First, let's go over some of the risks of wearing a lifting belt:
- Systolic blood pressure (i.e., the top number of your blood pressure reading) and heart rate may dramatically increase if an exercise is performed isometrically (i.e., exerting force without movement)
- Systolic blood pressure and heart rate may dramatically increase if you cinch the lifting belt tightly for an extended period of time
- Abdominal and lower back strength may decrease if you wear a lifting belt regularly
Now let's go over some of the benefits of wearing a lifting belt:
- Increased intra-abdominal pressure from wearing a lifting belt counteracts the spinal force exerted providing a protective effect
- Less compressive force causes a decrease in intervertebral disc compression while wearing a lifting belt
- Increased biomechanical awareness may occur when wearing a lifting belt which may encourage better posture and lessen injury risk
- Increased sense of security and confidence
The aforementioned risks can be attenuated by avoiding isometric exercises, loosening the belt between sets, and wearing the belt only when performing heavy lifting (i.e., more than 80% of your 1-RM). You may lessen your core strength by relying on the lifting belt. Wearing a lifting belt only when lifting heavy loads may prevent your abdominal and lower back muscles from becoming weak due to overly relying on the belt as a lifting aid.
BOTTOM LINE: Wear a weight belt but only when lifting heavy loads. The lifting belt can increase spinal stability, lessen spinal force compression, and increase exercise performance and posture.
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."