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  • To belt or not to belt...

    Last Friday we tested 1RMs in squats. I got 225lbs, 45lbs more than 8 weeks ago. Afterwards, the trainer asks me if I'd like to belt. I see guys around me with the belts but it's never dawned on me to try it. I belt and then squat 235lbs with relative ease. I felt like I'd found some secret miracle mystical magical fountain of youth or something!! I could have kept going, I think, but ran out of time because of mom duties. But now I'm wondering if I should belt all the time. I'll discuss it with the trainer tomorrow but I'm curious to hear if you guys belt. And if so, for all lifts and at all working weights or just at your limits??

  • #2
    i don't competitively lift so i never belt, or use wrist straps. if i cant do it au naturel, i cant do it. i even feel like a fake wearing gloves when i have to farmer's walk a pair of 36kg dumbbells. that is just me. the logic i use is if it needs support, something isn't working which means i will get strength imbalances and am more likely to injure myself. i could of course be wrong but that is my take.

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    • #3
      I'm with seaweed. Personally I would feel like I was cheating even though if I saw someone else using one I wouldn't think they were cheating...just preference.
      Man seeks to change the foods available in nature to suit his tastes, thereby putting an end to the very essence of life contained in them.
      www.primaljoy.co.uk

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      • #4
        i think i'm with the others, no belt, we'll see what happens when i top out though, might change my mind

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        • #5
          Yes. Hell yes. You reach a certain point where it becomes necessary. I'll elaborate and edit when at home.

          Edit: Home. Showered. 'splainin.

          Right. Belts.

          The science behind why they work is simple - by taking a deep, diaphragmatic breath with a belt on and tensing your core, the muscles in your abdominal area and lower back try and push out. They run into resistance, simply cannot move out, and following the path of least resistance, move inward and compress. In doing so, your core obviously becomes super tight and your muscles become braced to a point simply tensing and engaging them couldn't manage on its own. In particular, this protects the spine, because they will form a really solid sheath in your centre of mass.

          Should you always use a belt? No. The smartest recommendations I've seen about using belts always suggest on maximal and submaximal lifts only, only during sets and not between. The reasons are again, relatively straightforward. EMG tests show that by not consciously tensing your lower trunk and letting it take the load on its own, it doesn't get engaged as much. No great surprise there. As a result, on warm up and volume lifts, using a belt really isn't ideal, as these muscles will be ample to brace the load on their own. Not only that, they will grow stronger and adapt during these lifts when performed safely at a lower weight.

          It's much like grip on a deadlift - double overhand is great until it stops working, because lifting double overhand will develop your grip strength more effectively than a mixed grip. When it fails (and only then) it's time to switch to mixed grip. By engaging your weak links at times that it is safe to do so, they will be exposed to adaptation and become stronger. Simple. But what about when you reach the point that can no longer be achieved safely. Do you just accept the plateau? Personally, I don't want to.

          Not using a belt is kind of like always deadlifting double overhand. Can you do it? Sure. But you're going to limit your growth by doing so.

          I don't see using a belt as cheating for a couple of reasons. The muscles that really fuel your drive and lift don't change. The reality is if you've lifted with a belt, you know that it's you doing the real work, a lot of the real assistance is that you're getting a confidence boost from the stability. The second is safety. The main reason you use a belt is so you can lift at your max without damaging your spine, not to lift weight you just can't manage. The last reason I don't consider this cheating is that lifting with a belt makes your lifts without a belt stronger.

          Your relative strength with and without it will increase. Used correctly, it isn't a crutch to lean on, but a stepping stone to greater strength. If you're at all concerned with being as strong as you can and working to maximum intensity, they're a fantastic tool.

          The general principle I set is once I'm over 150% bodyweight as my load, the belt is on. It's off between sets, because if you tighten it properly it will raise your blood pressure (you will really feel this the first time you lift with one) and there's no point in staying braced when not lifting. Especially if it makes you dizzy. Other people will have different set points they work off before belting up. You'll get a feel for when you need it with experience.

          Given what you're lifting, Eden, I'd belt up. I'd belt the shit out of them workouts. Once you start talking 5RM or heavier, a belt should absolutely be there IMO. It's not necessary, but it's a lot safer when you start talking that kind of rep range.

          Edit 2: Also, wicked effort with the 1RM Eden That's a big gain in 8 weeks.
          Last edited by Reventon; 01-13-2014, 04:18 AM.

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          • #6
            It appears there's some confusion here regarding what the belts actually do.

            For those that are against belts: what do the belts actually do? Let's talk about how they actually work.

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            • #7
              @Reventon, you have convinced me to give the belt a try today on my heavy squats (if the belts they have laying around at the gym are comfortable). I had always had the same perspective as seaweed and MaceyUK... but I do use mixed grip on DL and that has allowed me to lift much heavier weights than I ever had before. Maybe I could have trained up my grip, maybe not.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by yodiewan View Post
                @Reventon, you have convinced me to give the belt a try today on my heavy squats (if the belts they have laying around at the gym are comfortable). I had always had the same perspective as seaweed and MaceyUK... but I do use mixed grip on DL and that has allowed me to lift much heavier weights than I ever had before. Maybe I could have trained up my grip, maybe not.
                Wicked. I recommend buying your own. They're pretty damn cheap. But certainly, if one at your gym fits, give it a bash. Make sure it's really tight. When you take a deep breath (try and pull the air into your groin) you should really feel your abs and back getting pushed back.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Reventon View Post
                  Wicked. I recommend buying your own. They're pretty damn cheap. But certainly, if one at your gym fits, give it a bash. Make sure it's really tight. When you take a deep breath (try and pull the air into your groin) you should really feel your abs and back getting pushed back.
                  Right. I think the key phrase is circumferential expansion. I think it was these videos that cued me into it:
                  Improving Squats with Diaphragmatic Breathing and Voodoo - Jim Laird

                  Having a belt to push into should help me feel that expansion/bracing in the low back if nothing else. I will report back later today or tomorrow.

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                  • #10
                    I am anti-belt on anything but very heavy deadlift, whereupon it is helpful for protection....

                    A squat can be endlessly modified in order to increase the weight one can do. Using a safety bar or a yoked bar will add 50lbs for a lot of people, as it allows you to be more on your toes. The belt is part of that. In some cases, a small belt won't do much, but why not a girdle belt that goes halfway up your abdomen? Is THAT cheating?

                    Mostly I oppose the belt because the squat is NOT a leg exercise; it is a leg and posterior chain exercise, and a lot of people are limited by the latter more so than their leg drive. If we are doing it to build up only leg drive, do a leg press or similar machine. With a belt, you can lean back and rely on the belt to prevent collapse backward on your posterior chain, and this changes you lifting angle. THIS is why anyone will lift more with a belt, because it allows you a leverage angle you would otherwise not be able to do.

                    A belt is a safety measure, not an assistance device. On newbies trying squat for the first time they have some use, as they can prevent a failure in someone with the classical imbalance of legs >>>> posterior chain. For that, they are useful. Once someone has decent squat form though, there is no reason to belt up. In a deadlift, it gives one something to brace back against to ensure their back is straight and chest forward, but again in a squat this advantage is negated.

                    Also, I have found that the more advanced you get in weight amounts, the MORE the belt will be adding.

                    I.E.
                    My unaided barbell squat = 365
                    Squat with barbell narrow belt = 395
                    Squat with narrow belt and yoke bar = 410
                    Squat with girdle belt and yoke bar = 420

                    Now, I do not thus get to walk around and say that I squat 420. I don't. Me plus big belt plus yoke bar squat 420. Total monsters or guys that are 250lbs of muscle squat 420

                    Deadlift yes. All others, no. Just my opinion.
                    "The soul that does not attempt flight; does not notice its chains."

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                    • #11
                      In the gym I like to use a simple bodybuilding leather belt most of the time; it gives me some support to my core and also information about how much water I hold in the mid sections during the workouts! I change to a power lifter belt only for the heaviest lifts…
                      "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                      - Schopenhauer

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                      • #12
                        Great post, Reventon! I really can't add much to it.

                        I use my belt for squats and deadlifts. It's one of the best lifting investments I've ever made.
                        In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.

                        This message has been intercepted by the NSA, the only branch of government that listens.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TheyCallMeLazarus View Post
                          Mostly I oppose the belt because the squat is NOT a leg exercise; it is a leg and posterior chain exercise, and a lot of people are limited by the latter more so than their leg drive. If we are doing it to build up only leg drive, do a leg press or similar machine. With a belt, you can lean back and rely on the belt to prevent collapse backward on your posterior chain, and this changes you lifting angle. THIS is why anyone will lift more with a belt, because it allows you a leverage angle you would otherwise not be able to do.
                          This isn't quite true, Laz. While people no doubt use belts for all kinds of reasons, the correct usage of a belt is to provide the abdominal muscles with an external resistance to contract against. The best belts are thick leather belts (I mean thick, not those crappy 3mm ones you get from typical sporting goods stores), that are the same width all around. When used properly, such as during a squat, the Valsalva maneuver creates a harder abdominal contraction with the belt, which increases abdominal pressure, which creates a more rigid trunk, which causes a more efficient transfer of force between the legs and the bar. Your form and diagnostic angles should remain identical with or without a belt.

                          A correctly used belt will make your body even stronger, and is quite the opposite of cheating. In my mind, cheating is when it is the equipment that is lifting the weight, not your body. For example, compression knee wraps. They are wrapped so tight that when you squat down, the elastic energy from the bands ends up directly helping your knees extend on the way up, i.e. the wraps are actually lifting some of the weight.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Gorbag View Post
                            In the gym I like to use a simple bodybuilding leather belt most of the time; it gives me some support to my core and also information about how much water I hold in the mid sections during the workouts! I change to a power lifter belt only for the heaviest lifts…
                            Does your belt have flames on it?

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                            • #15
                              I don't belt anymore because...

                              I am like an absentminded professor everywhere and I don't want to lose it.

                              I already bought one and then lost one at the gym by leaving it behind...now watching a lanky college dude using what appears to be my belt at my gym agonizes me.

                              D: I suck.
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