The weightlifting belt

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The weightlifting belt

Postby Canuck Singh » Mon Nov 10, 2008 7:37 pm

Weight lifting belts have been taken out of their correct use in recent years. In the gym, most guys and gals wear then more like a fashion accessory. A weight lifting belt is only a poor substitute for strong abdominal muscles and using a belt only takes over what the abdominal muscles are designed to do; stabilize the torso. Many of the world's finest strength coaches advise against using a belt too often as it makes the muscles of the torso "lazy" in supporting the midsection. A weak midsection only retards total strength development.

Bodybuilders wear belts in virtually every gym shot for two main reasons. The first is for contract endorsement of a product, but the main reason is to actually give many of them "a waist"! Most pro bodybuilders have such distended stomachs and blocky midsections from 'roid and GH abuse that unless they are in absolute shredded "competition condition" they look terrible! Wearing a tight belt gives many of them a waist and a more aesthetic, visual appearance in photos. It provides the illusion of a narrower waist, and serves to hide a lot of the "faults" a camera reveals.

The theory behind using a weight lifting belt fitted tightly around the midsection is to increase intrathoracic pressure in the abdominal cavity when lifting heavy loads. The increased pressure acts like a brace to help support the lumbar spine. However, our abdominal muscles are designed to perform this "bracing act" anytime a lift is attempted, whether it's a barbell, a box of books or a basket of laundry. The main function of the abdominal muscles is to stabilize the torso, providing support to the lumbar spine during any movement, especially a heavy lift. The fact is that a belt takes over from what your abdominal muscles are suppose to do, this causes a "detraining" or deconditioning effect of these muscles. They become weaker, not stronger in their ability to support your spine. A weak midsection leads to injuries during heavy training, but at the very least it will ensure a plateau in strength results, retarding total development.

Many years ago when bodybuilding/weight lifting was more of an "underground sport" and the athletes were more concerned about their lifts than their attire, belts were worn only for the all-out, maximum lifts. If a belt is to be used at all, it should be incorporated only when maximal poundages are involved, during the "high risk" exercises such as the clean and press, squat, deadlift, overhead and bench press. These are the movements that place a significant strain on the lumbar or lower-back area. As a teenager, watching the "big boys" in the gym, we always knew when the some serious weight was going to be moved, because that's when the belts came out. Many of the top strength athletes don't use belts at all, unless going for a "personal best" lift or during competition.

Recently an excellent research study examining the effects of weight lifting belts was performed by Sohail Ahmad* chief resident physician in orthopaedic surgery at Albany Medical Center. Two groups of 25 experienced bodybuilders were examined over a period of two years while performing a three day-a-week training regimen. The two groups were those that wore belts and those that did not. The athletes were strength tested at six month intervals. Dr Ahmad found that those that wore belts showed notably less improvement in back strength. Also, in terms of injury prevention; the belts provided no extra protection.

* Reported at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 65th Annual Meeting in New Orleans,1998
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