I want to be strong! I want to get ripped! I want to look like a scared cat and then end up in the hospital! – said no one ever
Say you’re a new lifter. Or maybe you’ve been lifting for quite some time, now. Before you start that set of squats or deadlifts or whichever heavy (or not heavy) move you have planned for the day, do you put on your lifting belt? If the answer is yes, then this is for you. Don’t have a lifting belt yet but are thinking of getting one? Then this is also for you.
See here’s the thing. Lifting belts may seem like a no brainer. Every guy you see at the gym has one. I mean, if you didn’t have one people would probably ask “do you even lift, bro?” on a daily, nah, hourly basis! As much as it seems like the cool thing to do, the fact of the matter is most people wearing a lifting belt are not using them properly and limiting their strength gains as a result. Recreational strength seekers do not NEED to use a lifting belt, and actually SHOULD NOT use a lifting belt, at least in the beginning. Period.
Let’s assume that you have always trained using a lifting belt. No matter the weight, no matter the exercise. It is possible that:
1.) You have never learned to properly brace your core when lifting or lowering something very heavy.
2.) You haven’t mastered the technique needed perform the exercise safely.
3.) You have internalized bad form when doing these exercises.
All three of these factors have the potential to lead you down the road to injury. Which is definitely NOT what you want. Ask anybody who has had a back injury before. You don’t want to go there. So you should do whatever you can to avoid that route.
The belt is designed to protect me. So why is using it a bad thing?
A belt can only take you so far. It should be used as a tool, not a crutch. It is not there to replace your core strength, but to assist it, especially when lifting ungodly amounts of weight. It can help to protect you, but you first need to protect yourself, using your own body belt. Just wearing a belt is not going to cut it. You will eventually break because you have failed to prepare your body for the amount of weight you are attempting to lift.
Build your technique and reinforce it.
Even if you have been lifting for a somewhat long period of time, your technique can change or become unhinged every now and then. Technique can always be improved or tweaked, nothing is set in stone. I advise you to take some videos of yourself while performing your lifts to assess any weak points in your technique. Occasionally, using a lifting belt can make even advanced lifters a little lazy. Therefore it can be a really great challenge to force yourself to lift without the belt from time to time. Not only will you keep yourself from falling into bad habits, but you will also improve your overall strength.
So what is my advice?
My advice to novice strength seekers or recreational strength seekers is to not use a belt. Build your body belt, work on your execution and breathing techniques. This is going to be the best preparation for you, should you decide to take your lifting to the next level.
My advice to advanced strength seekers or competition-minded strength seekers is to only use the belt after you have reached the 85% or 90% range of your 1 RM. Try to use the belt as little as possible. By doing this you will challenge your core and keep your bracing ability from weakening through too much dependency on the belt.
That’s all there is to it, my friends. I will leave you with these final soundbites:
1.) Listen to your body. Be prudent. Don’t kill it.
2.) Be yourself. Don’t be a follower. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what gear you have, it is what you do that counts.
3.) Always take the most challenging route available. Get out of your comfort zone.
Remember: The challenges you face will only make you stronger. Push yourself to the limit and you will RISE ABOVE!
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