Everything you need to know about the Lumbar Belt

Everything you need to know about the Lumbar Belt

The use of a lumbar belt is essential in the development of several sports modalities, including weightlifting, crossfit, powerlifting, and other disciplines that require lifting heavy loads or efforts taken to the limit, but there are some things you need to take into account when using one.

The lumbar belt will help you maintain back alignment, which can be beneficial if you’ve recently had a injury and can help prevent injuries too.

Why should you use a belt when weightlifting?

The muscles of the lower back and abdominal area are the main muscles involved in stabilising the core during heavy lifting movements, such as weight training.

These muscles are also more exposed to injury when weightlifting.

Why a belt should be used for weightlifting

In this sense, a lumbar belt should be used to protect the lumbar and abdominal areas in order to achieve greater stability, ensure correct execution, and avoid possible injuries.

The lumbar belt is perfect for giving you extra intra-abdominal pressure when lifting a lot of weight, allowing you greater power in each lift, but you shouldn’t always use it as the musculature could end up weakening.

Belts don’t just help you lift more weight in the gym, they can also help you at other times too – when moving furniture, for example.

Main functions

The main function of the lumbar belt is to provide greater stability to the spine during weightlifting exercises.

The weight belt generates an increase in intra-abdominal pressure, tightening the rectus abdominis and lumbar area, helping you exert more force while acting as an external stabiliser to perform the work more safely.

On the other hand, the increase in intra-abdominal pressure leads to a decrease in the compression that the vertebral discs must withstand, reducing the risk of suffering lumbar injuries when lifting weights.

Main functions of a belt

This is another of the main functions of the belt.

Support when lifting weights is another important function of the lumbar belt, as it helps improve movement during exercise.

High-performance athletes and, increasingly, the average user wanting to take care of themselves, use it as an essential tool for providing an additional point of support around the torso.

What are the benefits of using a lumbar belt?

Using a lumbar belt has a number of benefits, such as those mentioned below.

  • Reducing lumbar tension by compressing the abdominal cavity.
  • Increasing intra-abdominal pressure, which provides more support in the lower back, allowing the erector spinae muscles to exert less effort during exercise.
  • Helping maintain back alignment.
  • Preventing injuries: such as herniated discs and displaced discs when lifting weight.
  • Improving performance in weight training and other sports including weightlifting.
  • Strengthening the hamstring muscles, which facilitate hip extension and knee flexion. You can even activate your quads, reducing fatigue during workouts.
To get these benefits, it’s important to know the types of belts available and to choose the one that best suits your weight training requirements.

Types of belts

Choosing a belt is a necessity when introducing a considerable increase in weight to lift.

There are three types of weight belts with different benefits:

Belts with a double buckle and lever (Powerlifters): These are leather, heavy, expensive (60 euros and above for the good ones), very durable and quite complex (the lever needs to be disassembled with a screwdriver to change the diameter).

Lever and double buckle

The buckles are usually double buckles, although if it’s a single buckle it will be made of very heavy gauge steel. This is why they’re used by powerlifters who move huge weights.

Single or double buckle belts (Weightlifters): These are made of a lighter leather than a powerlifter belt and usually with a single layer (compared to the two of the previous one).In general, it’s bigger on the back than on the front, usually costs around 20-50 euros, and are the most commonly used in the gym.

Single or double buckle

They are narrower than usual, mainly used for the press bench. This is because it seems to interfere less in the ability of the lumbar arch, but the difference is minimal.

Neoprene and Velcro: These belts would probably be sufficient for 99% of normal gym goers. They’re made of fabric and the most common fastening is velcro. The main advantages are that they fit exactly to the desired perimeter and that the buckle doesn’t get in the way during movements such as squats, deadlifts, etc… On the surface, they seem a more economical option than the second belt.

Neoprene and velcro

However, the main problem with these belts is that the Velcro fastener degrades over time and the fabric loses its firmness. While paying the same 20 euros for it as with the previous one.

When deciding what belt to buy you need to understand certain criteria. In the following section you’ll find some useful information on the subject:

What do you need to keep in mind when buying one?

Among the aspects to be considered, the level of load to be resisted and the technique of execution should be prioritised, and then the rest of the criteria can be analysed.

Lift type

Here we’ll differentiate between use for powerlifting and fitness, bodybuilding…

  • Powerlifting or Weightlifting. With this type of lifting you need to inhale air and expand the stomach to achieve momentum. A wide belt is generally used, consistent in shape, which limits the expansion of the abdomen.
  • Fitness. The athlete requires greater freedom to perform movements without interference from the accessory. Use a wide belt on the back; but considerably narrow on the front.

Thickness

The thickness usually varies between 10 and 13 millimeters.

The thicker the belt, the stiffer it will be.

The thinnest is ideal for beginners, while the 13mm is suitable for high performance weightlifting, experienced athletes and competition.

Material

Lumbar belts are made of leather, suede or nylon.

  • In general, leather belts (more rigid and durable) and suede belts are appropriate for the Olympic style.
  • The nylon ones offer support, but greater flexibility.

Fastening

It can be by buckle (single-point or double-point) or lever.

The lever-type fastening is the most practical, as when it’s adjusted to the desired position it’s secured.

You just need to know that you need a tool to fix it.

Fit

It’s important that the belt fits correctly and is comfortable for you (well, actually at the moment of lifting you should tighten it and feel a slight discomfort, so that in the end, you loosen it).

Use a tape measure to measure your waist and determine what width you want.

Other recommendations

The lumbar belt should only be used when lifting weights that require additional support to that provided by the lumbar and abdominal area muscles.

This is where its use is justified to provide stability in the movements, so that the execution is safe, minimising the risk of injury.

Habitual use of the belt could have an adverse effect.

Recommendations for belt use

It could lead to the detraining of the spinal stabilisers, which would result in dysfunctional movements when the belt isn’t worn.

Belts can give you more confidence to lift more, giving you more confidence to train harder for longer.

Bibliography

  1. “Cómo comenzar a entrenar en musculación” Ginesangel Baez Baños 2015
  2. “Las dolencias de la espalda, hernia, lumbago, ciática, tortícolis” Dr. Philippe Maslo 2001
  3. “Programación y coordinación de actividades de fitness en una sala de entrenamiento polivalente” Alejandro Pereira Ortega y Sandra Rodríguez Ramos 2014
  4. Professional and personal training and experience.

Related Entries

  • Have you heard of the Valsalva maneuver? For advanced users only: view post.
  • How does muscle mass influence Powerlifting? We tell you here.
  • If you want to know more about Weightlifting, click on this link.
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About María José García
María José García
María José has been linked to sport since she was a child when she entered and even competed in various sporting disciplines, such as skating, swimming and gymnastics.
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