Weight Lifting Belts: To Wear or Not to Wear

Weight Lifting Belt
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Do you need a weight lifting belt? Gym folklore says wearing a weight belt increases lower back safety. It also says weight belts increase abdominal pressure, which allows you to lift more weight. Let’s see if this is true.


Stuart McGill.
Author of Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance & Low Back Disorders. Stuart McGill is the authority on lower back health. He has several articles on his site for those who haven’t his books yet.

One article deals with the use of weight belts. It’s adapted from the chapter on back belts in Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance. Click here to download this free pdf. View the file with Acrobat Reader.


Do You Need Weight Belts?
If you don’t feel like reading the whole pdf, here are some of the key points of Stuart McGill’s research.

  • If you never injured your back, wearing a belt adds no safety.
  • If you injure yourself while wearing a belt, the injury is more severe.
  • To get the most out of weight belts, you must lift with bad technique.
  • If you want to lift a few more pounds, wear a weight belt.


Why I Never Recommend Weight Belts.
Guy subscribes to a gym. Does Biceps Curls like the other guys. Gets stronger. Hyper-extends his back on each rep to get even stronger. Gets lower back pain.

He wears a belt upon recommendation of the gym people. No more pain. Back to curls, but still hyper-extending his back. Pain comes back, but worse. Doctor diagnoses him with a hernia. Weight lifting gets bad reputation again.

It was Biceps Curls, but it could have been Squats or Deadlifts. If you don’t lift correctly, you’ll injure yourself. That’s why I don’t recommend belts: they give a false sense of security. And according to McGill, injuries get more severe.


Choosing Your Weight Belt.
You’ll need a weight belt to perform Weighted Dips/Pull-ups/Chin-ups. I use a leather belt with chain/caliper to attach the weight. Ironmind’s dipping belt handles up to 1000lbs (it works for Pull-ups).

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