The Lifting Belt

By t. | In Articles, Mindset, Training | on September 24, 2013

Understanding the anatomy of the spine and abdominal muscles helps coaches and athletes know the use of the lifting belt.

In our constant endeavor to push our limits, CrossFitters expose ourselves to possible injury on sometimes a daily basis.  Deload and rest periods are two terms rarely discussed, much less addressed in our “community”.  That is fine, as long as you are not a coach entrusted by clients to develop their fitness safely.  Coaches have to set the example and balance the threshold with the sensible so we do not lead our clients down a path of injury, hurt and pain.

Most of the members of CrossFit Wilmington are mature adults and our youngans have excellent role models to follow, so there isn’t much trending by way of attire at CFW.  The atmosphere at CFW is about improving fitness, not wearing silly outfits…  and let’s face it, CrossFitters wear some dumb sh*t.  You know, the long socks, the flat bill hats, compression gear, tape, and the list goes on.  In most cases, when a CrossFitter dresses silly for a workout, no one even cares… if you want attention, be a better CrossFitter.  But when a coach dresses like a moron or wears a worthless piece of gear, it not only makes them look stupid, but worse, it can set an example that leads his/her clients to injury.

nike belt


Yeah, it appears the newest mental crutch and workout accessory in CrossFit is the lifting belt.  Who else to show the world how to misuse a piece of gear (and further the bad parts of CrossFit’s reputation) than the young, uneducated CrossFit “coach”?  I saw it happening among my top athletes and trainers a year or so ago.  We addressed it to make sure they understand the belt and its pros/cons.  Now they know how to implement a belt into their training properly.  More importantly, they can explain the belt to our members.

So let’s talk about this new trend in mental crutches and how it is actually supposed to be worn and used.  Who knows,

Good "all around".

Good “all around”.

if you learn how to use it, it may help get that PR up to a respectable load.

First off, the belt is not for back support.  It cannot, no matter how tight you tighten it, support your spine.  Tightening it too tight, like most people do, interferes with the muscles in the midsection from doing their job…  supporting the spine.

So if a belt is not for supporting the back, what is it for?  If worn and used properly, a belt increases pressure inside the entire abdominal cavity.  The belt provides “feedback” against the full breath of air you take in before a lift and then tighten your abdomen around.  In other words, the belt provides an level of enhancement to proper breathing technique.  The belt does not protect you against an injury.  Properly developing the midline, without a belt, protects you from injury.

You also have to factor in there are different belts for different lifts.  So far, I’ve not seen one that covers them all very well.  That either sucks for

Get some!

Get some!

CrossFitters or it gives the “gear queers” an excuse to buy more junk…  according how you want to look at it.  Either way, a thick, stiff squat belt is not a great choice for olympic weightlifting and a belt good for oly lifts is most likely not going to be optimal for benching.  CrossFitters looking for a belt to cover everything , in most cases just forego one entirely.  There is no reason to wear a belt on any MetCon (except maybe King Kong).

So on to proper use and wear.  Seriously silly kids… pay attention.  This will help you out.

A belt should be worn snug, but not tight.  It should be low on abdomen and cover as much of the abs as possible.  Belts that are wider in the back than the front are mostly worthless.  Obviously, the belt should not be so low that it pinches the hips at the bottom of the pull or squat and it should cover as much of the abs as possible.  Adjusting the belt is counter intuitive, but like many things in fitness and exercise, more is not always better.  A good rule of thumb is to pull it snug then let it out one notch.  When you fill and set up for your lift, you press out to the belt just like you would do if you had no belt.  If you do know what I mean about “filling”, you need a new coach/trainer.

Use is different than wear.  The belt should only be used on your heaviest lifts.  Either way, save the belt for your last lifts.  Another way look at is

Sub-max training requires no belt.

Sub-max training requires no belt.

this… if you front squat 400, pull 500, and squat 450, you don’t need a belt to clean and jerk 275lbs or do a metcon with the Snatch at 155lbs.  You might think it looks cool, but really you are broadcasting your ignorance.  You would be way better off.

If you wear a belt your body will get used to having it.  Instead do everything, especially accessory work, CrossFit, and technique (complexes, etc.) work for Olympic lifting without a belt.  By not using a belt, you build your body’s own belt…  the more than forty muscles that support your spine.

Not sure I know what I’m talking about?  Your coach loves his / her belt and probably even wears it for “Fran” or “Grace”, so why listen to me?  Don’t live inside a “box”…  Google it.  Or check out Youtube…  you won’t see the MD USA or any other crew training with a belt on.



One Comment to "The Lifting Belt"

  • PS says:

    September 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm -

    Awesome article. Never really thought about belts before, I don’t use them, but it make perfect sense. Thanks