Bracing Your Core: The Do’s and Don’ts of Wearing a Lifting Belt
At least a time or two per week I have someone coming up to me asking about lifting belts and whether or not they should be using one. The answer depends on the scenario, so here are some examples of when you do and do not want to be wearing a belt:
You should NOT wear a belt 100% of the time. In this scenario, the belt becomes a crutch and you become dependent upon it. Think of it as if you are learning to walk. If you always use a crutch/cane/walker, and never try without it, you never learn to actually walk on your own. Same goes for learning to brace your core and protect your back on your own.
You should NOT wear a belt as you warm up or build up to your working weight. This is a prime opportunity to train yourself to brace your core properly and build more core strength. As a rule of thumb, when you are upwards of 80% of your one rep max, that is an appropriate time to consider using a belt.
You SHOULD wear a belt if you are testing for a rep maximum. If your goal is to move as much weight as possible, a belt will help to increase the amount of weight you are able to move by adding stability to your core and preventing against spinal flexion.
You SHOULD wear a belt if you plan to compete in a strength sport (powerlifting, Olympic lifting, strongman, etc.) or the sport of CrossFit; however, the 80% rule still applies here.
All in all, there is a time and a place where a weightlifting belt is appropriate. For most of us, we are training to be fit, strong, and healthy in order to go about the other 23 hours of the day. Therefore, we want to have strong cores that work without the use of a belt. Chances are when your friend asks you to help them move their couch or when you’re doing yard work, you probably aren’t going to have your weightlifting belt on you so your body needs to be prepared to protect its spine on its own. Training appropriately without a belt will prepare you for these scenarios and more. However, if your goal is to get as strong as you possibly can by moving as much weight as possible, or to compete in the sport of CrossFit, a weightlifting belt is a worthwhile piece of equipment to invest in.