Wearing a weightlifting belt for every single exercise doesn’t look cool.
Oh, you might think it does, which is why you do it.
But trust me, it doesn’t.
Unless the belt is the only thing that’s responsible for keeping you from folding over, walking around the gym with one on and using it on every lift should be avoided at all costs.
Far from looking snazzy, it makes you look stupid as hell because it’s a neon sign that you don’t know what you’re doing.
Apart from pulling exercise gloves out of your drawstring workout bag, nothing screams newbie louder than pulling a weightlifting belt out of your drawstring workout bag and then cinching it way too fucking tight as you wear it on every single lift.
That’s as newbie as it gets!
Because you think wearing a belt helps support your lower back.
Sorry, but that isn’t what it does in the slightest.
Actually, a belt’s function is to provide support to the abs, not the lumbar spine.
How in good heavens can this be?!?!, you ask as you frantically pick your brain fragments up from the floor after that nuclear knowledge bomb.
I’m not going to get too technical with the explanation here (because you’ll get bored and don’t really care), but a weightlifting belt works something like this:
There’s this thingy called the Valsalva maneuver, a controlled breathing technique that should only be employed when lifting the sort of relative poundages that would make the Incredible Hulk have second thoughts. It involves taking a deep breath into your stomach before the eccentric part of the lift (i.e. when the weight is lowered) and holding it as you breath out without actually breathing any air out.
If you’ve ever held in a sneeze, then that’s essentially what the Valsalva maneuver is. With that in mind, just imagine doing that with a shit ton of weight on your back as you bear down into a squat.
Now, with the belt wrapped around your stomach, your abdomen is limited in how far it can expand when you take that deep diaphragmatic breath. As a result, the belt pushes the breath back against your abdominal wall. This in turn creates intra-abdominal pressure that stabilizes the trunk and torso, as well as the spine indirectly. It’s thanks to the increased stabilization of the “core” — not the back — that you can move more weight than you possibly would have without it.
Sounds good, right?
And because it sounds so good, why not wear a belt ALL THE TIME for EVERY SINGLE EXERCISE?
You don’t want to do that because a belt, when worn properly, shouldn’t cut off circulation but it definitely shouldn’t be comfortable enough for you to keep on for the entire length of your session as you strut your not so sexy stuff yet from station to station. More so, constant wear robs you of strengthening the stabilizer muscles in your mid-section (e.g. abdominals, obliques).
Rather than donning a belt to take up a machine and work out your fingers as you play on your phone or because you think it makes you look sooooooo chic, save its usage for when you’re attempting a deadlift, squat, or clean and jerk with a weight that’s 80-90% of your one-rep maximum.
To further help you out (because I’m just a fucking giver like that), Tony Gentilcore, some know-nothing Bahstan area fitness guy, provides you with instructions on how to wear and properly use a training belt if you click “here”.
Very, very informative vid-e-o, huh? Might I dare say it was wicked awesome?
<arms crossed>Don’t say I never gave you nuffin’.</arms crossed>