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040618 The lifting belt part 3
By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS
Given the modern day propensity of wearing a lifting belt and its appearance on those who are exercising in the gyms and on FitTV, one would think that everyone should wear a belt at all times while participating in physical fitness activities. Those who began lifting in the 70’s 80’s and early 90’s would be hard pressed NOT to espouse their use because that is what they were led to believe. If by chance you started back in the 50’s, 60’s and late 90’s to present then the belt is a non issue and almost a totally unnecessary piece of gear. Some swear by it and others swear at it.
Belts are not meant to substitute for poor lifting technique. There is a natural belt formed by the abdominal wall and the lumbodorsal fascia. The active training of this area, known as the core, increases the stabilizing effects via strength and motor control synergy thus encouraging and making them work as a team to enhance the backs ability to remain stable.
The use of the belt by the serious strength training athlete.
No one in their right mind would dispute the fact that a few more pounds of torque may be generated by the body with the assistance of the belt. This is due to the elastic recoil of the flexed torso augmented by the stiffness of the belt. But, and this is a big but…IF the neutral spine is kept constant throughout the entire lift the belt effect is minimized.
To put it another way if the lifter is using poor technique then the belt will help preserve the back, up to a certain point! However there are other methods that can be employed to increase and maintain torso stiffness, one of which is maximizing air intake and then holding the breath, i.e. the Valsalva maneuver. This is not advised for other than highly elite athletes who are under constant medical attention due to the drastic rise in blood pressure resulting from this technique. Sipping the air keeps the lungs filled and the torso tight.