Why do powerlifters wear a strap around their stomach? How does that help them lift more weight?


Why do powerlifters wear a strap around their stomach? How does that help them lift more weight?

In: Biology



None of these comments are exactly right.

It’s a lifting belt. It’s typically a rigid belt made of leather, usually 10 to 13 mm thick, and 4 inches wide. It’s not just slapping it on, and it “reduces stress.” In fact, it increases stress. That’s the purpose. It works by two main ways. First, it serves as basically an exoskeleton to push your abdominal muscles against, so you can valsalva harder. Valsalva is the that thing you do where you take a breath, and “bear down” (similar to trying to fart). This increases the pressure in your intraabdominal cavity and intrathoracic cavities, and makes the structure overall more rigid. This allows for better transmission of energy to the bar, and helps keep your back stiff against the load.

The second thing it does is acting as a sort of bio feedback, by giving you something to contract and push your abs against. Try pushing your arms out to your sides as hard as you can, just out in the air. Now try it in a doorway, with something to push against. You get a better, stronger muscle contraction, which similar to what a belt does against your core.

Finally, I haven’t seen people discuss this much, but I believe a belt adds physical tension directly to your spinal erectors (the muscles that run up either side of your spine), and allow them to exert effectively more force against a load. You can demonstrate this effect by squeezing your wrist with one hand, and watching the fingers try to curl up in that hand, as you apply tension to the tendons that run to them.

In summary, through a few different mechanisms, it allows them to have more effective muscle contractions and keep a more rigid torso while lifting the weight.

In short, it gives your core (abdominal etc) muscles something to push out against. Drastically increasing your core stability during the lift.

I always thought it was so their guts don’t blast through their abdominal walls and give them massive hernias. (This is not my attempt at an answer)