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In their gym bags they carried it along with their wrist straps, knee wraps, and the latest issue of Muscle & Fitness. Some guys proudly adorned their belts with their gym nickname, some with inspirational quotes, and some with the weight of their best bench press. A few guys, like Mr. T and the Barbarian Brothers, even wore theirs with their street clothes. Today, you'd be hard pressed to find a guy in your gym wearing a lifting belt. And your gym is no different from the rest. One recent study discovered that only about 27% of gym members actually use a lifting belt. Of those, most claimed they wear it to avoid lifting injuries, while only 22% wear it to improve strength and performance. Although the use of a lifting belt is somewhat of a controversial topic, researchers from Marquette University reviewed all the studies on the topic to develop a general conclusion. The researchers reviewed 12 studies that investigated the use of lifting belts in occupational settings and 10 that studied the effects of belts during weight lifting. Most of these studies concluded that lifting belts offered some advantage.
One study found about a 10% increase in activity of the abdominals during the deadlift when a belt was worn, while another study recorded a 23% increase in activity of the spinal erectors during the squat when a belt was worn. These data suggest that wearing a belt may increase core development, not hinder it as many believe. Some studies confirmed that wearing a belt during weight lifting increased interabdominal pressure by up to 40%, while one study reported that compression of the intervertebral discs were reduced by 50% when subjects wore a belt while weight lifting. These data suggest that lifting belts can help to protect against lifting injuries, particularly back injuries. Other studies reported that the speed of reps performed on the squat were almost 10% faster when subjects wore belts. This suggests that lifting belts may help to increase power and strength.
Under Your Belt
These data suggest that you may want to consider using a lifting belt when you train. It appears that a lifting belt may help protect your back from injury, increase core strength development and enhance power and strength. Use a lifting belt only on heavy sets, especially on exercises that load the spine. Just don't let us catch you wearing it at the mall with a pair of overalls.
Renfro, G. J. and Ebben, W. P. A Review of the Use of Lifting Belts. Strength and Conditioning Journal 28 (1): 68-74, 2006.
Check out the Video on how to use a belt for Instant Strength and Power