Most of the finest strength coaches in the world agree that weightlifters should spend most of their training lifting without the use of a belt. However, prudent use of a weight lifting belt for maximal lifting attempts appears not to hinder performance, and may improve gains.
The verdict is in…
Weightlifting Belts Improve Lifting Performance
Constant use of weightlifting belts in the gym prevents the core stabilizer muscles from being fully activated and these muscles become deconditioned. Training without a belt for most lifts will develop functional torso strength and core stabilization that prevents injury and enhances force transfer in all maximal attempts.
However, if your training demands that you perform maximal single rep lifts in the high-risk exercises, such as the squat and deadlift, then using a weightlifting belt may be of benefit. I’ve been swayed towards this line of thinking after reviewing some recent strength research.
Some excellent research performed at Cal State University examined muscle fiber recruitment during heavy weightlifting and found that strength athletes who wore a belt during maximal attempts in the squat increased the speed of the lift without affecting the electrical activity of the muscles involved.
Using a weight belt still allowed the athletes to produce and transfer a greater amount of force from leg to the back muscles during maximal lifts.
These results do not give the thumbs up to wear belts on every occasion for all lifts. And, you’ll still want to do your ab workouts. These results show that, in highly trained lifters, using a weight belt does not impair the neurological patterns of force production as previously believed. Therefore, using a weight belt for single-rep attempts is probably a safe move for highly conditioned athletes.