You know the scene. Someone walking round the gym from machine to machine using a low weight / high rep ratio, curling…..with a belt on. It is absolutely baffling to see these people.
The weight lifting belt is really only needed for when you are lifting a huge amount of weight. This is typically specific for the deadlift and squat. There are debates around using it for a bench press but the general consensus is that it is unneeded. It can help to keep your core tight and maybe help you to remind when to breathe properly. For others it may help as a pseudoscience / placebo effect to help you concentrate and fully focus on the lift.
Why do we need it?
The weightlifting belt is, by definition, using to increase abdominal pressure (internally) and to prevent you from overextending your back. This is where you back to arched too much when deadlifting or squatting. It is usually needed when we begin to reach towards the realms of our 1RM. However, this is not to say we must use it. If your form is fine and core is properly engaged then it can be argued there is really no need for it. This is as both of these compound exercises will also isometrically train our cores and the belt can take away some of these benefits by overcompensating.
Why have they become a problem?
So when you see people constantly using the belt, it can actually be detrimental to them as their core isn’t being worked properly. Therefore promoting a weak lower back that will not help them in the long-term.
The problem with it being so overused can be put down to the fact that many companies are now selling them and lots of them coming with custom patterns / logos that look cool and unique. It seems silly to say but more people are likely to buy them as they are appealing to look at and think that if its a piece of gym equipment that can assist them then why not? But it is more effective in developing your body to get the correct form first and then begin to build your weight up slowly overtime until you hit a high number that you feel you need that extra support.
It is important to remember that putting the appropriate stress on your core is actually what will help it to improve through progressive overload. So to help these muscles develop first is imperative for beginning to use a belt and even when you do, not to wear it for the rest of the session for every other exercise.
Having a naturally strong core will help you massively throughout your life so make sure to prioritise this area and ensure these muscles get appropriately worked throughout your week at the gym.
We may have used some terms here that you need us to explain further. Use The Gym Dictionary for some easy explanations!