There has been a whole lot of belt-wearing going on around the box lately. I think it’s great! A belt is a useful tool in weightlifting. In this post I want to cover proper breathing techniques with and without a belt as well as when you should and shouldn’t wear one.
Breathing Without a Belt:
Think of the structural integrity of a pyramid. The large base is closest to the ground for stability. This concept should be applied when lifting. The torso is supported structurally only by the spine. Stability where there is such little support is maintained with high intra-abdominal pressure. When taking a breath in before a lift, think about pushing the stomach down, filling the belly with air and then filling the chest. Internally what is happening in this situation is the diaphragm is being pushed down on the lower organs in the abdomen below the ribcage, creating more compression in the area. Filling the lungs as much as possible creates the intra-abdominal pressure mentioned earlier and lifting the chest creates a nice solid front-rack position.
Grunting and yelling during a lift also has benefit. If you begin to feel dizzy during the lift, it’s recommended to release a small amount of pressure with some noise during the highest pressured moment of the lift Just make sure the pressure released is controlled and minimal. Grunting can also aid in the athlete’s aggressiveness, which is quite necessary under heavy loads.
Breathing With a Belt:
Breathing during a lift with a belt is performed in a similar manner. The plus is that you can increase the rigidity of your torso by creating the intra-abdominal pressure and pressing against the belt with your belly. When wearing the belt, it should fit over the lower abdominals but high enough so it doesn’t interfere with the hip crease, limiting range-of-motion in the bottom of the squat. Grunt here too.
When to Wear a Belt:
Belts are used for safety and/or performance. The added stability limits spine-loading, which is ultimately safer. It also increases the pressure and stability of the torso. More pressure=more stability=more weight moved. This means that they are helpful when lifting near maximal/maximal loads as with heavy doubles and singles.
When Not to Wear a Belt:
Always wearing a belt will make your core weak. Your core is everything that is not your limbs. Belt-wearing takes stress off of your back and stress drives adaptation. It also negatively affects motor learning patterns that are necessary and fundamental. It may affect the pattern of muscle recruitment. It makes it easy to not engage all of the core muscles, causing bad habits. However, this can be avoided as long as the athlete pays attention and engages core muscles properly.
Overall, belts are a personal choice. They allow you to move more weight and limit spine-loading, but constant wearing will give you a puny low back and mess with motor unit recruitment patters. Use the belt for heavy sets and skip the belt on the wallballs.