A weight training belt is a large, thick belt, usually made of leather. It provides support to the lower back during heavy weight lifting. They are common among heavy weight lifters and power lifters because they provide support to the lower back during lifts that place a lot of strain in this region. In addition to their uses in weight lifting, many workers who do a lot heavy lifting also choose to wear a weight training belt for extra support. These belts are often narrower in the front and wider in the back so that they won't encumber someone trying to perform complex lifts, although some are the same width all the way around.
There are three primary benefits to wearing a weight training belt. First, they increase the pressure in the abdominal region, and this pressure provides support for the lower portion of the spinal column. As a result, the stabilizer muscles do not have to work as hard to keep the back straight. To maximize this benefit, some weight lifters will wear a weight lifting belt backward; with the wider side against the stomach, the belt puts more pressure on the abdomen, and thus increases its benefit to the wearer.
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The second benefit that a weight training belt provides is support for the lifter's sides, which reduces the possibility of twisting or bending incorrectly during particularly heavy lifts. By helping to keep the back straighter, the weight lifting belt reduces the possibility of hyper-extending the back. This benefit is greatest in belts that are the same width all the way around.
The third benefit of a weight training belt is that it makes the user more aware of the lower back during a lift. Due to the sensation of a heavy belt in the lumbar region, lifters tend to concentrate more on maintaining proper form during a lift, especially keeping the back in proper alignment. This reduces the risk of injury, since most weight lifting injuries are the result of improper form.
Despite all of these benefits, there are many health professionals who believe that the use of a weight training belt can be detrimental to the lifter. They claim that by reducing the strain on stabilizer muscles in the lower back, these muscles do not receive as much benefit from the lift as they otherwise would. As a result, the stabilizer muscles are not always strong enough to provide adequate support when the lifter is not using the belt. There is also concern that if a belt is tight, which it has to be to provide full benefits, it can cause circulation problems and increase blood pressure. For this reason, it is recommended that lifters only wear belts when lifting extremely heavy amounts of weight, and only when doing exercises that put significant strain on the lower back.