Should I train with a weight belt ?
Attend any gym in Sydney and you will often see women and men wrapping a weight belt around before hitting up the gym. Whether it be deadlifting, squatting or even bench press, regular gym goers often use them in order to brace or support the lower back.
The braces are designed to help support the lower back in order to prevent injury. By wrapping around the spine they increase the pressure within the abdominal cavity reducing the stress on the lumbar spine. This is why people will often find they can lift heavier weights whilst using a brace. But should you wear one or invest in yet another piece of equipment in your gym bag?
Stability within the spine is generated by a series of muscle that contract together in order to stabilize a highly mobile part of the spine, the lumbar or lower back. The greater the contraction or pressure within the abdomen or around the spine the greater stability. When a belt is used the stability or intra abdominal pressure is increased externally via the belt rather then through the use of the core (transverse abdominis, obliques diaphragm, and pelvic floor). So now you're thinking, “great I should get a belt so I can stabilise my spine to prevent injury”. Although yes the belt may reduce the risk of injury, but by training with one the body is most likely relying upon the belt to stabilise rather than the muscles.
This is why i recommend that most people not to use a belt, because it can create a complacency and potential weakness in the spinal muscles that stabilize the spine. This can potentially increase the risk of an injury outside of the gym because the muscle are either weak or have become deconditioned. Though if you train regularly without one your body is used to stabilising itself and the muscles are strong enough to support your spine. If you are looking at doing a personal best or doing a one rep max then a belt can be helpful to create extra stability to lift heavier.
Dr Nicholas Miller
Dr Nicholas Miller has extensive sports experience, from Amateur to Olympic level, from running to Crossfit and many more. A high level athlete himself, Nicholas works to helps his patients to recover but also to perform better. Nicholas works out of Healthspace Lane Cove, Mosman and Castle Hill.