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Pros and Cons of Using a Weightlifting Belt

February 11, 2013 | Z Altug

Weightlifting Belt

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:

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • 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.

Further Readings 

  • Baechle TR, Earle RW, eds. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rded. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics, 2008, pages 328-329.
  • Bauer JA, Fry A, Carter C. The use of lumbar-supporting weight belts while performing squats: Erector spinae electromyographic activity. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1999;13(4):384-388.
  • Bobick TG, Belard JL, Hsiao H, et al. Physiological effects of back belt wearing during asymmetric lifting. Applied Ergonomics. 2001;32(6):541-547.
  • Bourne ND, Reilly T. Effects of a weightlifting belt on spinal shrinkage. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 1991;25(4):209-212.
  • Cirello VM, Snook SH. The effect of back belts on lumbar muscle fatigue. Spine. 1995;20:1271-1278.
  • Finnie SB, Wheeldon TJ, Hensrud DD, et al. Weight lifting belt use patterns among a population of health club members. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2003;17(3):498-502.
  • Giorcelli RJ, Hughes RE, Wassell JT, Hsiao H. The effect of wearing a back belt on spine kinematics during asymmetric lifting of large and small boxes.Spine. 2001;26(16):1794-1798.
  • Harman EA, Rosenstein RM, Frykman PN, et al. Effects of a belt on intra-abdominal pressure during weight lifting. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1989;21:186-190.
  • Howard RL. Back pain, intra-abdominal pressure and belt use. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 1999;21(6):42-43.
  • Lander JE, Simonton RL, Giacobbe JK. The effectiveness of weight-belts during the squat exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1990;22(1):117-126.
  • Lander JE, Hundley JR, Simonton RL. The effectiveness of weight-belts during multiple repetitions of the squat exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1992;24(5):603-609.
  • Lavender SA, Shakeel K, Andersson GB, et al. Effects of a lifting belt on spine moments and muscle recruitments after unexpected sudden loading. Spine. 2000;25(12):1569-1578.
  • Majkowski GR, Jovag BW, Taylor, et al. The effect of back belt use on isometric lifting force and fatigue of the lumbar paraspinal muscles. Spine. 1998;23(19):2104-2109.
  • Marz JJ. The effect of lumbar belts on isolated lumbar muscle. Spine. 1995;20:1847.
  • McGill SM. Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, 4thed. Waterloo, Canada: Wabuno Publishers (Backfitpro Inc.), 2009, pages 100-102.
  • McGill SM. Low Back Disorders, 2nded. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics, 2007, pages 158-164.
  • McGill SM, Norman RW, Sharratt MT. The effect of an abdominal belt on trunk muscles activity and intra-abdominal pressure during squat lifts. Ergonomics. 1990;33(2):147-160.
  • Miyamoto K, Iinuma N, Maeda M, et al. Effects of abdominal belts on intra-abdominal pressure, intra-muscular pressure in the erector spinae muscles and myoelectrical activities of trunk muscles. Clinical Biomechanics. 1999;14(2):79-87.
  • Reddell CR, Congleton JJ, Huchingson RD, et al. An evaluation of a weightlifting belt and back injury prevention training class for airline baggage handlers. Applied Ergonomics. 1992;23:319-329.
  • Reyna JR, Leggett SH, Kenney K, et al. The effect of lumbar belts on isolated lumbar muscle: Strength and dynamic capacity. Spine. 1995;20:68-73.
  • Smith EB, Rasmusen AA, Lechner DE, et al. The effects of lumbosacral support belts and abdominal muscle strength on functional lifting ability in healthy women. Spine. 1996;21(3):356-366.
  • Sparto PJ, Parnianpour M, Reinsel TE, et al. The effect of lifting belt use on multijoint motion and load bearing during repetitive and asymmetric lifting. Journal of Spinal Disorders. 1998;11(1):57-64.
  • Thomas JS, Lavender SA, Corcos DM, et al. Effect of lifting belts on trunk muscle activation during a suddenly applied load. Human Factors. 1999;41(4):670-676.
  • Verkhoshansky Y, Siff M. Supertraining, 6thed - expanded edition. Rome, Italy: Verkhoshansky, 2009, pages 467-468. www.verkhoshansky.com and www.melsiff.com.
  • Warren LP, Appling S, Oladehin A, et al. Effect of soft lumbar support belt on abdominal oblique muscle activity in nonimpaired adults during squat lifting. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2001;31(6):316-323.
  • Wassell JT, Gardner LI, Landsittel DP, et al. A prospective study of back belts for prevention of back pain and injury. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2000;284(21):2727-2732.
  • Zink AJ, Whiting WC, Vincent WJ, et al. The effects of a weight belt on trunk and leg muscle activity and joint kinematics during the squat exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2001;15(2);235-240.

Photo: wodmasters.com

Z Altug
- Z Altug, PT, MS, CSCS, NSCA-PT, is a licensed physical therapist and athletic performance specialist out of Los Angeles. He co-authored the 2012 Healthy Lifestyle...
Z Altug
- Z Altug, PT, MS, CSCS, NSCA-PT, is a licensed physical therapist and athletic performance specialist out of Los Angeles. He co-authored the 2012 Healthy Lifestyle...
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