Recently, I picked up a weight belt from EliteFTS. It took a while to break in because it’s pretty thick, but now that I’m using it and getting used to it, I love the thing. I’d recommend it to people who are picking up some heavy stuff. Personally, I don’t think I put up anything that heavy, but I’ll get there one day. When I look at national and world powerlifting records, at least, I’m nowhere close, so it’s not heavy. However, when a bar is on my back or in my hands, it feels heavy. My point is that just because it’s heavy to you doesn’t mean it’s actually heavy. Need an example? If you’re quarter squatting 225lbs, you probably shouldn’t be wearing a belt. (You should be learning how to squat deeper.) If you’re using the lat pulldown [Why aren’t you doing chinups?!], you shouldn’t be wearing a weight belt. If you’re squatting sets of 3 with your 3 rep max, you might want to look into them.
The use of a weight belt has been a controversial topic for years. Some people swear by them, some people think that they’re the devil. I haven’t used one until recently, and wanted to try using one for the purposed spine-stiffening benefits. Personally, I think that only a small population of people should use them. I recently came across 2 articles on Bret Contreras‘ blog written by Dr. Mel Siff, which were a response to a 3 article series by Paul Chek titled Back Strong and Beltless. I wanted to read Chek’s work before I reviewed Siff’s criticism, as it’s the scientifically responsible thing to do, so I found them on T-Nation. (You can read Chek’s articles here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and Siff’s review here (Part 1, Part 2) Chek is fervently against the use of belts, and Siff criticizes Cheks use of scientific backing. Chek made some wonderful points about people gaining dependance on their belts, as they become accustomed to moving large(r) weights with the belts than without them. From personal experince, I know that I can move a good deal more with the belt, and that’s when using it over 90% of 1RM. From a practical side, Chek is right that most people should be learning how to use the ‘core’ muscles more efficiently. You don’t have a weight belt on in real life, and so you needn’t be training in one all the time. Many people who use belts are too reliant on them, and need to cut back on their usage. However, I do believe that they should keep them on for lifts that are over 90% of 1RM. This way, you’ll increase safety and stiffness when moving maximal mass, but with the large majority of training time spent belt free, your core will retain its ability to function as it was intended.
Honestly, most of you shouldn’t be wearing weight belts. Most people shouldn’t be wearing weight belts. When you look at what ‘heavy’ is, and I mean powerlifting heavy, not ‘my mom on the treadmill thinks this is heavy’, and you move weights like that, then a belt becomes important. If that’s the case, use them, and use them the right way. They have their time and place, and they should be viewed as an accessory and not a necessity.