Few things garner as much conversation and questions from newcomers as do the use of aids when “doing fitness.”
What I mean by aids is – gloves, wraps, straps, and belts.
What I mean by “doing fitness” is – any sort of exercise…CrossFit, weightlifting, etc.
But the topic of today’s post will be the subject of using a weight belt.
What you first need to understand is how the body maintains its structural integrity…or rather how you stay upright when standing and not flop over like the bag of bones you are.
Most people are familiar with the term ‘core’…and if you’ve been around CFG long enough, you know how that word makes my skin crawl. I even wrote this post about it. But in there I briefly go over the fact that your core is made up of a number of muscles that work together in stabilizing your midline: transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis (6-pack), internal and external obliques. (There is a more in-depth review here.)
Anyhow, moving along.
When we task you with putting load onto your body, we frequently go over the idea of bracing your midline: 1) Butt squeezed to bring pelvis into neutral 2) Big belly breath in, thereby making the stomach go out, NOT chest go up. 3) Abs tightened as if you were readying for a punch
Some people have heard “get tight” or something of that nature, but the overall message is this – we are looking to create as broad a base in your torso as possible. Think about it this way – what is more stable: an upside-down pyramid (stomach drawn in) or one with a big wide base at the bottom (abdomen pushed out)? For a MUCH more thorough article on this topic, read this!
The common problems that we see with people using weight belts is two-fold:
1) Improper use – this is beyond the scope of this post but is covered in great depth here.
2) Over-reliance on them because of a weak “core” and inability to do the above drill effectively
If you are using a weight belt for anything other than heavy sets, say above 85% of 1RM, then you are using it as a crutch at best…and hurting the development of your midline at worst. Just don’t do it.
(If you want to nerd out even more, check this out.)
One final note: inexperienced lifters (read: anyone that hasn’t been under a structured weightlifting program, like we run at CFG, consistently for at least 18 months) should not be wearing a belt. They instead need to focus on learning how to brace properly.