A weight lifting belt is an important gym accessory to help you lift more. It is NOT a WWE championship belt.
An accessory is an add-on not something absolutely required. A weight lifting belt helps you lift more and brace better during strength movements.
A lifting belt helps you create more intra-abdominal pressure when you need it the most. If you’re warming up during your squats with the bar, you don’t need a lifting belt.
As we talk about in our guide of when to start using a lifting belt, you only need it for weights close to your one-rep max.
But what if you like wearing a lifting belt all the time? Are there any disadvantages? Let’s talk about potential ones.
Drawbacks of Wearing A Lifting Belt All the Time
When you start your lifting career your main focus is usually learning to breathe. As you learn to breathe and brace you notice you can lift more. As you lift more, your lower back and abdomen muscles get stronger. This begins a feedback loop which helps you develop core stability and strength.
You learn to brace during strength movements such as squats and deadlifts. You increase intra-abdominal pressure with a big breath in and stabilize your torso. For more details on breathing and proper bracing check out this great video.
These are all learned movements. Without these movements, you create a scenario where you could hurt your lower back.
A weight lifting belt helps you brace more which in turn increases the amount you can lift. But, only during your heaviest sets.
Wearing a lifting belt all the time during all sets and all exercises creates dependence. Your lifting belt is now a crutch you need, not an accessory. You start to feel uncomfortable when you train without your lifting belt.
Your weight lifting belt will never replace your learned movements. Poor technique can’t be saved with a leather lifting belt.
If you’re wearing your lifting belt for posture or lower back pain, you’re misusing the belt. A weight lifting belt is not a medical device or some magic posture fixer.
You need to fix your posture or pain through exercises and correcting imbalances.
Ironically, you need to learn to train without your weight lifting belt to get the most out of it when you put it on.
When to Use a Lifting Belt
Going back to the function of your weight lifting belt, it helps your bracing ability.
With more bracing power comes higher lift numbers. But what if an exercise doesn’t need you to brace. Will a lifting belt help you lift more during these exercises?
Weight lifting belts are for two primary muscle groups: your lower back and abdomen. If you need to engage your core and use your lower back muscles, you may need a lifting belt.
But if the exercise you’re about to do only involves your legs, you won’t need your lifting belt.
You can also follow our guide on exercises to use with a lifting belt for better ideas.
On top of the type of exercise, you should also think of the amount of weight you plan to lift. Will you be warming up with a lower weight? If so, you don’t need a lifting belt. Always, think of your heaviest set when it comes to using weight lifting belts.
When You Don’t Need A Weightlifting Belt
You don’t need a weight lifting belt during non-bracing movements. It's safe to say you will not benefit from wearing a lifting belt during any machine based exercises.
This includes any squat like type movements such as hack squats. If you’re doing a bicep focused exercise, you don’t need the belt.
About to hit your abs with an intense workout? You don’t need a lifting belt. Yes you are bracing during ab exercises but you also want the full range of motion. A weight lifting belt will only get in the way during your crunches.
In general, any movements involving lying down or sitting don’t need a lifting belt. This is because you don’t use your lower back or engage your core extensively.
A weight lifting belt is an accessory. Not a necessity. If you feel a lifting belt will help you lift more and progress, get one. But, don’t make the silly mistake of wearing a lifting belt all the time.
You only need a lifting belt for certain types of strength movements. Wearing a lifting belt during your lat pulldown will give you no added benefit. You will also reduce your credibility as a lifter.
Wear it when you need it. Any other time your lifting belt should be in your gym bag.