We all know that strongmen are some of the most incredible athletes on the planet who are capable of lifting an insane amount of weight and doing so without flinching. However, you might have noticed in training videos and other footage that they often wear a lifting belt when performing various exercises, from squats to deadlifts and even bench presses.
When it comes to athletes of that caliber, accessories aren’t just worn to make you look cooler or to keep the body warmer – in fact; they must always have a purpose and help improve the performance in some way, shape, or form.
If you’ve ever wondered why Strongman competitors wear lifting belts, what benefits they get, and how it helps boost their performance, then this article is just for you. In the following paragraphs, we will be providing answers to all these questions while also shedding light on the different types of belts (from the lever belt to the nylon one) and giving you tips on which kind would benefit your training.
When Are Lifting Belts Used?
If you’ve continued reading, then you’re obviously interested in finding out when and why lifting belts are so often used by weightlifting athletes of all sports. In fact, if you take a closer look, you will see that most powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, and strongmen never even attempt a heavy squat without having a belt on.
Here are several reasons for that:
- Prevention of injuries
Lifting heavy weights requires you to push your body to its very limits, especially when we’re talking at the elite level. One of the primary purposes of weightlifting belts is to protect you from getting injured when doing so – they’re made to stabilize the spine by increasing intra-abdominal pressure. This extra support helps reduce the stress on the intervertebral discs and the vertebrae and also ensures that you have optimal posture when performing various lifts.
As you’ve likely heard from any good trainer, maintaining a neutral spine is crucial for having a correct lifting technique, and this is exactly what a lifting belt can help you achieve. Essentially, it also significantly reduces the chances of hyperflexion or hyperextension as it keeps your core locked up.
- Better Biomechanics When Strength Training
According to many conducted studies, wearing a lifting belt ensures that you have ideal biomechanics when performing key exercises such as the deadlift and the squat. This is largely due to the fact that using a belt ensures you get minimal accidental spinal movements, especially ones such as excessive flexion, extension, and, to a limited degree, lateral flexion. By wearing a belt, lifters are forced to use more of the power of their legs instead of solely relying on the back.
Along with being biomechanically beneficial, this shift also has strategic benefits. After all, the legs are one of the strongest muscle groups, and they can recover and adapt from heavy lifting much more efficiently than other parts of the body, which makes for optimal safety while also ensuring progress.
- Improved Strength Balance
Lifters, such as strongmen, who are usually capable of lifting twice their body weight, are almost compelled to wear a belt whenever they squat or deadlift heavy weights. That is because the different muscle groups show various responses to training. More often than not, the legs, due to their larger muscle mass, can develop and show massive gains quickly, while the core and lower back are left to lag behind.
By using a lifting belt when training, this difference in development can be “hidden,” as this accessory ensures that the lower back and core are equally supported. Essentially, this is what helps prevent injuries from occurring while also ensuring even strength across the body, which can lead to lifting progress.
- Ability to Lift More Weight
As a professional athlete, the goal is always to improve and get better. When you do weightlifting as a sport, this essentially means that you have to be able to lift more and more – a goal that sounds simple but that requires a ton of work and, at the top level, incredible attention to all details.
Of course, by simply putting on a belt, you won’t magically start lifting 10, 20, or 30 pounds more. After all, this isn’t a Harry Potter movie, and things don’t happen so easily – increasing the amount of weight you can lift on all major movements takes a ton of work in the gym, dedication when it comes to the nutrition plan, and a key focus on recovery. The belt is just another small detail that can help as you push on to the next level.
Thanks to the stability and support it offers, the belt essentially allows you to increase the weight you’re able to lift, especially if you learn to use it correctly. By forcing you to keep the core engaged and maintain proper form throughout the movement, the simple act of wearing a belt can increase your lifting capacity by as much as 15%.
- Less Pressure & Stress on the Spine
Our joints and tendons take a huge hit whenever we start to get serious about lifting heavy objects. And the spine is not far behind, especially since it’s an area of our bodies that is particularly susceptible to injuries. Here, the weightlifting belt can help by ensuring that you have intra-abdominal pressure, which leads to less compression forces affecting your lower back discs. Essentially, this lowers the amount of stress that’s forced upon the lumbar region and lowers the risks of injury.
When lifting particularly heavy loads, this kind of extra support can be of crucial importance, especially since it also allows the lifter to loosen up and not think about potential injuries as they’re performing.
What Kind of Belts Do Strongmen Use?
As you Google online, you will find many different types of lifting belts – some are made out nylon, others from leather, and they all have different mechanisms for buckling. When it comes to powerlifters and strongmen, the preferred belt is usually a 13mm lever one – this is a thick and sturdy belt that takes time to get used to but also provides maximum support, which is of vital importance when you’re lifting truly heavyweight.
As far as regular gym-goers go, you can get by using a nylon belt with velcro that’s more comfortable and easy to adjust, or you can alternatively choose a nylon material but with a lever buckle for more support. In general, unless you’re going for really heavy weights and considering competing in powerlifting or strongmen, you don’t need to use a sturdy and difficult-to-break-in leather belt.
Hopefully, by now, you’ve learned all you wanted and more about why strongmen wear lifting belts, what their benefits are, and why you might consider one for your gym workouts. The reality is that lifting belts aren’t a necessity if you’re not a professional lifter, and they offer the most benefits only if you’re truly fighting to get that extra two to five lbs to reach a new personal best, or you’re someone that has dealt with spine-related injuries and requires that additional support to feel safe and secure when lifting heavy.