Learning how to use a weightlifting belt properly can make or break your workout. Weightlifting belts stabilize the spine, reducing injuries to the lower back and the incidence of hernias. They also make you more aware of your posture, which greatly improves your form while lifting.
- Find a good fit. You should try on several different weightlifting belts to see which one feels the best. Taller people will usually need wider belts. For a good fit, the belt should go around the waist and sit right on the top of the hips without pinching your skin. Tighten the belt, but not so tightly that you're unable to breathe properly. You should feel the belt become tightest when lifting, so it might be a good idea to purchase your weightlifting belt in a store that has some light weights for you to lift while trying it on. Ideally, there should be someone in the store who can instruct you on how to properly fit and wear the belt.
- Know when you should use a weightlifting belt. Choosing to use a weightlifting belt is especially important when doing power lifting or dead lifts, since these lifts usually involve heavier weights. You may also need to wear a weightlifting belt if you have had injury to your lower back, at least until the injury is healed. And people with weaker stomach muscles may need to use weightlifting belts until they develop a stronger abdominal core. After developing your abs, try not to remain completely dependant on your weightlifting belt for abdominal support.
- Learn to breathe properly. When you use a weightlifting belt, breathing technique is crucial to a productive and safe workout. The one rule to always remember is "exhale on the exertion". For example, when doing dead lifts or power lifting you would exhale as you rise up with the weight, since that's when the most exertion is taking place.
- Know when you should not use a weightlifting belt. When worn tightly, as should be done with very heavy lifting, weightlifting belts can actually raise your blood pressure by inhibiting the flow of blood to your heart. For this reason you should never wear the belt constantly tightened for your entire workout. You can get a handle on this problem with one of two different solutions. You can loosen your belt in between sets to let the blood flow resume while you take a breather, or don’t wear the belt at all for your regular workouts with lighter weights.
If you’re going to use a weightlifting belt for looks only, buy a four-inch belt and wear it loosely. Check out the different belts available. They come in many different styles and colors. And remember, if you have had any kind of back injury; be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning a weightlifting routine.