weight lifting belts

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 11, 2007 9:58 PM GMT
    When I first lifted weights, everyone said that you should always wear a support belt. For years, I wore one for squats but not much else.

    More recently, I've been hearing that if your core is activated properly, you don't need a belt. Some say that a belt actually prevent you from using good form. I'm not using one now, but I don't squat really heavy either, due to bad knees.

    Who uses, or doesn't use a belt, and why?

    Speaking of squats, & gear, some years ago I bought a little gadget called a manta ray that snaps onto a barbell. It helps distribute the weight on your shoulders and doesn't leave a bruise. I love it, but I never see anyone else using one. Anybody else have thoughts or experience with these things?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 12, 2007 4:48 AM GMT
    In reverse order...

    I, too, have a Manta Ray - and there's a common use one at our gym. Love the thing.

    NSCA & NASM both state very clearly the recommendation that lifting belts be worn ONLY FOR EXERCISES WHICH PUT STRESS ON THE LOWER BACK AT OR NEAR THE LIMITS OF ONE'S ABILITY.

    The rest of the time they do not help, and may actually allow the muscles of the abdomen to atrophy. That is, you can become dependent upon the belts.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 12, 2007 6:08 AM GMT
    There are new research studies on this matter..

    I am going to apply this to the use of soft abdominal braces for patients w/ discogenic impairments (a rigid brace would be like a clamshell brace for fractures, and discogenic impairments mean herinated discs, disc bulging, and disc annular tears.)

    There were NEVER any sound and objective research on if when a belt/brace can induce atrophy of abdominal musculature. This has ALWAYS been just a theory, and not well tested out in clinical research studies.

    As a result, even PT's were telling their patients with these lower back problems not to wear belts for the above theory.

    However, the latest clinical research shows that this is NOT the case, at least if the belt/brace wear is for 2 months or so. Now, if a clinician has not been constantly updating his/her continual education, this would not be known as it is the latest study results.

    While there is undoubtly evidence that when one put a structure around a body part, the structure will share the load. For the lower back/trunk, this has been measured to about 30 pounds per square inch. It is not a huge amount, but is it somthing. The belt/brace other function is to restrict motion.

    The latest sutdies show that subjets did not show decrease of muscle strength. I am not sure if muscle bulk was measured.

    Some of the theories supporting this new concept is that when a belt/brace is properly worn, it HAS TO BE TIGHT to perform the deloading and motion restirction functions. AND when this is done, the abdominal musculature are actually contracting against a surface while increasing intra abdominal pressure, therefore it is actively contracting. It is like doing a crunch for you abs, and while contracting your abs, have someone put their palms against your belly, makking your belly of not only doing the trunk flexion but also fighting against the external pressure.

    The above is only a theory.

    BUT the lack of decrease of muscle strength with prolonged belt/brace wear was actually measured..

    That is why many more advanced PT's and chiropractors will start to give a patient with ACUTE lower back pain a brace/belt to wear..

    This is NOT to say that one should wear the belt at all times. Your body still needs constantly input on the external environment to maintain its sense of joints in space and posture. This is called proprioception. A belt/brace is only used to as a propriceptive reminder but one must not rely on it as an artifical external input of proprioceptive stimulus.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 12, 2007 6:17 AM GMT
    Just wanted to add this comparison with soft neck collars..

    Unlike lower back/trunk belts/braces, soft neck collars you see some people with neck pain wear DO NOT DELOAD because they cannot be worn tightly (for obvious reasons..)

    It is basically a posture and proprioceptive reminder, the MILD restrictivenss of the collar reminds you when you are engaging in poor neck posture...

    That is also the reason why one should not be dependent on the belt/brace, as the restrictive properties will eventually render your body "unsure" where it is in space and therefore may result in improper posture.

    According to the studies mentioned above, it is not the atrophy/decreased abdominal strength that is to be worried with prolongeg belt wear, but rather the possibility of loosing your natural posture awareness that is more a problem...
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 12, 2007 6:21 AM GMT
    One more comparison with the deloading properties of lumbar/trunk belts/braces...

    It provides about 30 pounds per squre inch.

    An adult male bite is about 150 pounds per square inch.

    Certain large sharks, their bites can reach up to 42000 pounds per square inch.

    Yes, it is a small amount, but it does help, it is not zero, and many patients with acute back pain will tell you that it does work...
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 12, 2007 6:26 AM GMT
    And if you need a blet, I am not so sure if you should be doing heavy sqauts in the first place...

    But if you do need one, but the brace as you see people who lift heavy objects wear, such as those you see UPS workers wear.. It is more form fitting. The old fashioned leatehr weight belt does not hae the right shape...

    If the blets do not work, these workers who lift all day would not be wasting their $ on belts/braces..
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 13, 2007 2:08 AM GMT
    I used to use a belt for about 5 years, but have not used one in about 8 years. I used it mainly when doing squats, which is my favorite free weight exercise. I think it was psychological in its benefits. It also made me aware if I was trying to arch my back too much. I think if your abs are in good shape maybe you can get that same sturdy feeling in your midsection, just by controlling your abs muscles.

    I have to say also that the canvas belt I had was not real wide and didn't ride my pelvic bones or anything so was real comfortable. When someone stole it I never was able to find another that felt right so did not use one after that.

    Related to squats, I tried a manta ray, but it seemed like a little bit of a hassle. I have also used those foam things that wrap around the bar, but some are big and make the bar feel like it is rolling off my shoulders. I used to get a red line/ mark across my shoulders when I went above 2 45's on each side.

    So here is my trick, I take my small gym towel and kind of roll it around the barbell (like paper towels on a roll) . Also when I lift, I actively use my shoulders ( forearms perpendicular to the floor) to push up on the barbell just enough to relieve pressure off my shoulders. It also helps me keep steady.

    I also do back hyper extensions before I so squats to warm up my lower back. I do squats slow and steady focusing on my glutes and quads throughout the movement.

    To get the most out of them I do squats before any other leg exercises ( besides warm up).
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 13, 2007 4:48 AM GMT
    What you were describing when the belt "made you aware" that your back is arching too much, that is basically what I was talking about, a proprioceptive reminder of posture.

    However, one must remember that when performing squats woth a bar, that although all your core muscles have to co-contract a great deal to stabilize the trunk, the back muscles are working WAY more than the abdominals. Without your back muscles working more than your abs, you would jack knife and your trunk fold forward with the bar. The back muscles prevent this from happening.

    The correct posture is to have the weights right on top of you, making the back muscle work the least that they have to.

    Unfortunately, when the body is at the biomechnical corect position, that the weight is right on top without any excessive forward or back ward moments, the lower back will be in an extended (arched) position due to the vertical compression force. This was the reason why our lumbar spine has a natural curve greatest at L5, is to absorbe this vertical compressive load. When the lower back is in the arched position, all the vetebral facet joints are compressed and jammed tight... Flexing the trunk would be widening these joints...

    So when you are squating a LOT of weight, the mechanical load to the lower back in this naturally arched position can excede the desirable amount taken by the lumbar facet joints. Any repeatitive and prolonged jamming of any joints will eventually speed up osteoarthritis. Severe osteoarthritis will cause the joints to enlarge, and eventually grow bones spurrs, and this can jam into your lower extremity peripheral nerves... Sometimes commonly called "Sciatica" (Siciatica is an old fashioned term and too general as it just describes a symtopn and can be caused by many different conditions.)

    So my final point that if you have no lower back pain, and you perform sqauts with good form (the weights right on top of your center of gravity), and that you are not doing LOTS LOTS of weights, you may not need any belts except for proprioceptive reminder of proper posture and alignment. However, if yoaure doing LOTS LOTSof weight, you probalby can benefit from a well fitting belt, to deload the vertical compressive forces that an put your bcak in to excessive passive extension, risking early onset of lumbar facet joint athrtitis when you are older...
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 13, 2007 4:49 AM GMT
    From A Review of the Use of Lifting Belts
    Issn: 1533-4295 Journal: Strength and Conditioning Journal Volume: 28 Issue: 1 Pages: 68-74
    Authors: Renfro, Gregory J., Ebben, William P.

    "In summary, the literature suggests a general lack of evidence indicating the benefits of wearing lifting belts in industrial and occupational settings. The sport science and strength and conditioning literature suggests there is no strong argument against the use of the lifting belt. Five of 8 studies of lifting belt use in sport science and strength and conditioning applications suggest that lifting belt use may provide some benefit. Sport science evidence suggests that lifting belts may be beneficial in reducing spinal compression, stabilizing the spine, increasing motor unit recruitment in prime movers, and increasing exercise velocity. Two of the 8 sport science and strength and conditioning studies showed mixed results. Only 1 of the 8 studies showed no positive effect.

    Several questions remain regarding lifting belt use. The evidence in the occupational settings reveals little to no positive effects via the use of lifting belts, but the sport science/strength and conditioning body of evidence shows enough positive effect that further study is warranted."
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 13, 2007 5:14 AM GMT
    Since we are now quating journals...:

    1. This is a study consisting of a very high number of subjects. 97 (bigger than many other studies) from PubMed:


    "CONCLUSIONS: The effectiveness of the muscle strengthening program for patients with low back pain could be improved significantly by means of the elastic lumbar belt as an applicable therapy instrument in the functional rehabilitation of spinal injuries."


    "The results indicate that wearing a brace can significantly unload the trunk in some situations, but has no effect in others. Lumbar spine compression was reduced by about one-third in the task involving trunk flexion. The disc pressure values with an orthosis were lower in about two-thirds of the exercises and higher in the remaining one-third."


    "Results. Thirty-three studies were selected for the review. There was evidence that lumbar supports reduce trunk motion for flexion-extension and lateral bending, with overall effect sizes of 0.70 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.39-1.01) and 1.13 (95% CI 0.17-2.08), respectively. The overall effect size for rotation was not statistically significant (0.69; 95% CI -0.40-4.31). There was no evidence that lumbar supports reduce the electromyogram activity of erector spinae muscles (effect size of 0.09; 95% CI -0.41-0.59) or increase the intra-abdominal pressure (effect size of 0.26; 95% CI -0.07-0.59)."


    "These results are short-term, and back complaints tend to reoccur. We make no predictions about long-tern effectiveness. However, our preliminary findings suggest if a patient with chronic low back pain has been treated with all conventional methods-short of spinal fusion-without pain relief. orthotic treatment will provide acceptable results for most patients when prescribed after analysis of five-day trial wear with a test instrument."
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 13, 2007 5:22 AM GMT
    One more:


    Spinal unloading with an externally applied vest with adequate surface interface is effective in reducing intradiscal pressures. Ambulatory reduction of pressure would permit beneficial reduction of loads and permit patients with weight-bearing intolerance a better quality of life."