What is a Weightlifting Belt?
A weightlifting belt is an adjustable belt worn around the waist to help support the lower back and core. It is typically made of nylon or leather with a Velcro strap or traditional belt buckle. Belts are commonly used during weightlifting movements such as cleans, squats, and deadlifts and have been proven by research to improve trunk stability. If you’re considering purchasing a weightlifting belt or already own one but aren’t sure what to do with it, you’ve come to the right place! In this blog, we will discuss how and when to use weightlifting belts as well as several brands we love. Let’s buckle up and begin!
How to Brace Without a Weightlifting Belt
While weightlifting belts are an excellent tool to increase trunk stability, they should not be used without also bracing naturally. There are two components to bracing without a weightlifting belt. First, squeeze the muscles in your back and core to lock the spine in place. Second, take a big breath in to fill your belly with air, pressurizing it like an unopened soda can. This should result in your stomach expanding in a 360-degree direction, rather than your chest just rising. When done properly, these two tasks make it hard for our backs to round forwards or extend backwards. This is a good thing, as you want to maintain the spine’s normal curvature throughout most lifts.
How to Use a Weightlifting Belt
Once you can brace independently via muscle activation and breathing techniques, you can then begin to use a weightlifting belt. Place the belt around your waist so that the bottom of it sits just over or above your belly button. Fasten it tightly, but not as tight as possible. It should be snug but still allow you to breathe with good expansion of the stomach (as discussed above). Before you begin your lift, remember to complete the two components of natural bracing. Squeeze the back and core muscles and take a big breath into the belly, expanding the stomach into the belt on all sides. Maintain this pressure and positioning and perform your lift.
When Should You Use a Weightlifting Belt?
Guidelines for Workouts
If we only rely on a weightlifting belt to create trunk stability, instead of using it in addition to proper breathing and bracing techniques, we place ourselves at risk for injury. Therefore, it’s important that we first build strength in our trunk and learn to control our breathing without the belt. Use it only for added support when you are lifting weights close to your 1 rep max or competing. In most other scenarios (like day-to-day workouts that require less than 85% of your 1 rep max), you will benefit more from stabilizing without the belt. You will likely have to use lighter weights to do this successfully, and that’s okay! It will create a more solid foundation and improve your strength significantly. Then, when testing this new strength while 1 rep maxing or competing, bust out that belt for an extra boost!
Guidelines When Injured
Weightlifting belts are NOT recommended for the purpose of reducing low back pain or managing current injuries. Wearing a belt to “push through the pain” or to continue to lift heavy while hurt will likely exacerbate the underlying problem. Instead, consult a healthcare professional to find the source of the issue and treat it with appropriate rehabilitation. Once treated and able to return to lifting safely, you can resume using the belt as directed above if desired.
Recommended Weightlifting Belts
*We receive no benefits from promoting these brands. We just enjoy sharing good products!
Nylon belts tend to offer more flexibility than leather belts, making them both easier to breathe into and take on/off. Element 26’s Self-Locking Weightlifting Belt is an excellent option that comes in a variety of sizes and colors. This belt has a lifetime warranty and Element 26 offers sales frequently, making it a more affordable choice without compromising on quality.
Leather belts are generally more rigid than nylon belts and therefore may provide more stability. Dark Iron Fitness’ Weightlifting Belt is a great, budget-friendly option that comes in either black or white and sizes XS-XL. Dark Iron does not recommend not using it to lift more than 600 pounds though, therefore athletes looking to go heavier may instead be interested in the WBCM Weightlifting Belt. Designed by World and European Olympic Weightlifting champion Oleksiy Torokhtiy, this belt is pricier but built to support you without limitations.
Key Takeaways About Weightlifting Belts
Weightlifting belts can be an excellent addition to your CrossFit gear collection when used properly. The extra support they provide can be the difference between hitting and missing a new personal record. However, lifting close to or at these records is the only time that most athletes should be using these belts. There is no substitute for your body’s ability to stabilize itself with appropriate muscle activation and breathing techniques. Developing control over our spine independent of a belt should always be the priority. Come check out correct use of weightlifting belts in person at CrossFit LPF today!