A weightlifting belt is a magical accessory that provides spinal support during heavy lifting. Olympic weightlifters and powerlifters rely on this tool to enhance performance and fetch long-term benefits.
A belt increases the core activity and reduces the load on the spine, protecting it from stress and injuries. However, there are certain drawbacks associated with its use, too. If you are a beginner, you should consider training without a belt, as this will help you strengthen your core. But, if you have progressed in weightlifting and want to multiply the loads you lift, a belt can be your savior.
Working out with a lifting belt requires a calculated approach. It supports your lower back and prevents back injury, but some people complain of back pain when they use a belt.
So, now the big question is whether a weightlifting belt weakens your back.
This article will discuss the effect of a weightlifting belt on your back. Here, we will talk about whether a belt increases the spinal pressure and how does it protects the back. Stay intact to stay informed.
Does Weightlifting Belt Weaken Your Back?
No, a weight belt does not weaken your back, provided that you don’t wear it too tight and use it only with lifts that are 80-90% of your one rep max.
Experts suggest you wear a belt only when you work out with heavier loads. The belt warms the tissues, supports your spine, and decreases the risk of injury. In addition, a weight belt increases intra-abdominal pressure, strengthening your core and enhancing your weightlifting capacity. However, you should avoid wearing this accessory all the time.
There’s a muscle in our body called the transverse abdominis (TVA). TVA acts as the natural weight belt, which is considered the supporting and stabilizing gear for our spine. Over-reliance on a weight belt from the beginning of your weightlifting journey can decrease the recruitment of the core muscle and weaken your lower back.
Therefore, for optimum benefits, you should wear a belt only when lifting heavy weights over 80-90% of your one rep max.
Does Lifting Belt Increase Spinal Pressure?
No, a lifting belt does not increase spinal pressure. Instead, it enhances intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) and reduces spinal compression forces.
In a study, nine experienced weightlifters were made to lift barbells upto 75% of their body weight in three conditions. These included;
- Lifting weight while inhaling and wearing a belt
- Lifting weight while inhaling and not wearing a belt
- Lifting weight while exhaling and wearing a belt.
The result showed a 10% reduction in the spinal compression forces, which happened when the weightlifter wore a belt and inhaled before lifting.
Notably, wearing an optimum tight belt and inhaling before lifting reduces spine loading.
How Does a Weight Belt Protect Your Back?
Lifting belts protect your back by increasing intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) and reducing stress on the spine. The IAP is the pressure within your abdomen cavity that pushes on the spine to support it internally.
Furthermore, this increased IAP makes the core muscles (like obliques and abs) more rigid, stabilizing your spine and reducing the stress it encounters with heavy loads.
Various studies are conducted to evaluate the effect of a belt on the amount of intra-abdominal pressure. One such study evaluated the effect of lifting belts on muscle activation, lifting performance, intra-abdominal pressure, and intramuscular pressure of the erector spinae muscles.
The researchers measured these factors simultaneously during the Valsalva maneuver and found out that the intramuscular pressure of the erector spinae increased significantly by wearing a belt.
Valsalva maneuver is a technique where you breathe in, hold your breath and tense your abs to make your core rigid, and it is the best way to brace a weightlifting belt.
So, a weight belt gives your stomach something to push against, increasing the pressure to stabilize your core and maintain your position. This relieves stress on your spine and protects your back.
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Weight belts increase intra-abdominal pressure, strengthening the core and supporting the spine. Most lower back injuries happen with flexion and rotation of the lumbar spine.
When you bend forward, your lower back gets compressed, damaging the area and leading to back pain. A weight belt, on the other hand, helps you maintain the right posture and prevent unnecessary stress on the spine.
For best results, position your belt an inch or two above your pelvis, allowing it to cover the maximum part of your abdominal and spinal erector.