In the real world, tools are designed to make tasks easier and safer. We use a screwdriver to insert screws into slots because, well, it’d hurt too much to use our fingernails. We use a tire jack to lift our car to change a flat tire because that much lifting might interfere with shoulder/trap day (Okay, not really). Man created tools to make things easier and safer, and sports researchers created tools for the gym with the exact same purpose in mind. One such tool, the weight belt, has served to protect the backs of many beginners to advanced athletes for many years now. Despite its obvious usefulness in supporting the back during many exercises, some people feel it’s a tool that delivers more harm than good. Let’s look at both sides of this discussion.
Belts are great!
Belts provide support to the lower back region, an area frequently injured in movements like rows, deadlifts, and squats. An inability to complete any of these movements mean you’re not growing as you should be. From the front, the belt supports the abdominal wall and protects against hernias which can occur during near any movement. It acts as a girdle as well, preventing the gut from extending too far while breathing heavily during exercises. For bodybuilders who battle a bulging waistline, keeping it in check for those six hours per week is certainly advisable.
Belts are evil!
Belts are crutches. People who use them become dependent upon them for everything. The body isn’t challenged to grow in those areas known as “support” muscles, and as a result it becomes more susceptible to injury. Proper warming up, good form, and never pushing oneself too hard with singles, doubles, or triples on maximum lifts is the best advice. Belts are crutches which can lead to injury. They should never be used, unless you’re looking to get injured.
The truth is that belts always have a spot in every trainer’s toolbox. There isn’t exactly a need to wear your belt during cardio or when you’re training calves. The chance of sustaining a major back injury while completing these movements is nil. However, when completing a set of deadlifts, attempting to break a personal best record with the heaviest weight you’ve touched in your life, you are susceptible to injury. Times like these require support, and a belt provides that. Use it to protect your body.
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