If you've been frequenting the gym, you'll notice a sea of weight lifting belts. You're probably wondering, "what the hell are those things for?"
When I was powerlifting, I did not use a weight lifting belt for about a year. However, I'd watch my teammates tighten their thick, leather belts before lifting heavy-ass-weight. As I started added weights to the barbell, a belt would be thrown my way.
So, what do these belts do, exactly?
May Increase Performance
Although you will not see an astronomical increase in weight you can lift, it does help some. When I first started lifting with a belt, I immediately saw a 10-pound increase for my squat and deadlift. However, I did not see an increase for bench press.
Provides Added Support
As you being to add heavier plates to your barbell, you'll realize that even though you can lift the weight just fine, you'll start to feel like you need some added support. The belt will provide stability to your back and entire midsection, reduce back stress, and it will also help protect your back against any back injuries.
How To Use A Belt
To use weight lifting belt, you want to make sure that you're fastening it correctly. It should not be too loose, or too tight. Also, it's important to familiarize yourself with property technique and form. Keep in mind that a belt will not correct any issues you have with performing the lift properly.
You don't need a lifting belt for accessory lifts, for example, bicep curls, calf raises, or tricep extensions. Lifting belts are great to use for deadlifts and barbell squats. Also! For maximum support, and for a belt that actually does its job, you'll want a belt that is wide all around.
Try to also not rely on the belt for lighter weights. When I was using a belt during powerlifting, I'd only use it above 80% of my max lift. For example, if the most I ever lifted was 300lbs, I'd slap on a belt right around or above 240lbs.
Do you need a lifting belt?
If you're competing or lifting above your 80% max, I'd say go for it. If you're lifting weight that you can handle for 8+ reps, you probably don't need the belt. But ultimately, it's up for you to decide