Weight Belts and Bracing Your Core

I played football from 4th grade through college. My goal was always to get as big, strong and powerful as I could. I lifted heavy. When I was lifting weights, I cinched up my weightlifting belt (so tight I could barely breathe) made my lift, and immediately undid my belt. I did this, of course, so that I wouldn’t hurt my back (and because every other lifter did it). The idea of wearing a weight belt became accepted practice and men, women, and even children started wearing them as a standard requirement for working out.

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So, here’s the question, do weight belts prevent back issues or not. Well, they can help and here’s how. The cinched belt creates intra-abdominal (internal) pressure. This internal pressure helps to support the low back. Sounds good, right? Should we, in fact, all be wearing them when we lift?┬áLet me ask you this, what happens when we need to lift something heavy during our daily activities? Will you slap on a weight belt before you lift it or, as is more likely, just lift it?

I guess it was a couple of decades ago when the fitness world started moving away from using weight belts. It was about that time that I stopped using one. The rationale, for me and much of the fitness industry, was that if you can’t lift it without a belt, you probably won’t be lifting it outside of the gym. Wouldn’t it be better to train your core (which, when contracting/bracing, can also create intra-abdominal pressure similar to a weight belt)?

That’s kind of where we, as an industry, stand now with the use of weight belts. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a time and place for them. When you are lifting competitively or doing maximal or near maximal lifts and you challenge the limits of what you might be able to control with your core, it would still be appropriate to use that extra support. This post is really about not defaulting to those external tools and relying more on building the strength and support from your own body.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.