Perhaps one of the most common questions I receive from athletes and lifters is, “Should I use a belt?”
My standard answer is, “unless you are lifting 90%+ of your 1RM, then absolutely not.”
Here is Why
Much like Olympic lifting shoes, a belt is designed to be an enhancement tool. In other words, a tool to help you lift better NOT to cover up shortcomings in strength, mobility, and form.
In the case of Oly shoes, you are able to sit back in your heels much more comfortably, which allows you to more effectively catch and stand up lifts. Honestly, they’ve helped me add a few pounds to my 1RMs.
Oly shoes are NOT designed for you to always wear to cover up crappy ankle mobility. Sure they’ll help, but you will fail to fix the actual problem – your restricted ankle mobility. Inevitably, by using those shoes as a crutch you actually stunt your mobility development, which can ultimately put you in harms way.
Belts are the exact same.
A belt essentially provides a wall for your abs to push against, which ultimately helps stabilize your midline. Midline stability is a good thing and this little help can certainly propel you to heavier and more powerful lifts.
Much like the Oly shoes though, a belt is not meant to be abused as a crutch. If you are consistently relying on a belt to lift, you will not develop the breathing habits, core engagement routine, and trunk stability necessary to move properly and safely. Even worse, if the only way you can perform a lift without hurting yourself is with a belt, you have a major core or form issue already that you must fix!
Keep in mind, you won’t have a belt on when you lift up your child, a bag of mulch, or those moving boxes. You owe it to your longevity and quality of life to be able to do those things without getting hurt.
To put it simply, while you may feel using a belt all the time keeps you safe, it actually will put you in harms way.
I’m a Chronic Belt User – What do I do?
I typically see a reliance on belts from people that have injured themselves once upon a time – inside a gym or out. Your survival instinct not to hurt yourself is right, but staying with the belt is wrong.
My biggest piece of advice is to come see a coach. Let’s take a look at how you move and figure out if you have a movement issue, a core issue, or perhaps even a breathing issue. Then let’s fix the root cause so that belt is an after thought!