I received a text message from a client/friend Yvonne the other night as I was leaving the Spartacus Athletic Club. If I hadn’t erased it from my phone then I could just quote her. But she wrote something like this:
“Hey a lot of my friends are asking me why I don’t wear a belt when I lift? What’s the deal with belts?”
I wrote back and told her that I would have to talk with her in person about that deep subject. And then I thought, “Hmmm, maybe I will write about it too.”
So here is a summary of my opinion (as of April 23 2010) about wearing belts while training. Most of it I have adopted from some guys in Wichita Falls, Texas, although I have been testing it through my own scientific process of trial and error.
-Good and even great coaches have divergent opinions about belts. Some never advocate their use. Others think that they are a major asset in getting stronger. There is no clear correct point of view. Although both camps would likely claim otherwise. And they’re both probably right.
-Belts are useful when a lower back injury has been sustained and also to teach and ensure proper bracing of the torso. When you lift heavy in the big lifts you need to put a fantastic effort into bracing your trunk and creating intra-abdominal pressure. When you slip a belt on it can teach you a lot about whether you are doing this well or whether you have been fooling yourself. It can keep you honest in your bracing. This is not a time to be half-assed.
-If back injury is an issue then more frequent use of the belt is called for. Otherwise I tend to use the belt on the last warm-up set and during my work sets. I tend to use the belt while squatting and pressing. I loosen the belt between sets, lest I lose consciousness.
-Most of the belts I see in use seem to me to be wholly inadequate. For most strength-training uses I want to wear a belt that is the same width all the way around. This is because I am mostly concerned with a hard brace in my stomach and so a wide belt in the front will give me something substantial to brace against. I also want a thick belt made of leather. Since I live in Canada I find these belts very hard to come by. I was going to buy myself a belt from elitefts.com for Xmas but the shipping alone was going to put me out $70 (they are in Ohio). Since they make amazing belts I might just have to suck it up.
I hope that Yvonne and other readers find this helpful.