Walk into any gym and you will see lots of people lifting heavy weights, sporting an accessory around their mid rift area. Otherwise known as a weight belt. But why do people wear these? Should the wear them? What is the point of them? Well let's explore the concept of the weight belt so you can make your own mind up.
The weight belt is an accessory often seen in competitive weight lifting. In a competition environment a weight belt is a useful accessory, but in every day training, it is less useful, in-fact it can lead to injuries and actually make your body weaker! How on earth!! No really, let me explain. 😉
In order to lift heavy weights, there is one muscle in particular that needs to function incredibly well, to stabilise the spine and pelvis, and that muscle is the Transverse Abdominis. Now yes, this muscle, as with all muscles doesn't function on its own, it works with a whole group of muscles collectively known as the "core", but as far as weight belts are concerned, it is the Transverse Abdominis that takes the greatest hit when one is used. We also need to touch on another area, namely intra-abdominal pressure.
Intra-abdominal pressure in best described using a balloon. Imagine a saggy balloon and imagine the rubber of the balloon is a bit like the fascia, when we blow up the balloon we create pressure in that fascia. Now imagine that balloon is attached to the pelvis, spine and ribs, when I blow up the balloon I create a pressure that locks the pelvis, ribs and spine together and create a support so the structure works effectively as one unit. Now take your finger and poke it into the inflated balloon, we create more pressure, but now we can control the amount of pressure being put into the fascia (or outside of the balloon), poke your finger in a lot, create lots of pressure, a small amount, create a small amount of pressure. In this scenario your finger is the Transverse Abdominis. What on earth has this to do with weight belts! 🤨
Well the weight belt is doing exactly this, you put the weight belt on as tightly as you can and fill your tummy with air to create pressure on the belt and then this external belt gives you support around your spine. The problem with this is that you never activate your Transverse Abdominis, as you push out rather than pull in you rely completely on the belt to do the work of the Transverse Abdominis muscle. As a result the muscle detrains, which is why a weight lifter who can lift a huge weight (wearing the weight belt) then damages his disks lifting a pencil off the floor. He has no core strength.
This is why you should never train with a weight belt, it makes you weaker. Elite weight and power lifters don't train with weight belts on, they put them on for added support during a competition when they are trying to lift weights that may push them over the level at which their core would fail them. Think of it in the way a gymnast would strap their wrists for competition or a footballer strap their ankles.
So unless you are an elite weightlifter, you really shouldn't train with a weight belt, compete with it yes, but train using the core. A weak core will mean you can lift less and predisposes you to disk issues, especially if you lift heavy weights. A strong core will allow you to lift huge weights and keep your spine strong and healthy at the same time. What's not to love! 😀 So what will you be advising your clients?
Want to use this for CPD?
Remind yourself of the anatomy of the Transverse Abdominis muscle, take a look at the Thoraco- Lumbar Fascia and remind yourself which muscles attach into it. Now create a training plan for your weight lifting client to ensure the Transverse Abdominis muscles and the other muscles that attach onto the Thoraco-Lumbar Fascia are strong enough for the loads your client wants to lift. Which exercises can you use to isolate and strengthen these muscle groups, then get sports specific so they all work together.
Then write it all up in your CPD log. To get your FREE Reinge Education CPD logbook click here and sign up to our mailing list.