If you have stepped foot in a gym you have undoubtedly noticed at least one person who seems to always be wearing their belt, but why? How does this actually benefit us?
It seems like to many people wearing your lifting belt simply goes with being in the gym. This is a common misconception that can actually hinder your movement and core strength. Use your belt too much, and it becomes a crutch, but appropriate use can sky-rocket your max lifts!
Before we begin to understand how to appropriately use the belt we have to understand your “Core.” A common analogy used to describe your core is that of a pressure cooker. You have your abs in front, oblique’s on the side, lower back muscles in the back, and the pelvic floor being the base. The top or “lid” if you will is that of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a huge fan shaped muscle that is your primary muscle of respiration. Breathing is huge in all aspects of performance. Breathing appropriately (i.e. vaulting the diaphragm downward to fill your lungs) not only will make you a better athlete but it is a sure fire way to prevent a lower back injury.
How do you use the belt appropriately? Back to the analogy of the pressure cooker; by breathing appropriately (vaulting the diaphragm) it will increase intrabdonimal pressure which means stability of the hips and lower back. The belt is meant to increase this pressure and thus stability. The appropriate way to use the belt is have the belt snug, but not overly tight. This will allow you to push your abdomen into the belt, thus creating more pressure, and more stability.
Save the belt for the more risky moves and save your lower back!