That is the question. And we have the answer. Here are the facts about lifting belts and you can decide for yourself when you should use this popular piece of lifting gear.
Belts do not support your lower back like most people think. A belt simply acts as an object around your midsection that you can push against with your core muscles (abdominals, obliques, back extensors) to stabilize your torso on your own. This allows you to create more intra-abdominal pressure, generate a stronger muscle contraction, and therefore pull more weight up off the floor.
While using a belt does allow you to lift heavier weights, it is wise to only use it when you are lifting heavier than 85% of your one rep maximum (your heaviest deadlift possible for one repetition). This is so you can attain or maintain a strong core. If you always wear a belt, you are at risk of losing strength and stability in the core which decreases the ability to perform functional movements.
When using a belt, it should not be too loose or too tight. Too loose and it is only on your body for decorative purposes. Too tight and your core muscles are stretched too far to contract and therefore cannot provide torso stabilization. Belts are not necessary for exercises laying down or for exercises that don’t involve your lower back. Similarly, if you are an athlete but do not wear a belt for your sport, then using a belt when you lift is counterproductive.
For more information on using a belt and other fitness tips, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. During Deadlift December, Personal Training is discounted 10%, check it out at http://usfweb2.usf.edu/campusrec/fitness/pt.html