The Question:

Should I wear a weight belt for deadlifts, and if so, when?

The Answer:

A weight belt can help reduce the stress on your spine when you’re lifting weights. You may see a lot of people at your gym wearing the belts, but if you’re just starting to lift heavy weights, hold off before cinching one around your waist. “Spend your first couple of months learning how to do the deadlift without a belt. This will help you gain awareness of how to brace your core without assistance,” explains Sean Collins, C.S.C.S., head powerlifting coach and co-owner of Murder of Crows Barbell Club in Brooklyn, NY.

“To brace effectively, take a deep breath into your belly, not your lungs, as if you’re filling your stomach with as much air as you can. Hold that breath, and then begin the lift, leading with the chest throughout the range of motion.”

Many people think the belt helps support your back due to adding extra padding, but that’s not quite right.

“Belts are best used when you can increase the amount of intra-abdominal pressure by expanding the core area with a deeply held breath,” Collins says. “This, in turn, helps protect the lower back.” Start using a belt only after this bracing movement feels second-nature and you’ve worked up to a weight that seems challenging by the last rep of your working set.

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