Wearing a lifting belt allows the individual to lift more weight while it may also support the lumbar spine. There are different recommendations when or how to wear a belt during weightlifting. The proposed mechanism by which the belt may reduce the risk of injury or affect the activation of the core muscle varies through the literature.
During weightlifting, wearing a belt has shown to decrease DEEP core muscle activity while the activity in the abdominal muscle increases (compared with the using no belt). The enhanced activity in the abdominals may improve abdominal pressure and is less likely to cause weakness of the deeper core muscles. Therefore, belts may contribute to stabilization of the lumbar spine (1-3).
Other studies reveal no differences between in the activation of the abdominals between wearing a belt and not wearing a belt. Findings did also show that a belt can be used to reduce low back loading (4, 5). Thus, it seems the belt doesn’t do much to increase the muscle activation during lifts. However, it does not decrease it either. The use of a belt also appears to provide an added degree of security even when close to fatigue, which may be beneficial when lifting heavier weights. (6)
Article by Maria Eklbom, licensed physiotherapist and personal trainer.
1. Lee Y.Kang S. Effect of Belt Pressure and Breath Held on Trunk Electromyography. Spine. 2002;27(3):282–290. .
2. Kurustien N. Trunk stabilizer muscle activity during manual lifting […]. J Med Assoc Thai. 2014 Jul;97 Suppl 7:S75-9. .
3. Miyamoto K. Effects of abdominal belts on intra-abdominal pressure […]. Clinical Biomechanics. 1999;14(2):79-87. .
4. Blanchard T. In a dynamic lifting task, the relationship between cross-sectional abdominal […] . Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. 2016;28:99-103. .
5. Kingma I. Effect of a Stiff Lifting Belt on Spine Compression During Lifting. Spine. 2006;31(22):E833-E839. .
6. Lander J. The effectiveness of weight-belts during multiple repetitions of the squat exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 1992;24(5):603–609.