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210518 The lifting belt part 1
By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.,CSCS
Given the modern day enamorment 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.
Is there common ground in this controversy? Let’s look at some of the research to find out. Dr. Stuart McGill a leading low back specialist had this to say about their use in a paper commissioned by the National Strength and Conditioning Association “Given the assets and liabilities of belt wearing, they are not recommended for healthy individuals either in routine work or exercise participation”.
However he did add a caveat and that was for those participating in extreme athletic lifting. In other words, those who are at the top of the international charts with their weights. In these cases Dr. McGill said “where belts appear to increase torso stability to reduce the risk of buckling and provide some elastic extensor recoil to assist with the lift. But the possible liabilities underscore the counterpoint to this proposition.”
McGill states that belts also increase intra-abdominal pressure which in turn increases the Central Nervous System fluid pressure in the spine and, in turn, the brain. This decreases the transmural gradient (the pressure difference between the arterial blood pressure in the brain vessels and the brain itself) which in turn may reduce the risk of aneurysm, or stroke. Whereas others have argued this effect is detrimental the return of venous blood flow back to the heart.