Weight lifting belts are one of the most commonly misused training gear equipment, according to studies. Improper use of it would cause negative impacts to the users. Hence, a better comprehension of weight lifting mechanics will alter how many individuals make use of this equipment.
What are Weightlifting Belts?
Weightlifting belts, sometimes lifting belts or back belts, are a staple in every fitness center. It is not the ordinary belt you typically use to stick your pants on your hips. It is a gear that is stiff and huge belt worn around the waist of weightlifters.
Ideally, a three-and-four inches wide belt is enough. Something smaller than that may not provide much support, while something bigger may not be suitable to be worn between your hips and ribs. As it would add support, these belts should be made from a strong material such as velcro, leather, or suede.
Nevertheless, the main function of a belt is not to support your back per se, as what most people assume. Instead, it helps one to increase pressure in his or her belly called intra-abdominal pressure, which acts as a brace to support and strengthen one’s spine or back.
One of the world’s most acknowledged and well-known authorities on dietary supplements, nutrition and training, Dr. Jim Stoppani explained how abdominal belts would reduce and stabilize stress on one’s spine with the use of weight lifting belts.
According to him, when one increases intra-abdominal pressure or as what a lifting belt will do, his or her core and lower back muscles will push on the spine from the outside. At the same time, the pressure inside the abdominal cavity will push on the spine, consequently supporting the spine internally.
According to research, there is also a significant increase in intramuscular pressure of the erector spinae — a group of back muscles — through wearing an abdominal belt during Valsalva maneuver and isometric lifting exertions.
As a result, as what the National Strength and Conditioning Association concluded, one’s body will respond to the increased intra-abdominal pressure brought by a lifting belt through stabilizing your spine, making a more rigid core, decreasing the stress one’s spine may undergo while doing heavyweights.
How to Use it: Breathing, Bracing, Valsalva Maneuver
Regardless of which best lifting belt are you using, there is a need to know how to control breathing when lifting, so one can maximize the advantages of a belt. Taking a deep breath before lifting a very heavy load would help a lifter with bracing and keep the midline tight. This breathing technique is called the Valsalva maneuver.
In medical terms, Valsalva maneuver is an assertive effort at expiration when the airway is shut closed at any point. This happens, specifically, when a conscious attempt is made while holding the nostrils and mouth close to testing the patency of the eustachian tubes, adjust middle ear pressure, or abort supraventricular tachycardia, also called Valsalva.
Put simply, Valsalva maneuver is deemed necessary to make use of a weightlifting belt effectively. It is the method of taking a large breath and holding the breathing during the full range of motion for a heavy load.
The following are some things to do when doing proper Valsalva Maneuver –
- Inhalation should be performed during the eccentric phase since this is the stage which requires less effort to do, consequently providing an utmost capacity for oxygen to enter one’s lungs. This is the lowering phase of one’s movement, in which the muscles under contraction are lengthening.
- Exhalation should take place during the concentric phase. In contrast to eccentric, this stage is referred to as the “working” part of one movement or when a contraction occurs that shortens a muscle.
- When inhaling, take a large breath of air into your abdomen or belly and not your chest while when exhaling, forcefully exhale with a closed throat. These ways would push your abdomen out into the belt, which increases the pressure built up around your midsection.
How to Wear?
There is a need for an abdominal contraction against the belt to create the said pressure. To do so, wear your belt a hole looser than how tight it can go. Make sure that you can slip your hand between your abdomen and belt.
In addition, wear your belt to the area that makes you feel comfortable and does not hinder your lift. Neither the belt’s top will be pushed against your ribs, nor the belt’s bottom will be wedged into your hips every time they are flexed.
The following are the things you SHOULD NOT DO WITH A LIFTING BELT –
- Do not use the belt for lifting that is below 80% of your one-repetition maximum. This would discourage the use of your own muscles.
- Do not wear a tight belt when performing core strengthening exercises, including trunk rotations, crunches, and planks.
- Do not use the belt when performing movements in which you are lying on your back or sitting in a vertical position. Belts are meant to use for standing exercises only.
- Do not use the belt when you have high blood pressure. According to certified athletic trainer Gregory Welch, exercises that can increase intra-abdominal pressure and hence require lifting belts would put high blood patients at risk, increasing their blood pressure to perilous levels.
As stated, many individuals assume that weight belts are made to support one’s spine during regular, moderate weight training. In this case, however, as defined, weight belts are very narrow and rigid to give appropriate spinal support.
If you have recent or previous injuries and feel like you need a brace or something to support your back, DO NOT immediately use weight belts. Talk to your doctor, instead. Ask about the proper spine brace for your desired training.
Remember that when you misuse weight belts, bad results will happen. Weight belts discourage the use of or weaken the core and abdominal muscles, which protects the spine. Hence, instead of supporting your back, you’re making things worse.
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