What Does a Weightlifting belt do?
Written by Gustavo Ramos
July 30, 2018
You may see all the big-time lifters at your gym wearing a lifting belt.
You may even be using one yourself.
But how exactly does it work?
Let's dive in.
A core for your core
To better understand how a belt works we have to take a look at the core. The images above show the rectus abdominis (left), the obliques (A and B), and transverse abdominis (C).
The rectus abdominis is normally the muscle you use when someone says “squeeze your abs”. But our natural “belt” comes from the obliques and transverse abdominis.
These are the muscles we want to think about when lifting weights and wearing a belt. Using a belt properly will help reinforce this bracing pattern and work with your core.
Since a belt fits tightly between your rib cage and hips, it is an external addition to your core.
A belt works primarily by increasing the pressure on your abdomen when lifting.
This pressure transfers to and supports your spine (see the arrows in the image to the right) throughout a big compound lift like a squat or deadlift.
This increases intra-abdominal pressure (pressure within your belly) higher than you ever could by just contracting your core.
The more rigid your spine and torso is during a lift the better your performance will be.
If you’re using a belt properly you will be flexing your rectus abdominis hard and pressing outward into the belt through your obliques. The belt can create a slight increase in activation of the rectus abdominis muscles and the erector spinae.
But realize that all your core musculature will be contracting hard if you are lifting heavy weights.
A belt used for big lifts won’t make your core weak, but having a strong core comes from a great core training program. Read our core training guide for more on this.
There’s something about having a tight belt wrapped around your core that gives you a little more reassurance going into a huge lift. This small increase can be the difference between pushing past a sticking point or failing a rep.
Mental confidence can go a long way when lifting heavy.
More Strength Gains
There hasn’t been a client that I’ve trained that hasn’t benefited from throwing on a belt in a heavier lift.
You can just lift more weight. I’m not talking about 100 lbs more. But a belt will help add another 5-15 lbs on a squat or deadlift if used properly.
More weight lifted (safely and with proper form) means more gains made in the gym.
If you have been lifting for some time and have never used a belt read this to see if you’re ready to wear one and hit some new PR’s.
If you want to make the most out of using a belt a strong core is mandatory. Download our Serious Guide to Core Training