Is a weightlifting belt worth it?

If you ask somebody the question, “Should I wear a weightlifting belt or not?” it’s possible to get a response of a resounding “yes”, a definite”no”, or maybe an uninterested “I don’t give a damn, sir!”

Powerlifters often use specific weightlifting belts while people who do CrossFit are extremely proud that they never wear one. Bodybuilders are usually half and half with some believing belts are essential for both safety and performance and some not really bothered about them at all.

The purpose of weightlifting belts are to support both the abdomen and back.  By providing something for the abs to push against during a lift, pressure is created inside the body.  This is known as intra-abdominal pressure.  Having this during a squat, for example, improves stability within the body and allows forces to be transferred more efficiently through the torso.  In the case of squatting, this is from the legs to the shoulders where the bar rests.

Now, when we sign up for the gym and have an induction, we are taught by the trainer to exhale when applying force.  This isn’t correct for moving larger weights.  Maintaining the intra-abdominal pressure means holding the breath.  This is why you will often see a professional powerlifter holding their breath when doing a big lift.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the use of belts.  One of these is that they make you become lazy and not brace properly with the abs.  Actually, proper belt usage is the opposite.  When used correctly, they provide a lot of feedback to the user allowing them to get into a more stable and stronger lifting position.  This supports the back by preventing the lumbar from rounding and also prevents hyper-extension of the spine.

weightlifting belts

 

Lifting belts are useful but There is a place and a time for a wearing them.  They should mainly be used for maximum or near maximum efforts that mainly require stabilisation of the back.  Deadlifts and squats are two of the exercises that mainly benefit from a belt.  These can involve massive amounts of forces on the body and when a belt is used correctly, it can have a positive effect on increasing the amount of weight that can be moved.  But weightlifting belts should only be worn by lifters with experience.  They need to be able to brace and move safely under heavy loads with out any help from a belt first.  So for the most part, they should train with one.  Then move into belts when they feel that the extra support is needed to progress to their goals.

One thing that makes me chuckle is when I see someone wearing one for their entire workout.  I even saw a guy wearing a belt doing crunches.  You should take it off between sets to get a breather and if you have it tight enough, you will be eager to.  Also, weight belts come in a variety of different shapes and sizes and it’s actually clear that some manufacturers of the cheaper ones don’t understand how they should even function.  This is clear from their design.  So great care should be taken when trying to select the right one.

 

Things I do to build muscle quicker

People often ask me how they can lose weight and build muscle.  The first thing I say to them is “No, bad person!!  You can’t build muscle and lose weight simultaneously!”.  Then I slap them and walk away into the sunset.

But seriously, there are some things that people often overlook when it comes to getting in shape.  I’ve noted some of the ones I do below:

Sort your diet out

At the moment the world is obsessed with protein.  It’s all over the TV and internet.  Now, people go out and buy overpriced protein shakes and down them expecting to build incredible muscle mass overnight.  By my tone, you can tell that this is wrong.  Here are some of the common misconceptions I’ve heard from all kinds of people regarding diets when trying to get in shape:

  • Fat is bad – Nope.  Fat can actually be good for you and is necessary if you want to build muscle.  Excess calories are what make you gain fat.
  • Lots and lots of protein – Sure protein is important.  But it’s not the be all and end all.  It’s only a small part of what you need to pack on muscle. You also need fat (as mentioned earlier) and carbs.
  • Carbs are bad – Carbohydrates are key to muscle growth.  If you want muscle, you need carbs.  You only cut the carbs when you are trying to lose weight.

carb meal

 

Get plenty of rest

Too many people hit the gym and train the same body parts too often.  I commonly see people training their biceps every day of the week.  This is called over-training and can actually have a detrimental effect on any muscle growth.  Not only do you need to train hard (not too often) but you need to “rest hard” also.  This means giving each of the body parts that you destroy at the gym chance to recover before going back and hitting them again.  The general rule is to only workout one body part per week and also get at least 8 hours sleep at night.

Don’t do too much cardio

If you are trying to bulk and gain muscle, you should limit your cardiovascular sessions to once or twice a week.  To much cardio means that you are burning off the precious calories which you want for your muscle growth and defeating your goal.  If you choose to include more cardio, you should also increase your calories.

Do compound exercises

These are key to building some serious strength and muscle.  No professional bodybuilder ever became big by doing only curls all day.  There are 3 exercises that absolutely everyone needs to do to make any sort of reasonably progress.  These are squats, deadlifts and bench press.  These compound movements pretty much hit the entire body in some form or another.  These are also the only 3 things that powerlifters do.

Lots of crunches = abs?

No. You cannot spot reduce fat.  Doing lots of abdominal exercises if you have decent amount of body fat will not make you slim and give you ripped abs.  People with abs on show always have a low bodyfat level to so that their abs are visible.  Abs actually only take a small amount of work to build as they are actually only a small muscle group.  So wasting hours doing ab work is pretty much a waste of time.