The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly #4
Weight belts can be a helpful tool when it comes to your fitness journey. Whether you’re an Olympic weightlifter, power lifter, CrossFitter, strong man/woman competitor, or just an everyday “average joe” the weight belt definitely has its time and place to be used. Just when is that time and place though? Well, let’s go ahead and discuss that, but before we move on, DISCLAIMER; a lot of this is my personal opinion and misuse of the weight belt is pet peeve of mine. There’s a good chance that not everyone is going to agree with me on all this and that’s alright by me. We can still be friends.
Weight belts were made for a reason and surprisingly it’s not because they are fashionable. Belts are meant to help give your core, specifically your abdominal muscles, more support. I’ve always said that the weight belt is the ultimate cue for keeping your core tight. We all know that when we’re exercising, regardless of the movement, we should have our core tight and engaged. When we wear a weight belt it allows us to keep our core tighter and more engaged than without. With that belt tightened up we have a wall for our abs to push against, allowing us to get that big breath in and brace our core much easier. So when we go for those heavier weighted movements, such as back squats or deadlifts, the weight belt can be a helpful tool and one of our best friends.
As I stated earlier, weight belts aren’t a fashion accessory, although people wear them so much now a days in the gym that you would think they are! I can understand the slight confusion seeing how the famous Mr. T used to wear a weight belt as an actual fashion accessory, but I digress. My point here is that while a belt can be helpful for that max load, that doesn’t mean we should wear one all the time. It’s important for you to learn how to tighten and engage your core on your own. If you constantly wear a belt as soon as anything gets over 65 or 95lbs then chances are you are using that belt as a crutch. You have to develop your core strength enough, to be able to properly engage your core without a belt. And if our core isn’t strong enough to brace on its own at lighter weights, then you run the risk of injury with a false sense of strength and security with the belt at heavier loads. The belt helps keep your core engaged; it does not magically turn you into Superman.
Wear the weight belt less often. My rule is a belt shouldn’t be used with anything at 80% or less of your one rep max. If you follow that, then you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn how to properly engage your core at lighter, more manageable weights. This will then strengthen your core more and give you more benefits from using the belt at heavier weights. Also, extra core work will go a long way. Shocker, I know.
I don’t know if you’ve figured it out yet, but weight belts are not a magic pill. If you have bad form and you put on a weight belt, you will still have bad form. Everybody is always looking for a quick fix. When it comes to lifting weights, everyone thinks the weight belt possesses some magical power that will just correct every wrong in your lift. Well, that’s not how it works; that’s not how any of this works. If you have bad form the last thing you need is a belt. Instead, you need to slow things down. Lighten up the load and get that technique and movement in check. It may take longer than you want but your back will thank you later when you lift those heavy weights with good, solid technique. You just have to be patient and don’t rush into using a belt. Again, it can give you a false sense of strength that could end up hurting you down the road.
The weight belt is an extremely useful tool that everyone can and should use when the time is right. To reach that point though, we have to be patient and build a solid foundation of technique and proper body mechanics. Once we’ve done this, then we can start using the weight belt but only sparingly when needed. If we use it too often on our light days then we’ll develop weaknesses in our core and end up using that belt as a crutch. Save the belt for those heavy days when we know that extra support will be needed. Now, if you do like the way you look in it, by all means pull a Mr. T and belt up before you head out the door on those fashion conscious mornings!
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