You want to get stronger and lift heavy, so you grab a belt. Not the one that holds up for pants, but the one that helps you to increase intrabdominal pressure while lifting heavy weight. This pressure helps to stabilize your spine to prevent it from collapsing under heavy weight. But did you know the belt itself doesn’t create this pressure… you do with specific breathing techniques. If you don’t know what these breathing techniques are you should stop using a belt immediately and work on building your core strength and perfecting the breathing techniques without a belt.
It’s important to remember the belt itself is not protecting your back- your core strength is. Using a weight belt improperly will weaken your abdominal muscles putting you at higher risk for injury.
Below are some recommendations of prerequisites for the average person. Professional lifters that have high one rep maxes (i.e. 800lb deadlift) are working off of higher numbers and may need to use a belt with lower percentages, but they’ve also built their core overtime to be able to work with these numbers.
1) When you’ve learned how to create intrabdominal pressure.
2) When you’re lifting 85% of your one rep max or more.
3) When your one rep max front squat is more than your body weight. (This is personal preference for me. Some trainers would require higher numbers.)
4) When you’re able to keep your back straight on lifts 90% or less.
When deciding to wear a belt, you should make sure you are using it only for heavy compound lifts- like deadlifts, cleans, back squats. And again, only when it’s very heavy. Using a belt does not help you to build your core. If you have back pain, the belt will only increase it in the long run. Focus on building your core first! To start building your core, add in crunches daily, deadbugs or magic abs. What you choose should depend on your level. If your back hurts in any way, scale back, Crunches would be level one, then deadbugs, then magic abs.