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Weightlifting Belts: Do you need them? When and how do you use them?


Nice Belt Bro,

Weightlifting belts are a popular training aid for many gym goers. But too often people misuse them in their training.

There is a common belief that using a belt whilst lifting heavy will protect your spine. This is part true.

Belts are used to give you something to push against, to help with bracing of your core muscles. When you brace your abdominal muscles (imagine preparing to get punched in the stomach) you’ll start to use your deeper muscles that you can’t see in a mirror. Mainly the transverse abdominis.

This particular muscle when contracted helps stabilise the spine – mainly around your lower back.

Keeping a neutral (natural arch) lower back when performing movements like squats, deadlifts or standing shoulder presses is important for safety. Also for transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body (help you pick up things).


If your technique during a movement is poor, a belt will not help you.

Belts should also be delayed and used when performing heavy exercises for sets of 1-4 reps. There is no logical reason that a belt should be used from the minute you walk into the gym. Granted you are using an appropriate weight for the exercise, your bodies in built ‘belt’ is more than enough to handle.

Relying too much on a belt can develop a crutch mentality; where you begin to feel like you cannot exercise or train with a moderate intensity without a belt.


Hopefully we can begin moving away from wearing a belt for the entire workout or wearing a belt just to bicep curl.



– shit form will not protect your back
– belts are used to push against as a way of bracing your core muscles (deep abdominals)
– use belts for heavy compound strength exercises between 1-4 repetitions (no bicep curls)


Bauer, J.A., Fry, A., and Carter, C. The use of Lumbar-Supporting Weight Belts While Performing Squats: Erector Spinae Electromyographic Activity.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1999;13: 384-388.

Miyamoto K1, Iinuma N, Maeda M, Wada E, Shimizu K.Effects of abdominal belts on intra-abdominal pressure, intra-muscular pressure in the erector spinae muscles and myoelectrical activities of trunk muscles. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 1999 Feb;14(2):79-87

Christopher Watts

Author Christopher Watts

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