180618 The lifting belt part 5

180618 The lifting belt part 5

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.

The effects of belt use on heart rate and blood pressure

In an early study of blood pressure and heart rate it was determined that both rose significantly higher in those wearing the lifting belt compared to those lifting without one. In fact blood pressure increased 15mmHg, which is associated with an increased risk of stroke given the elevated systolic blood pressure readings that resulted from the test subjects.

The conclusion drawn from this study was that individuals who may have a compromised cardiovascular system are at a greater risk while exercising with a lifting belt then without.

Additional anecdotal evidence suggests there are higher risks of varicose veins in the testicles, hemorrhoids and hernias associated with the higher pressures observed with belt use. Other non confirmed or peer replicated studies show that if given their choice of weights to use repeatedly, an athlete will consistently lift approximately 19% more with a belt than without. This seems to validate the theory that belts give a false sense of security while lifting.


In my opinion and based on the research conducted thus far into the use of the weight lifting belt is not safer nor validated to be of great value to the lifter.

However if one just has to lift a bit more weight, then grab that lifting belt, tighten it up, and go for it; remembering the false sense of security and potential for serious injury that accompanies such use.

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