There is considerable discussion about the use of weightlifting belts by athletes (see Ask the Experts: Should I Wear a Weightlifting Belt?). Ultimately, whether an athlete should use a belt depends on the type of exercise and the amount of weight to be lifted. An athlete will benefit from a weightlifting belt for heavy exercises or exercises that involve near maximum or maximum loads (such as Squats, Deadlifts, Power Cleans). However, training with a weightlifting belt will not ensure that athletes will prevent injury to their lower back.
The following are some advantages and disadvantages of using a belt:
- Restricts lumbar range of motion, which may be protective.
- May encourage more of a squat-lift technique versus a back-lift technique.
- Increases intra-abdominal pressure, which can reduce stress on the lower back.
- Gives you feedback on maintaining proper back position and form.
- May keep the back muscles warm.
- May give athletes a false sense of security and let them exceed safe lifting limits.
- Stabilizes specific lumbar segments while exposing other spinal segments above and below the belt to higher forces.
- May elevate blood pressure.
- Prolonged use with light to medium heavy weights may hinder the development of the trunk stabilizers.
Weight Room Training Safety and Health Guidelines
- Adhere to proper exercise form.
- Follow sound training strategies (such as a proper warm-up).
- Use weights you can handle safely.
- Progress weights gradually.
- Get adequate rest and recovery between sets, exercise and workouts.
- Eat a balanced diet for adequate tissue repair and maintenance.
- Having good spotters, when needed.
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