eli5: How does a weightlifting belt prevent injuries?


eli5: How does a weightlifting belt prevent injuries?

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It supports the lower back reducing the strain on that part of the anatomy, the effect is limited, but it does work.

The idea behind it is that it’s supposed to help you maintain correct posture while providing support for the muscles.

I can’t speak for how well they work but the guys I’ve talked to about them seem to like em well enough

That little bit of material goes a long way. It provides extra support, adding pressure to your abs, which help stabilize your spine. It also forces you into better posture for the lift.

The spine has a slight S shape to it. The part where you wear the belt, just above the hips (the lumbar spine), is the place where this S curve is highly exaggerated. Doing heavy lifts like squats and deadlifts places a ***shearing stress*** (imagine two forces pushing in opposite directions on a stiff object, like a pole) on the spine, and that force can be concentrated on the lumbar spine the more it flexes into the S shape. The belt helps the user’s spine to resist this type of flexion (in other words helps them maintain a neutral spine where the back stays more or less flat rather than more S shaped) in the lower spine. Not wearing a belt can easily lead to injuries like bulging discs or worse, caused by the aforementioned shearing stresses.


Advanced lifters don’t just put on the belt and lift, they use it ***actively*** in a technique called ***bracing***. This involves filing the lungs with air, as well as flexing the core muscles against the belt in attempt to make the torso as rigid (and therefore ‘strong’) as possible. This stabilises the vertebral column as much as possible during the stresses of heavy squats and deads.

It increases the internal pressure of your core, giving your abs something to press against and thereby reducing core instability. A stronger core is a stronger lift, as your body can use less energy to stay upright and can use that energy to recruit more muscle fibers in your legs. In my experience I can lift 5%-10% more with a weight belt. Check out YouTube videos of weight belts snapping and you can see how much value they add to the lift.