A weight belt is one of the most popular accessories used in the gym. You can easily see powerlifters, bodybuilders, and olympic weightlifters using this accessory to get extra support while working with heavier loads. However, the big question is whether the weightlifting belt provides support or weakens your core.
A weightlifting belt has a major role to play. This workout accessory promotes spinal stability and supports your core musculature. However, if you over-rely on a gym belt and use it unreasonably, it can also weaken your core.
So, does a weightlifting belt weaken your core?
The answer depends on how and when you use it. In this article, we will talk about the best ways to use a belt, when to use it, and how to get the maximum out of using this accessory.
We will also talk about the benefits of bracing it properly and why you shouldn’t wear it all the time. Keep reading to stay informed.
Does Weight Lifting Belt Weaken Your Core?
No, a lifting belt will not weaken your core. Instead, it increases the EMG activity (amount of muscle contraction) of all 12 trunk muscles due to increased intra-abdominal pressure. Notably, stronger muscle contraction means higher number of activated muscles. In other words, a belt increases the muscle contraction in the core, making your core muscles stronger.
To attain optimum benefits from a weightlifting belt, you should know how to brace it properly. By bracing we mean managing your breathing in such a way that you press your core against the belt to increase abdominal pressure and stability. This mechanism is called Valsalva maneuver.
Valsalva manueuver is a mechanism where you hold your breath until you reach rock bottom. Furthermore, you attempt to forcefully exhale with a close glottis, so that you don’t actually expel any breath. Without performing Valsalva manueuver, the belt will not be able to provide optimum benefits.
Lifting belts help increase intra-abdominal pressure, which supports your spine and promotes core stability. Belts help make weightlifting easier and achievable, especially when shifting to heavier loads.
However, wearing a belt is unnecessary if you are not lifting heavier loads and don’t know the right way to brace your core. In fact, over-reliance on a weightlifting belt can also weaken your core musculature.
If your exercise isn’t stressing your back or core, you should avoid wearing a belt. Think of the weightlifting belt as a crutch; if you use it too much, your muscles will stop responding as they rely on the belt unreasonably.
So, you should avoid a belt if your exercise doesn’t stress your lower back. Furthermore, make sure you save this accessory for the max sets that involve heavier loads.
Do Lifting Belts Help with Abs?
Yes, lifting belts help with the abs, which further helps stabilize the spine. Contrary to popular belief, a weightlifting belt doesn’t directly support your spine but provides support to your abs.
Consequently, when your abs get the desired support, they stabilize your back and help you maintain proper posture. Belts help you brace your ab muscles, which get harder and feel tougher while you lift heavy loads.
Do Belts Decrease Core Activity?
No, weightlifting belts does not hinder the core activity, provided you use them while squatting or deadlifting several hundred pounds.
Research has revealed that wearing a belt while squatting or deadlifting has little or no effect on the erector spinae muscles. Infact, weight belt increase the use of these muscles by around 25 percent. Studies on weightlifting have shown that the belt can add between 9% to 57% to the trunk stiffness, depending on the IAP level and the direction of exertion. As a result, belts show a solid increase in the activity of the rectus abdominis.
But when you overuse a lifting belt, the muscles that normally stabilize the abdomen get hampered. As a result, the abdominal muscles in your body get weaker with time, hindering your performance in the long run.
The same study mentioned above shows that wearing a belt and bracing it properly will lead to increased IAP, which enhances lumbar spine stability. So, a weightlifting belt won’t decrease your core activity unless you do not use it unreasonably.
How Does A Lifting Belt Strengthen Your Core?
A weightlifting belt strengthens your core by keeping it rigid while you lift heavy weights. More than that, wearing a weight belt increases the EMG activity of all 12 trunk muscles due to increased intra-abdominal pressure.
When you wear a belt while weightlifting, it controls the amount of bending and flexing of your spine in all directions. As a result, when you lift, the belt makes your legs do more work than your back, stabilizing your trunk.
Belts protect your spine and help you stay in the correct form to pick more weight than usual. In addition, gym belt give your abdomen something to push against while you lift heavy loads, also known as ‘bracing.’ Actually, bracing happens when you take a deep breath before lifting weight, creating intra-abdominal pressure that helps keep your core rigid while you press against the surrounding musculature.
Studies have revealed that wearing a belt appropriately can increase intra-abdominal pressure by 20%, which consequently stabilizes your back and core, protecting you against potential injuries. In addition, powerlifters have also claimed that when they wear a belt, they lift 5-10% more weight than usual, which becomes possible because of the additional support they get through the belt.
Weightlifting belts are great for getting the required support while working out with heavy loads. However, to get maximum benefits, you should use this accessory properly and avoid over-reliance on them.
In addition, the belt’s fit is equally important to get optimum benefits. Your belt shouldn’t be too tight or too loose, and it should fit properly to let you comfortably press your core against the belt to increase intra-abdominal pressure and stability.
Most importantly, use the belt only with heavier loads.