I constantly see guys walking around the gym wearing weight belts like they just won the some title.

Like if they are walking to get some water and just spontaneously burst out into a 500lb deadlift.

Sometimes I think people use it to hold up their gym pants, which makes me wonder why they don’t just tighten the drawstring or get a smaller size. But I digress.

This got me to thinking, does everyone know how and when to properly use a weight belt? From my example, I’m going to say no they don’t.

The long and short of it is weight belts are designed to protect your lower back from injury. I think we can all agree that everyone knows this. When you lift something heavy you are suppose to increase the pressure in your core to stabilize your spine.

You do this by taking in a deep breath on the eccentric part (lowering) of the movement. Think when you take a deep breath as you go down for a squat and then exhale as you push the weight up. This maneuver of taking in a deep breath and then exhaling as you lift is called the Valsalva Maneuver. This maneuver increases the pressure in the core from the inside and reduces the effort of the lower back, thus saving your lower back. Yes I just dropped a thus in there.

The weight belt is an outside force that does more or less the same thing as he Valsalva Maneuver. It increases the pressure on the outside so the pressure is taken off your lower back and put on other muscles.

So when is a good time to wear a weight belt? Glad you asked. I can tell you it’s not to hold up your pants. The only time a weight belt should be used is when the following 2 criteria are true.

  • Ground based, trunk loading exercises that place stress on the lower back

and most importantly

  • Lifting maximal or near maximal loads.

So think heavy squats (front or back), deadlifts and overhead presses. If either of those 2 criteria are not true, then you are doing more harm than good. By using a belt when doing say barbell curls you are removing the stress from your lower back which might sound like a good thing but you are actually weakening the lower back and putting yourself more at risk for injury. Stress on the lower back is good within reason. This is what makes it stronger and helps prevent injuries. Take it from me, lower back pain is not all that much fun.

Alright that is enough knowledge for one day. Thanks for reading this.

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