Weight belts are exciting aren’t they? They look cool as hell and help you lift more, right? Both of those statements are true, but do you know the what, why and when behind a belt?
Most people believe that a weight belt acts as an additional support to protect your body while weightlifting. This is actually not the intended purpose of a weight belt. It should we wore looser than you would think so that you can expand your core canister a full 360 degrees. This gives the athlete the ability to expand and brace INTO the belt. There is actually evidence to suggest that weight belts assist in generating more foot-pounds of torque in the torso and torso stiffness when the spine if bent and in a compromised position to begin with. However, if proper spinal mechanics are maintained during a lift, the belt does not function the same.
Spinal biomechanics expert, Dr. Stuart McGill, states that belts should only be worn when going for a record or when lifting heavy weight (1-2 rep max). The remainder of the time, your body should be doing the work of a weight belt. Many athletes experience low back pain after squatting or deadlifting heavy. Unfortunately, this is due to a lack of core stability and spinal stiffness. This is appropriately fixed by wearing a belt, it is properly addressed by teaching the athlete to efficiently and effectively create task specific intraabdominal pressure.
Now what if you are pregnant?
If you are pregnant who SHOULD NEVER wear a belt. Your mindset will shift at this point in your Motherhood Transition. You are now training for pregnancy and birth – NOT for a 1 rep max. You are moving for mobility, stability and task specific strength.
What if you are postpartum?
If you are within a year from delivery, you should also NOT be wearing a weight belt. The year following the birth of your child should focus on intentional recovery and rehabilitation. SLOW IS FAST. Take this time to restore homeostasis and balance to your body. Rehabilitate your core slowly and give your body the opportunity to heal and thrive the way it was meant to. This will mean that your numbers will not go up as quickly as you may like, however it will result in a stronger and more resilient body.
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