The trend of weightlifting belts or gym belts started from the Olympics when the weightlifters wore them around their waist while lifting weights. However, recently regular gym trainers and weightlifters have started adopting this trend. A weightlifting belt serves
two basic purposes. It reduces the tension a person faces on the lower back while weightlifting by compressing the abdominal area, and secondly it prevents injuries caused by hyperextension while lifting overhead. A belt provides more support to the bones of the
lower back by raising the intra-abdominal pressure. Briefly, a gym belt makes the lifter aware of his position. The belt considers the lifter’s back position and activates muscles to maintain a proper posture. After getting briefly acquainted with what exactly is a gym belt, the question of when to wear it arises.
Weight belts primarily serve as a safety device while weightlifting. However, if one is not engaged in a heavy competition like the Olympics, it is better to train without them. It does not protect you from injuries caused by adopting improper techniques, so that thought is clearly a misconception. In general practice, a weight belt is not required by our body because it is biologically implanted in us and is known as the transverse abdominis or TA. It is situated exactly behind the right abdominal area and encircles the whole lower abdomen. The TA and the supporting muscles around it work on stabilizing the spine and lower back. Long continuous use of the belt might negatively impact the TA and also result in depleted strength of the development of the abs. strong abs are required to maintain spine stability in absence of the belt. Therefore, it is important not to rely too much on gym belts.
A gym belt is not a necessity as per our body requirements unless one is training intensively with extremely heavyweights. Basically, it all depends on your target weights. If a person is dedicated to lifting heavier weights then it is advisable to use a belt for supporting the back. Moreover, anyone who frequently does deadlifts and overhead lifts is often suggested to use a weight belt. In such cases, the deadlifts face an improvised boost and the person can lift around 10% more weight than usual or is capable of increasing the number of reps with much more ease. Training with a gym belt is beneficial in the long term to gain muscle and strength and to work on a sustainable body as a whole.
A weightlifting belt is not supposed to be considered a fashion tool. It is rather a training support tool; therefore, it is recommended to not rely on the belt each time while weightlifting. Instead, it is important that the lifter considers increasing the strength of his natural belt, the TA, while engaging in lifts. Excessive use of weight belts has been found to increase blood pressure and abdominal muscle weakness. Thus, one should use a weight belt only when necessary and avoid them in general training.