10.16.17//The weightlifting belt
... look it up!
On days when the heavy barbells come out, also come the belts. I really should apologize for not explaining this earlier, but I'm learning that the blog is a great platform for lessons like this.
You know that we're trying to teach good movement. Our bodies are so amazing that safety and efficiency are one in the same. The best way to move a load is also the safest. Your body has this vital structure, your spinal column and spine. It connects everything so there is a lot of stuff there to move it and protect it. Which is why back pain is so debilitating, that pain keeps you from moving so you can heal. Amazing! Is it funny to anyone else that we need a doctor to tell us not to pick something up?
All that stuff protecting our spine includes our neck muscles, ribs, abdominals, spinal erectors, hip flexors, butt etc. your core. When we lift something off the floor, squat, press, or simply hold something, or even just sit or stand upright, the muscles around your spine contract to protect it.
1. The belt is not a passive piece of equipment that protects you if you wear it. The belt you loop through your favorite trousers is a passive piece of equipment. You just buckle it on and it holds up your pants. For a weight lifting belt to be useful you need to press against it with your abdominal muscles otherwise it's just a fashionable gym accessory.
2. Your belt needs to be tight enough that you can feel resistance against your lumbar and abs when you brace. Too loose, and you've got nothing to press against. Too tight and you can't contract that musculature.
3. Proper bracing is two parts and doesn't necessarily need a belt. A. Flex your abs like I'm going to punch you in the stomach. Not like anyone is going to jack you in the stomach, like I am going to give you the body shot! B. Then with your stomach flexed, fill it up with a belly breath. This way you're bracing externally, from your abs, and internally through your diaphragm. If you're wearing a belt, it should get tighter, and if you're using it right, it will feel as though you're actually pressing against it to make the lift.
4. The belt doesn't passively protect your back or fix bad movement. If you're lumbar hurts, you're likely lacking abdominal strength, flexibility in your hammys, or strength in your lumbar. Please do not think, "oh my back hurts, I'll just throw on a belt! That'll fix it!"
5. Many of us, me included, have a gut to negotiate. Where does this belt thing go? the back of the belt should cross over your lumbar spine and across your abdominals in a place where you can feel the bracing as useful. For me, that is buckling right over my belly button. You can cinch it below your belly so long as the back is over your lumbar and you feel push back when you brace. I think for most people though, cinching it over your bellybutton is ideal even with a gut.
5. Don't let someone convince you that lifting without a belt is unsafe. Likewise don't forget that the belt doesn't fix bad movement or prevents injuries.
The takeaway// You don't wear a belt, you use a belt.