Keep your back straight during exercises like deadlifts.
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It's likely you've seen advanced lifters wearing a weightlifting belt around their waist while performing compound weight-training exercises. Because some exercises place a high amount of stress on the lower back, weightlifters wear the belts in an attempt to protect their spine from injury. Wearing a weightlifting belt offers advantages and disadvantages, and you should understand them before deciding if you're going to use one.
Weightlifting belts strap tightly around your torso, which increases the intra-abdominal pressure and holds your spine in a neutral position. The belts help to keep your back in that safe position as you lift weights. They come in a variety of sizes and materials. Most belts are made of leather and are wider in the back. They feature buckle closure at the front. Powerlifting belts are heavier and stiffer than traditional belts and are the same width throughout the length of the belt. They also close with a buckle at front. Also available are belts made of softer, synthetic material that strap at the front of your torso with fabric fastener.
Weightlifting belts wrap firmly around your lower back and protect your spine from collapsing as you're performing heavy lifting exercises. For example, during back squats, if your lower back muscles aren't strong enough to keep your spine in a proper position, it can result in a muscular strain in your lower back. The weightlifting belt supports the spine in your lower back so that it can safely handle greater loads. The belt can also help remind you to keep your back straight.
For most weightlifters, a belt is likely not needed, according to Dr. Edward R. Laskowski of MayoClinic.com. Most exercises only place minimal stress on your back. You only need a belt if you're performing powerlifting activities or deadlifts. When you wear a weightlifting belt, your lower-back muscles don't have to work as hard to keep your back straight. Your core muscles, including those in your lower back, aren't recruited to the same extent as they would without a belt. Because your lower back isn't having to do its part when you're wearing a belt, your muscles can weaken and thus be less capable of handling loads once you remove the belt.
Lifting Without a Belt
If you're going to be lifting weights without a belt, reduce your risk of lower-back injury by taking the time to master the technique of exercises before you increase the amount of weight you're lifting. During exercises that do place stress on your back, such as back squats and deadlifts, keep your spine in a straight and neutral position. Contract your abdominals and back while you perform these exercises to increase intra-abdominal pressure and thus better protect your spine. If you've previously been using a belt, your lower back will not be strong enough to handle exercises that you do at regular loads, so use lower weights and incorporate lower-back exercises into your routine until you build up strength.