Should I invest in a weightlifting belt??? So you are in it – in it being the beautiful, magical and frustrating world of lifting heavy shit. It could be power lifting or oly or crossfit or machines at your local gym. You hopefully started slow but now are challenging yourselves a bit more. First – nice job! Second -be freaking smart! Work smarter, not harder. That’s where the accessories come in. People use a variety of accessories when the load gets heavier. Belts, wrist wraps, sleeves . . .a million variations of them and they are great when used wisely. Today we are going to discuss belts.
Belts certainly help to improve performance, upwards of 10-15% on your heavy lifts, however there is a time and a place for the acceptable use of a belt:
- I am in need of the additional support to gain a competitive advantage.
- I am lifting at or above 90% of my one rep maxes.
Cool! These are totally legit and awesome reasons for using a belt. These are NOT awesome reasons to use a belt.
- I am injured, and instead of fixing the issue, I want to take a class for the 18th day in a row. Who has time for mobility?
- My back gets really tight when I do (insert movement here).
- I saw some high level athletes wearing one while training the other day… If they are, I probably should too!
The reasons above all illustrate that you are not paying attention to really important elements to being a better and fitter you. Remember you need to look at your wellness and fitness from a whole approach – it is all interconnected (mobility, endurance, cardio, flexibility, sleep, nutrition . . you on my level yet?)
Belt or no belt let’s first look at how you are breathing. “Old school method is inhale on the eccentric lift (the eccentric phase of a lift occurs when a muscle contracts while lengthening. This is the down motion of the bench press, biceps curl, or squat.) and exhale on the concentric lift (The concentric phase of a lift occurs when a muscle contracts and shortens, as in the up motion of the bench press, biceps curl, or squat).
For moving large loads and increasing power output, we want to actually HOLD our breath. It is called diaphragmatic breathing (or belly breathing). Inhaling through your stomach, and hard, then flexing your stomach, increases your thoracic abdominal pressure rendering your torso much more rigid and stable. Take a huge breathe of air in, feel your stomach almost inflate, then hold it tight! You’ll feel solid. When properly wearing a weightlifting belt, once that full breath of air is in, your abdominal wall now has something else to push against.
Work on controlling breathe from day one of lifting . . .you will get used to it and your body will be prepared to hold tight (reducing chance of injury) whether it is lifting 5 lbs or 150. Once you need the belt you are already confident in your abilities to control your breathe and tension in your body.
What kind of belt?
It depends on what you are doing actually. A belt for Strongman vs a Crossfit wod will differ. For many people, the belt sits just on top of their iliac crest (the top of the hip bone). When squatting, some people angle the belt up (above the belly button), some people have it going straight across, and some people angle it down (below the belly button). For deadlifts, it’s usually either straight across or angled up—angling it down may interfere with getting into a good starting position. It is not to go around your hips
Basically, this is more a matter of comfort than anything else. Start in whatever position is most comfortable. As you learn how to use it better, you may want to play around with different heights and angles to see what allows you to get your torso the tightest.
After you set the belt, you’ll need to adjust the tightness to find the right fit. You should use the tightest notch that still allows for a full intake of breath into your stomach, then try to press your stomach out against the belt. You know it’s too tight if you can’t get a full breath of air in or you have to elevate your shoulders to do so instead of solely expanding your torso.
Review a few websites and read reviews and do some searches. If you are the gym and see someone using one ask them to try it out.
Be well and lift well.