LIFTING BELTS 101
There is so much conflicting info out there about lifting belts.
If you wear one you will have a weak core.
If you don’t wear one you will get a bulky waist.
Both of these statements are wrong. In fact, a lot of the stress around belts focuses on all the wrong things. Instead of overthinking every tiny detail, you need to understand the function and purpose of a belt so you can decide on a case by case basis if a belt would optimize your training.
What’s the Purpose of a lifting belt?
A belt helps you to create intra abdominal pressure in your core. A lot of people mistakenly think that their belt is protecting them, but the truth is, the belt simply allows YOU to better protect yourself by providing an external cue to work with/against as you brace your core. This brace will help you to create the pressure needed to maintain a neutral position under heavy loads.
As you’ve probably caught on, we talk a lot in our program about maintaining a neutral core while you lift by NOT arching your lower back! The name of the arched posture you need to avoid is called Anterior Pelvic Tilt and quite literally translates to tilting your hips to the front (sticking your butt out & flaring your ribcage up.)
Compare my ribs, shoulders, hips in the side by side above. If you lift in the position on the left, you literally cannot engage your core correctly which will create instability for your entire body, tightness in your hips and back, plus, your core will be very weak which will increase your risk for injury. This position will actually prevent you from utilizing your glutes and hamstrings while you train lower body!
Don’t believe me? Try it right now, stand up and tilt your pelvis toward your face. Next, tense up (aka asqueeze) your glutes.
Do you feel your abs? Good!
Now try sticking your bum out…do you feel those abs disengage? See?
One more visual…
Picture this, if your hips were a bowl, when you tip your hips to the front (APT) the water would spill to the front. If you tilted your hips backwards (like a dog with its tail between its legs) that would be a posterior pelvic tilt and the water would spill to the back. Ideally your hips should sit in a position that the bowl wouldn’t tilt to either direction during movement. (Note: You may use a posterior tilt intentionally during lockout of some glute exercises to get extra glute activation.) See the visual below for reference.
How do you use a lifting belt?
When should you use your lifting belt?
Under heavier loads in compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, overhead press and rows, it can be tougher to maintain this position. By adding a belt, you can use the belt to push your belly breath against to brace and to better maintain that neutral position.
You do not need a belt for every set or your light accessory work, but if at any point your core position starts to suffer, you have more to gain from wearing a belt than not wearing one.
But won’t using a belt make my core weak?
Some people say you shouldn’t wear a belt to “train your core” while you lift, but there are a lot of exercises you can do to build core strength, your endurance in that braced position and overall mind muscle connection/coordination in that position that do not put you at risk for injury like training heavy compound movements with bad form will.
No need to be a hero. When form suffers, add a belt to help!
Here is a link of functional core exercises seen regularly in our monthly Team Fitbliss Barbell Club program that will actually make you stronger at holding your neutral position on your own without a belt!
Some of our favorite lifting belts:
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