, without fail.

I realize it makes guys feel manly to strut around the gym wearing a belt.

I know this because I actually did it when I started lifting. I felt huge.

Because if there’s anything that can make you feel like the WWE champion as you walk around your gym, it’s a weight belt.

I was training my ego at the same time as my muscles.

And they say guys can’t multi-fucking-task.

weight lifting belt benefits

However, the vast majority of guys wearing belts at the gym – and I include my early lifting self in this – do not need them.

I put it in the same category as girls who wear big nerd glasses despite not reading a book since they were 8, or wearing sparkly AC/DC t-shirts with no idea that they are a band and not a clothing line. It’s all for show, you know?

Much like wearing a dipping belt makes us guys feel like we have a huge dick.

Of course, one of my slogans is Ego Is The Enemy Of Success – and it couldn’t be truer here.

Because over time this habit will bite you right in the ass. Indeed, if you were to constantly rely on a belt you would actually be making your core weaker.

Just like any other training style or piece of equipment, with continued long-term use comes adaptation. And with that, any weight lifting belt benefits are cancelled out, and a tool which was designed to aid your core becomes its worst enemy.

Newbies Should Not Wear Belts

While the negatives listed above will hurt seasoned lifters, the drawbacks for gym newbies are even greater.

In fact, I always advise my clients to stay away from weight lifting belts until they have at least one year of solid training “under their belts”, so to speak.

You see, if you are relatively new to lifting weights, the over-use of a training belt can over-ride the need to learn how to properly stabilize your abs and lower back during compound lifts.

The belt simply takes over.

And if you ever want to truly maximize your potential on exercises like the deadlift, then learning how to stabilize your core is a learning curve which needs to be taken.

So, while it’s nice to feel like Hulk Hogan as you stomp around your local gym, it’s not nice when Hulkamania decides to “run wild” all over your lower back further down the line because you wrapped it up in cotton wool while you hit the rest of your body hard.

Brother.

weight-lifting-belt-benefits

What I Like To Do

I use belts only when necessary.

It’s rare I’ll use anything unless I’m shooting for a weight I know I’m going to struggle with, or during the latter stages of a high rep workout when core failure begins to diminish form.

The extra stability can definitely help in those situations.

And to be honest, some of the benefit here is psychological – the “safety” aspect in particular is useful when lining up against a formidable opponent on the bar – and if it helps you to nail your big lift, who cares, right?

But no, that guy does not need to wear a weights belt to do motherfucking wrist curls.

If you enjoyed this article on weight lifting belt benefits and drawbacks, share it and grab all my free workout plans right here. Boom!

References:

1. Miyamoto, K., et al. “Effects of abdominal belts on intra-abdominal pressure, intra-muscular pressure in the erector spinae muscles and myoelectrical activities of trunk muscles.” Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 1999 Feb;14(2):79-87.
2. Kingma, I., et al. “Effect of a stiff lifting belt on spine compression during lifting.” Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006 Oct 15;31(22):E833-9.

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