To belt, or not to belt?

Many patients who participate in weightlifting will ask “Hey Doc, what is your opinion on weightlifting belts?”. Which normally gets countered with further inquries from myself such as: It depends.  What is your goal with it?  What does your training style look like? 

A common argument for not belting is that “the belt will ‘weaken’ my core”, which given the literature, doesn’t seem to hold much truth.  Many studies have found that activation of the rectus abdominus actually increases with using a belt.  Studies have found that one major effect from belt wearing is that it increases the intrabdominal pressure.

One important note that we shouldn’t forget is a belt is not a replacement for proper mechanics.  A belt will not save you from suboptimal form.  Proper lifting mechanics will always reign superior.

So, it seems that I never have appropriately answered your question, but I’ll circle back to my  initial answer… it depends!  A belt is not a replacement for proper mechanics and muscular activation—which will more than anything else prevent injury and strengthen the lower back.  BUT, there is EMG evidence  that it can change muscle conduction, but ultimately also depends on level of training and experience.