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5 Studies Answer: Should You Use a Weightlifting Belt?

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5 Studies Answer: Should You Use a Weightlifting Belt?

If you want a simple, science-based answer to whether you should use a weightlifting belt or not, then you want to read this article.

To belt, or not to belt?

Poke around on the Internet, and you’ll find a lot of answers to that question, and a lot of heated debate.

Many people believe that you should always wear a weightlifting belt under all circumstances because it significantly reduces your risk of injury.

Others are adamantly opposed to belting for various reasons, including not actually improving performance, stunting core development, and undermining joint health.

Others still are somewhere in the middle, believing that belts are appropriate for some people under certain circumstances, and inappropriate for others.

Who’s right and who’s wrong?

Well, there’s a bit of truth in each of these schools of thought.

The reality is this:

Multiple studies have shown that a weightlifting belt can improve your performance on key exercises like the squat and deadlift, but it probably doesn’t reduce your risk of injury.

And that’s assuming you know how to use it properly.

Most people don’t, though, and not only miss out on any possible training benefits, but actually increase their chances of getting hurt.

Let’s break down why.

Who Should and Shouldn’t Use a Weightlifting Belt

man without weightlifting belt

Research shows that wearing a belt can help you generate more force and bar speed on the squat and deadlift, which translates into higher one-rep-maxes and more reps with any given weight.

This, over time, can mean greater gains in muscle and strength (assuming that you’re following a well-designed weightlifting program that emphasizes progressive overload).

According to Dr. Stuart McGill, however, who’s widely recognized as the preeminent authority on spinal biomechanics, a weightlifting belt can only improve performance when spinal flexion occurs.

In other words, according to Dr. McGill, a belt can only benefit performance when an exercise like the squat or deadlift is done with poor form (your spine should remain neutral in these lifts, never flexed).

There’s probably more to that story, though, because there’s little doubt among competitive strength athletes that know and practice proper form that a using a belt increases performance.

I’m no Dr. McGill, but I do think the weight of the evidence points toward the conclusion that, when used properly, a belt can indeed improve weightlifting performance when both good and bad form are used.

“When used properly” is operative there, though, because simply strapping a belt on doesn’t accomplish this.

You have to “activate” it by pressing your abs out and against it as you perform the exercises, thereby increasing intraabdominal pressure levels.

This helps stabilizes the spine, creating a mechanical advantage that can result in slightly better performance on certain exercises.

(You can achieve a similar effect with the valsalva maneuver, but not as forcefully and effectively.)

That doesn’t necessarily mean you must use a belt in your weightlifting, though.

They’re most relevant to bodybuilders, powerlifters, strength athletes, who live and die by how much weight they can lift for how many reps.

If, however, you’re not in any of those buckets, or if you find training with a belt particularly uncomfortable, you can do just fine without one.

You should also skip the belt if you have high blood pressure or hernias, because spiking intraabdominal pressure also spikes blood pressure and can aggravate hernias.

There are also people that believe in training beltless because it reflects your true, unassisted strength, and forces you to learn how to properly stabilize your body yourself while you lift, and I agree to a point.

If you can lift significantly more weight with a belt than without one (more than 10 or 15%), then you could benefit from training beltless and improving your technique.

I also mentioned earlier that, in some people, wearing a belt increases the risk of injury.

The reason for this is twofold:

1. They don’t know how to wear and use it properly.

2. They think it magically protects them from injury regardless of form, and get overzealous and sloppy in their lifting.

We’ve all seen these guys in the gym.

The belt is too low to be used properly as an abdominal brace and they look like scared cats as they squat and deadlift weights that they would never attempt without the “protection” of the belt.

Well, the belt isn’t protecting them against injury, and thus, their risk of getting hurt has just gone way up.

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How to Correctly Choose and Use a Weightlifting Belt

squatting with weightlifting belt

A good weightlifting belt is rigid, allows you to reach depth in your squats, and get into a proper starting position in your deadlifts.

Rigidity is determined by the belt’s thickness, and I like 10 mm because it’s stiff enough to do its job, but also breaks in quickly (making it more comfortable to use).

The factor that most determines how well a belt will function is its width.

If it’s too skinny, it doesn’t offer much surface to press your abs against. If it’s too large, it won’t work for deadlifting (you won’t be able to comfortably get into the starting position).

I recommend that you start with a belt that’s 9 or 10 cm wide, as this is what most people find most comfortable.

If, however, that’s too wide for you to deadlift in comfortably, you’ll need to go with a thinner belt, or one that’s tapered in the front.

Let’s now talk latches.

You have two choices: prongs and levers.

Levers are faster to put on and take off, but you only get one level of tightness, which can be problematic when switching between squats and deadlifts, or when you eat a bit too much the night before.

That’s why I prefer a pronged latch, and a single prong in particular, because it’s easier to use, and more secure.

In terms of belt brands, I’m of the mind that it’s worth paying a bit more for the best, because it’s going to last forever, so I’m partial to the best: Eleiko and Inzer.

Alright, so you’ve chosen a belt, and now just need to know how to use it properly. Here’s how it works:

1. The first step is properly positioning it on your torso.

For most people, the best position is right above the hip bones.

Some people like to angle it a little up, above the belly button, or a little below, and either is fine. Go with what’s most comfortable.

2. Then there’s tightness.

The rule is you want it to be as tight as possible while still allowing for a full breath into the belly. If you can’t do this without raising up, it’s too tight.

For this reason, you’ll probably find that you need the belt to be a little looser when you deadlift than when you squat, because of the deadlift’s starting position.

It’s also worth noting that you might find the belt uncomfortable at first, before it’s broken in.

That’s normal, and you can either get a thinner belt, or just deal with it until it gets more comfortable.

The Bottom Line on Weightlifting Belts

A belt doesn’t inherently decrease the risk of injury, but can improve performance on key lifts like the squat and deadlift.

It accomplishes this in the same way as the valsalva maneuver: by increasing intraabdominal pressure, and thereby spinal stability.

So, if you can safely increase your intraabdominal and blood pressure levels (you have normal blood pressure levels and no hernias), and if you want to do everything you can do get the most out of your weightlifting, then it makes sense to use a belt when you squat and deadlift.

If, however, you find it tremendously uncomfortable, or just enjoy lifting without a belt more, then you shouldn’t feel you have to use one. You can do just fine beltless.

What’s your take on using a weightlifting belt? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Scott | MassNERDerer

    I was always under the impression that the belt would lead to weakness after ceasing use of the belt. In effect, the belt take some of the load off your core, so if not using the belt, your core doesn’t work optimally, leading to increase risk of injury. You didn’t mention the belt actually providing stability for any core muscles. So is that notion also false?

    Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, that can happen. One of the occupational studies found this.

      It does provide trunk stiffness and thus an increase in stability, but you can accomplish the same thing by just holding your breath (Valsalva).

  • Ryblik

    You know I never used a weightlifting belt, until I ruptured two of my discs last fall. The pain that came with it is too harsh to remind and it pushed me out of any kind of activity for over 6 months. No, getting back to lifting I went and bought a Nike belt from Ross. My objective for using it was excatly what you described above – hoping it will help me maintain a proper form. The first 2-3 weeks it bothered me more than helped but now, in my 11th week of lifting I have to admit for me it works very well. I completely understand it does not protect me from anything. But since I tighten it up against my core, it constantly reminds me to use and tighten my core when I lift. It is a little uncomfortable on some moves, but again – that helps me to remember the pain I had in my lower back before and restrict me from letting my form go bad in order to lift more. So, scientific prrof or not, for me it works. Again, I don’t use it to get extra reps, but just as a reminder that I have a very weak back and I have to take it carefully 🙂

    • Ryblik

      Now when I got to thinking about it further, what do you suggest based on your article? Should I actually get away from t he belt instead as it may pay me back later when I start training without it?

      • Michael Matthews

        It would probably be smart to eventually wean off it, but I would continue using it until your back is fully healed…

    • Michael Matthews

      Ouch I’m sorry to hear about the injury. I actually meant to address this point of using it with pre-existing injuries. I’ve added it. According to McGill, people with injuries MAY benefit from using a belt, but you shouldn’t use it to try to pull/squat more weight than you normally would.

  • Mark E.

    Initially I thought that belts were used for support of the back. Then recently I thought that belts were only used to prevent hernias from occurring/re-occurring. Especially hernias that protrude from the abdominal wall. Is there any evidence for that being true? I agree that all of these injuries can be avoided if you don’t push yourself beyond the limits of good form during the lift.

    • Michael Matthews

      I’ve never seen anything reliable in terms of belts and hernias, so I’m not sure. I just know that we can be genetically predisposed to getting hernias regardless of what we do…

  • Brian Doe

    Thank you, Mike! I know a lot of lifters that wear belts, and I never have, though I wondered if I should be. Now I know.

    • Michael Matthews

      Glad you liked the article and aren’t going to bother with the belt! 🙂

  • Alika K.

    Another awesome article Mike! Great timing, because I have been on the fence for the past month about buying one. What are your thoughts of using straps? Obviously maintaining strict form, but straps have been another one of those things I see debated a lot.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Alika! Straps are okay but I recommend using them after your grip gets too fatigued to hold the weight. That way your grip can build up…

  • Chris

    Great article! I’ve just never liked them, I tried one a while back and
    it felt ‘wrong’ somehow. I don’t wear gloves either, but my hands are
    starting to fall apart so maybe it’s time to bite the bullet!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Chris! I’m not a fan either. I prefer no gloves too but my calluses kept tearing, so I had to give in…

      • Kevin

        My calluses tear all the time, is this bad…?

        • Michael Matthews

          Nah, but it was getting painful. Raw skin was getting exposed. It was happening on deadlifts.

  • Jenny Leadem

    Great information here. My bf bought a belt after he hurt his lower back deadlifting too much weight. He stopped using it after his back healed but now he gave it to his Dad to use and his dad is a casual lifter who I’m sure doesn’t have perfect form and to top it off he has high blood pressure! Needless to say he is gonna be lifting beltless like the rest of us from now on.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jenny! Good call. Definitely no reason for the dad to be using it…

  • Christina

    I thought part of using a belt is to keep your core tight. The act pushing your abs and air into the belt. This idea helps a person maintain proper form not necessarily support your back.
    How can thousands of weightlifters and coaches be wrong? Have you talked with World strongest men or west side barbell or juggernaut training to find their reasoning behind it?

    • Michael Matthews

      The issue of increasing intra-abdominal pressure was addressed by McGill and what he found is that 1) it doesn’t improve strength like people believe, and 2) you can achieve basically the same effect by just holding your breath throughout the lift.

      And powerlifters use belts because it does help you pull/squat a little more weight, but it only with a rounded back, which isn’t what people should be doing. Yes, you can learn to deadlift with a rounded back, but it’s a great way to get hurt if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing…

      • Chad Nowlin

        Doing anything with a rounded back is a great way to get hurt even you you think you know what you are doing. Rounded backs underneath a load or pulling up a load will inevitably lead to vertebral disc explosion. The evidence here in this article is legit and should be taken into consideration. A weight belt is no different than wearing an ankle brace all the time, or wearing orthotics in shoes, or wearing a knee immobilizer for a week. If you decrease the need for the muscles to control the ankle by adding external support, the internal support becomes weak from disuse. If you constantly let the shoe control the foot, the foot muscle get weak and the foot no longer controls the shoes. If you wear a knee immobilizer for a week, the quads disappear. The same thing holds true for weight belts. If you decrease the need for spinal muscles to support and stabilize the spine, they get weak and increase risk of injury. And to address the question of how can thousands of those people be wrong… people do what they have heard their whole life and never give thought to study why its used, the science behind it, and if it actually work or is all in the mind. Thats why I really appreciate that Mike uses evidence based article from legitimate research studies. They also do not help with hernias as most would think. They actually place someone at a greater risk for hernia, or re-herniation.

        • Michael Matthews

          Great comment Chad, thanks for sharing.

          • dan

            Doesn’t lifting low rep heavy weight give you groin pain? I have noticed that from my experience

          • Not at all! Warmups and good flexibility/mobility should take care of that.

      • Brian

        Hi Mike, I have been a follower of your blog for some time and also have read your book. Currently 4 months in on a one year transformation plan following your awesome method. For the first time, I was compelled to write to you after reading your comment ” you can achieve basically the same effect by just holding your breath throughout the lift”. I have always been taught and practiced the idea that when exerting weight to breath out, not hold the breath. I think holding the breath is actually quite an unsafe practice. Can you clarify please. Thanks!

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks Brian! Glad to hear you’re doing well.

          There are different opinions on this matter but the Valsalva maneuver is well-established in the powerlifting community especially.

      • Zack B

        you’re completely wrong Michael. The belt helps keep your core tight.

        • Michael Matthews

          I acknowledged this and say you can achieve a similar effect without a belt…

          • Zack B

            Similar, yet not nearly as effective

          • Michael Matthews

            I recommend you read the research I cite as there’s more to consider than the simple matter of being able to pick up more weight in a single lift using a belt.

  • I don’t use the belt, but not because I knew all this neat info. I just never used it cause it made it seem weaker to myself. But I guess it’s a good thing I never used it

    • Michael Matthews

      I never used one either. Always seemed like cheating to me haha.

  • disqus_UBp4xEee2Z

    The only good reason to wear a belt is to minimize the risk of abdominal hernia, or if you’ve had an abdominal hernia. It’s really more to protect your gut than your back.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! I’m actually not sure if it even helps with this. Didn’t see any mention of it in the studies I reviewed…

  • Jeff Lagemann

    I fall into the previous back injury. I don’t use a belt my back aches, I do use one, its all good. I keep working on core, but I don’t know that I will ever be able to push any kind of weight without one.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah that makes sense. Keep using it.

    • Roeller McLeityers

      Working out your core might not be enough. You need to look further. Do you anteriorly pelvic tilt? If so why? Find a good physio in your area and they should be able to help you with this.

  • kashif ayub

    I am a trainer and i never recommend my clients to use belt because i trained their core and guide them to work out in a good posture.
    Well i think people either should know their limit to lift and should have a proper rest among the sets.
    Team muscle for life thank u all for such a priceless information’ keep it up.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Kashif, and that’s great. I totally agree.

  • Darius

    From my personal experiance i can confirm, that tight weight lifting belt was the cose of my groin hernia.

    • Michael Matthews

      Arg I’m sorry to hear that.

  • biker joe

    Hi Mike, great article. I’ve been working out for a number of years.When I was a kid I started working out at the YMCA hear in Chicago. At this YMCA all the Olympic lifters in the area trained here. So I had a lot of well known lifters at the time as mentors. They all wore lifting belts and I started wearing one also. One day I forgot to bring my belt to work out. I said one day won’t hurt not wearing one. Well the first heavy squat I did I couldn’t balance the weight. I had to go down to 40% of my max before I could hold the bar/weight without my core/balancing muscles giving out. From that day on, I never used a belt. All the die hards at the gym gave me grief, but I never gave in. Using a belt actually stops the balancing muscles that is used to control the bar and weight on the shoulders from coming into play. And in time, weakens them. When you stop using the belt the muscles can’t take the heavy weight load. The same goes for the bench press. When you do benches using a machine the stabilizing muscles are not used. So you build up in weight and you feel strong. One day you happen to visit a gym with a normal weight bench and want to show off how much you can bench. You come to find out you can’t even hold the bar and weight over your chest because you can’t balance it. I would stay away from weight belts and any machine that isolates the movement in a compound exercise.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      Yup, belts are a crutch for most people. And very true on the bench as well!

  • Jon

    I normally agree with you Mike,

    But there are benefits to wearing a belt. I went years without using one for squats and deadlifts and recently got one. I don’t experience any lower back soreness any more but am capable of lighting the same weight with or without a belt, so my muscles haven’t gotten weaker. Like someone pointed out earlier there are literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of people world wide that use these belts. They can’t all be wrong

    • Jon

      correction “Lifting the same weight”

    • Michael Matthews

      If you use it and then lift the same weights you won’t run into any issues. Many guys use belts to lift more weight than they can handle without the belt though…

    • Roeller McLeityers

      Millions of people eat at McDonalds as well. It doesn’t mean they’re the best place to eat.

      If you’re getting pain with your squats and DLs get someone to record your form from the side. I’m willing to bet you have some lumbar extension (butt wink) at the bottom of your squats or DLs or some other small technique imperfection that could be fixed.

  • Leslie

    This article came through my news feed at a great time, my husband mentioned the other day he was going to look into getting a belt and I told him it was unnecessary but of course he “needs” one to lift heavier I will show him this article with all the research done so he will hopefully change his mind.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha cool. I hope he likes it. 🙂

  • Onionknight

    Article is garbage. Lts see you squat 500 lbs and simulate the intra abdominal pressure from a belt by simply “holding your breath.” good luck

    The studies supporting your argument are crap at best. These belts are designed for powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting. Not bag carrying and miniscule retail loads. To make it worse, these studies used the belt as a crutch, when it is a training tool ment for max effort lifts. Of course it’s going to increase injury when people walk around and work in them 24/7. I bet if they wore wrist wraps 24/7, they’d get similar results. So that makes wrist wraps stupid too right? Especially for 300lb+ bench presses

    On another note, exactly how do you prove that bad form is the only way these weightlifting belts help? Let’s look at the squat for example. One of the big points of squatting is to hold your fucking breath, and stick your chest up as you descend into the hole. At what point does wearing a belt change that? It doesn’t curve their spine, it doesn’t cave their chest. But it does increase intra abdominal pressure by giving the abdominals something to push against. Mot intra abdominal pressure means more pressure holding your spine aligned correctly.

    But hey, apparently you can do this yourself by holding your breath. So in the same sense, a rubber balloon has the same pressure as a truck tire right? Think about it. How can you emulate the same pressure by yourself as you would pushing your abdominals into something as sturdy as a 10mm thick leather belt? You can’t

    Educate yourself before spouting this garbage. Articles like this are the reason broscience and pseudoscience run so rampant in the fitness world

  • Ketan Pandya

    Thank you for sharing this, Mike. Liked the part where you include researches and studies performed to prove the point. I had a colleague at workplace gym requesting me to use the belt when he saw me not using it during the DLs, he explained that he had to go thru an injury during DLs etc. I told him about some of these studies real quick (good I was in between my warm up sets and could afford to do it) and sympathized for his injury and asked him how long he took to recover! He just responded, ‘what do you think, why I’m in this state!!’ (Even with a good height and structure, I see he’s at least more than 30-32% on bodyfat), I was just about to ask, ‘do you think not working out will make you fat??’ but then held myself back and resumed my sets 🙂 — Today, when I was doing the same routine at another gym, one of the instructors requesting me to put the belt on, I tried to explain him about the balancing muslces and he agreed that he used the belt to get to a number, which I told him I’m not interested in and would rather work on my overall strength. I keep some of these links (including the top 10 worthless workouts etc) on my OneNote and forwarded him this article with the study links, requested him to go thru it and provide his opinion, also confirmed that, I’m with open mind and would start using belt once he has enough evidences to prove against these articles. This was the second instructor whom I sent these links at my local gym so far. It gives you confidence knowing the stuff and discussing about them. Thanks again for sharing such a valuable information!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.

      Haha I hate it when people act like that in the gym. You’re doing great. Keep it up brother.

  • Jason

    I wish that I’d read this article first before blindly accepting the loan of a belt!

    After a 25 years of endurance sports and being conscience of my lack of exposure to resistance training I switched to the BLS routine. I was seeing a steady progress in all of my lifts, to the point where the weights were starting to get quite respectable and I was feeling great, I accepted the advice of a life-long bodybuilder that wearing a belt would be a reasonable precaution to avoid injury. I think I was pushing against the belt, which was tight around my waist and in turn created pressure on my lower back that quickly resulted in crippling agony. I now appreciate the error of not questioning if I actually needed a belt.

    Four weeks later my lower back is only just starting to feel ‘ok’ again with only the occasional nerve tweak. Lesson learned, thankfully this isn’t a race and I’m even more motivated to get back to it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Arg I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m glad you’re healing up. Get well soon and let’s get you back on track brother.

  • There is no need to wear a belt all the time. There is a lot of
    discussion in the fitness community about whether you should wear a belt
    at all. but I will say two things: first, under a heavy load, a belt can help
    reduce your odds of getting an orthopedic injury. Second, a belt will
    definitely aid in lifting performance.This is my opinion.You shouldn’t wear a belt with loads that you can easily support—below 90% of your one rep max on big, barbell lifts.

    • Michael Matthews

      This is correct.

  • Minnie

    http://www.adacollection.com try it for the best fashion

  • Sly

    Informative and timely as ever Michael, I guess I might as well come out and say my form must have sucked for years as I now have Chronic lower back pain, I tried a friend’s belt out earlier today and found it helped in as much as forced me to maintain proper form/posture when squatting and I certainly didn’t feel as much soreness in my lower back, placebo effect, don’t know. I take your point about not using it by default, just on heavier lifts and I’m not even sure I could ever get used to wearing one so I’ll have to leave my ego at the door 😉

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah it acts a crutch, really. It’s good for trying to hit PRs but not for regular lifting–you’re better off dialing back the weight and strengthening everything up.

    • Roeller McLeityers

      There are many reasons a belt can help. I’m getting into squats (proper, deep squats) and I get lower back pain afterwards. I get significantly less back pain (still some) if I wear a belt. I could keep squatting with a belt or I could address the problem. My problem is that my hamstrings are too tight. I can touch my toes but I still need a bit more flexibility to prevent that butt wink and lumbar extension (what I believe to be causing the pain). So keep in mind you could have an underlying problem/technique error that needs addressing.

  • Carl Gilbert

    In a way you’re saying belts are actually used in the way the ‘bros’ say they are. Pressuring your back into being straight. So in the end those wide back belts may be useful after all 🙂

    I used a belt 20+ years ago and recently dug it up 2 months ago. I’m trying to incorporate it into my squat and DL but I’m struggling to comprehend/feel the benefit. (especially considering I’ve been keeping good form without one)

    I’m a few lbs. stronger with the belt. Probably psychosomatic 🙂 But on the DL I just can’t wear it. It pinches in the corner but more than that, it _increases_ pressure in the areas that the belt is not covering. This causes me to ‘feel’ my repaired groin hernia when I push. I quit that immediately.

    This is the second article on your site that allowed me to stop banging my head against the wall making something work that doesn’t seem like it does contrary to popular opinion.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahah I’m not 100% anti-belt, but it’s a tool for hitting PRs and preventing re-injury, not for weekly use.

      Glad to hear I can help. 🙂

  • Aaron Brookes

    i personally think they work maybe its the kind of belts you use i bought one from sportsdirect it didnt seem to really work well then i went on a specialist site ammfitness.co.uk and got one, now trust me there is a big different.

    • Michael Matthews

      Remember the point is they do help for hitting PRs but they’re not good for every week use…

      • Aaron Brookes

        agree fully there with you I normally use it when doing back exercises or lifting very heavy weights, apart from that i just keep my back straight when doing lighter weights

  • David Cairns

    Hi Mike, controversial article this one. I use a back support, is there a difference between that and a weight lifting belt?

    • Michael Matthews

      What are you using exactly?

      • David Cairns

        http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00BARJ80A I use this, hope link works just got iPhone I’m a bit of a technophobe lol.

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay. Personally I wouldn’t use it unless I had a previous injury I was working around.

          • David Cairns

            Cool didn’t use it for my last leg workout tbh didn’t notice difference. I do use knee supports though for heavy squating because I get twinges of pain in my left knee. do you think knee straps and belts are same idea? Thanks again for replying.

          • Michael Matthews

            Cool on the belt and I don’t recommend knee wraps, but sleeves are nice:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/product/rehband-knee-sleeve/

  • Really nice article Mike! Great arguments for such a controversial topic 🙂
    I remember one tweet of Martin Berkhan: “You’re using a belt for what? To protect you from the gravity of the Earth?”

    Keep these coming man!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Radu! Hahah that sounds like Berkhan alright.

  • Daryl

    What a poorly written article. Two studies from over twenty years ago and one from over fifteen! Not even about a weightlifting belt but “back belt” used during work. One of the studies 58% stopped using it before the study was over. None of the studies mentioned prior injuries by the participants.

    For your reference about a weightlifting belt in athletic performance by McGill it it’s a link to Amazon for his text book so you cannot check that reference unless you put up the money.

    You shouldn’t make claims like you do if you can’t prove them. Really people this guy is just trying to sell you HIS book.

  • D real

    I recommend check the references before making any assessments about this article. Also the writer deleted my previous comment critiquing this article and banned me.

    • Michael Matthews

      I don’t mind people disagreeing with me but ban people that are overly negative and clearly aren’t going to contribute anything to the overall conversation.

      • Dboi

        Don’t cancel free speech you oiled up prick.

        • alecross

          Sorry Dboi, but freedom of speech doesn’t actually apply to private things–like someone else’s website. The guarantee of freedom of speech, in the US, is only that the government won’t fully restrict your freedom (minus a few exceptions, such as “fighting words,” immediate threats of harm, words that could incite, etc.). Michael’s sharing his views on his website. He can delete your (or my) comments if he wants–especially if they’re not being constructive.

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  • chris

    I used to use a belt until I actually hurt myself by pinching a nerve in my left arm while bench pressing. This had forced me to use lighter weight to the point where I didnt need the belt anymore and worked on proper form. Can squat and deadlift 315 without a belt

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • stupidgoddamnjerk

    Stop misquoting studies. You do it so frequently that I am going to begin calling you out on it. In this article, you quote one study out of context (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15676878) which clearly states that the at-risk group were individuals who ceased use of the belt prematurely and does not presume to establish causation. This (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7660236) study has no mention of increased pressure on the lower back or spine, and is studying the effect of lifting belts on muscular endurance.

    Get out of here.

  • David

    I do crossfit and started a strength program for squats, dradlifts and press. This made me think I should consider a belt as my squats are getting well over 2 times my body weight. So far I have had no issues size from being sore. What I thought was interesting is all the pro belt sites sited “research” where Mr. Matthews breaks down actual studies with links. I’m staying belt free.

    • Nice on your progress! I don’t see any reason to use a belt unless you’re a powerlifter going for PRs or unless you’ve sustained lower back injuries in the past.

  • Do you even lift ?

    Inzer called.. they said youre wrong. Also, do you even lift u fkn phaggot?

  • Jason Mc

    Mike,
    I’ve been using a belt for my working sets of squats, military press, and deadlift. The belt I’ve been using is a 4″ padded leather, and about 4 weeks ago, I fractured a rib doing squats with it on. I assume that it was the small size of the belt, so I am in the market for a 6″ one, that is until I read this article. Now I’m questioning whether or not to use one at all. I do have a pre-existing lower back injury, but have for the most part worked past it over the last few years. When I first started working out, I could barely deadlift the bar without back pain. I am now working out with 305. I’ve always used the belt to protect myself, though. Am I holding myself back by this, or am I correct for using it because of my previous injury?

    • Damn I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you heal up quickly.

      If you have a pre-existing lower back injury than a belt is probably a good idea.

    • Roeller McLeityers

      If you fractured your rib with a 4inch belt wouldn’t that tell you you’re using too wide of a belt? Why did it fracture? To me it suggests the belt pushed into your 12th rib (i.e. the belt is too wide). I can only imagine a 6inch will make it even worse.

  • Daniel

    Mike,
    What about using a belt on squats and deads to prevent hernias? Hernias can occur when you strain too much, and when I hold my breath / do the valsalva maneuver for part of these exercises, I get psychologically scared a bit of straining so hard that I get a hernia. Thoughts?

    • I’ve heard from various powerlifters that I’d listen to that having a belt across your abs can help give you something to push them against and offer the type of support you’re talking about.

    • Michael Sanchez

      I’m a neophyte when it comes to lifting, but because of my professional training I’m pretty well educated in anatomy and physiology. It would seem to me that the only hernia a belt would prevent would be an abdominal hernia. Being at risk for an abdominal hernia would mean a very week abdomen (sedentary person, recent or extensive abdominal surgery).
      Men most often get inguinal hernias, and a belt will not add support to that area. On the contrary, the belt will increase intra-abdominal pressure, and the inguinal canal is going to be the point of least resistance to relieve that pressure. I’d be amazed if belts didn’t INCREASE the risk of inguinal hernias.

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  • TexasRebel

    Hi Michael, thanks for this great article.

    I know this is an old thread but I wanted to post this for anyone who has experienced what I have. I used to wear a belt all the time and could never lift without it.

    3 1/2 years ago I ditched the belt and body building (which I was failing at miserably) and started powerlifting/strength/core training. My results have been amazing. (for me)

    I recently bought a belt again thinking: “hey, I am finally lifting heavy and don’t want to get hurt.”

    My lower/middle back has hurt every time I wore the belt. I find I can engage my core and balance much better without it.

    I have since ditched the belt again and my back isn’t having issues.

    • Thanks for commenting! Glad to hear you’re building your strength up without the belt.

  • dave

    i wear a belt for weighted pullups and my diesel jeans 😛

  • Ramathorn

    I think it purely comes down to personal choice. I’ve lifted for 30 years now and probably 50% of those years with and without a belt. I’ve recently gone back to using a belt because I’m upping my squat and deadlift weights and I like the added stability it provides in the lower back. Sure, we can argue that there might be a legit physiological affect or it might be all mental. There are only two movements I use it for, squats and deadlift. It’s utterly useless for anything else, especially benching. I could see some stability gain when doing military press, but that is the only other one I consider. My lower back is sore with or without the belt and that is normal, both DL and squat involve a lot of back activity, so if your not getting at lease a little sore, you are probably not doing it correctly.

    • Yeah I agree with that. When you wear it right having something to push your abs against does feel nice.

    • i disagree that it’s useless for bench, for the same reason — your should be using your abs when you bench as well. so like the other lifts pressing against the belt helps you engage your abs and get tight everywhere (grip, abs, lats, legs, feet, etc..)

  • greg hargis

    Mike- I know this is an old post but I thought I would comment. I started using the BLS approach about 1.5 years ago and have now incorporated a number of powerlifting principles from Chad Wesley Smith, Mark Bell and others. As I went heavier and heavier on Deadlifts I started to get some lower back and even more hip pain. It was concerning. I purchased a Rogue Powerlifting Belt about 8 months ago and haven’t looked back. I love it and have much less post-workout pain in my posterior chain. It may be anecdotal but it has certainly helped this lifter. Now I will add that I reserve the belt mostly for my top end work- I never put it on until I am north of 405 lbs sometimes 495 lbs on deads and never until 405 on squats. But I do find it very beneficial and plan to keep using on top end lifts. I may swap back and forth between belted and beltless but won’t do cold turkey.

    Also, I was reading another article by Nick Horton – http://breakingmuscle.com/olympic-weightlifting/weightlifting-belts-should-you-use-one-pro-and-con – references several studies as well. He’s basically in the either way camp- belt or no belt up to you. I agree just based on my anecdotal experience.

    Anyway good article and thanks for doing what you do. You inspired me to start lifting heavy and now I’m working on prepping for some future masters powerlifting (old guy stuff). My 20 yr. old son is doing it as well (he reserves the belt for over 600 lbs deads and 500 lbs sqauts only).

    Cheers

    • Thanks for this Greg!

      I can definitely see where a belt can help as the weights get very heavy. This article is on my list to revise based on the reading and experience I’ve done/had since.

      What you’re doing makes sense and keep up the good work. Really glad to hear you’re doing well.

  • Hi Mike, very interesting article. I was just about to ask about belts and thought I’d do a search – and found this. I was interested to read Greg Hargis’s views about only using the belt at the higher weight range. I have lower back issues but have doggedly refused to use equipment to help me lift for 12 or 13 years. No belt, no gloves, no wraps etc, and have found that raw power and grip strength have really benefited. However, I still fall down on back when squatting and dead lifting. Once I get to the higher weight zone, 200kg plus for deads, I can feel my back pulling and twinging, and at some point it will inevitably pull and lead to me stopping deads for a while (mainly out of fear) and then the process starts again, despite form focus. So, my question was going to be about your take on belts, however, I might try Greg’s approach and use a belt only in the last set or two. Any feelings you have though, would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    • Thanks Chris!

      I would definitely get a belt for those heavier weights in your case. Just make sure you set it up and use it properly. It’s for pressing your abs out against, which stabilizes your core.

  • ProSpine Asia

    Excellent article covering the core points with the data to back it up. Well done.

    • Thanks!

    • Tom

      Except where’s the data to suggest that increasing blood pressure temporarily leads to a stroke?

      Here’s Dr Bradford explaining why that’s not the case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8_1xq8c23c

      • Michael Sanchez

        I am an anesthetist, and I can tell you that temporarily increasing BP in someone with cerebral vascular disease or coronary artery disease can precipitate a cerebral infarction (stroke) or coronary infarction (heart attack). I basically spend my days preventing this exact thing.

  • sean_noonan

    hey so i stopped wearing a belt but im not sure if my form is good. I have been progressing very fast in this lift though which is good but would you say my form looks ok? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vUaSGwneuU&feature=youtu.be

  • The study linked in this article was not about weightlifters, but rather workplace usage of back belts. The two do not necesarrily correlate.

    • Definitely. If you read the paper, though, it discusses the physiological factors in play.

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  • Matt G

    Hey Mike,

    Great article. Quick question about cutting. I just finished a bulk and started my cut and lost about 4 lbs my first week. In the past I have struggle to keep my strength during cuts. Is 4lbs too much? Should I bump up my calories or is this just my body adjusting to lower calories for the first week. I’m at 20% deficit for what I calculated my TDEE. Not sure if its just water weight or what. Thanks

    Matt

    • What BF% are you cutting from and what’s your weight? 4lbs sounds like a lot, but I’ve no doubt most of it is water weight. Things should slow down a bit over the next 1-2 weeks and normalize.

  • chris salvato

    Good article. Belt helps me more for core stabilization (with also doing valsalva) for squats, deads, and overhead press rather than for my back. Definitely improves performance too.

  • Steve

    Hey Mike, is there a particular belt you recommend?

  • Jimmy Chapman

    Hey Mike,

    Great article. This was a question I have been pondering the last couple weeks so perfect timing. My only question is about sizing. I noticed there are 9 different sizes for the Inzer belt. Should you measure waist for these and if so should you do it with stomach sucked in as far as you can or hanging out as much as you can. I just don’t want to buy one then find it doesn’t fit correctly. Thanks!

    Jimmy

    • Thanks Jimmy! Hmm. Regarding sizing, I’d contact them on their site, just to be sure.

  • jcgadfly

    I don’t lift heavy enough to think about using a belt yet (240 deadlift/255 squat for 6 reps). Then again, I’m 52 and maybe I should think more about safety…

  • DC

    When should you think about switching from BLS linear progression? Strength standards or training length? For example 2 years on BLS. Squats specifically stalled. Tried all the tips on the plateaus article here on the site.

    • Once you’ve hit the following strength benchmarks, I recommend moving to BBLS:

      Squat: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for a 1RM
      Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight for a 1RM

  • Blake Wilson

    I actually produce my own belt that is comparable to the Best Belt and Inzer quality, but much less expensive and you can get it in two days from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N3YLTWZ

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