Good question. I have never used any belts, but then again I don’t lift very heavy weights. I prefer to use my own body to do the work and using belts or any other type of external support equipment it means you either lifting too much weight or your form have been compromised and you also not using the full potential of your body to do the work. This could lead to an injury down the road and some type of muscular atrophy. Maybe an exception can be made for the professional power lifters due to the heavy weights they are working with, but not for the amateur, begginer or so-called weekend warrior :-).
I’m old school on this point and am not anything close to a power lifter. Therefore, I speak for the average Joe in the weight room who is looking to improve quality of life. If the weight is too much for you to lift without compromising your back than you shouldn’t lift it. Strengthen the muscles that support your core and try a manageable weight. A weight belt kicks in to support the muscles in the back just like a cast supports an injured region. I work with a clientele that needs those muscles to engage on their own and not rely on an external apparatus to move a load.
Unless you are a power lifter who uses “gear” (squat/deadlift suit) performing maximum effort squats or dead lifts you shouldn’t need one. Lifters fill their lungs with air and force their stomachs against the belt for stability and rebound out of the lift. Many power lifters will wear belts to keep their bench shirt pulled down during the bench press. Like gloves they can be a security blanket for some people. The belt should be worn a tad loose.
Depends who’s training, what their goals are.
Good for bodybuilders or strength oriented athletes who want to maximize the strength of their back, leg and shoulder muscles. Because they are serious enough to work with a belt, they most likely are taking into account core exercises and power work to increase abdominal strength and balance.
For the 3 times a week person going for health or weight loss? Definitely not. They will not have the strength or endurance to put up heavy loads of weight. They will also want to engage their abdominal, obliques and back muscles to stabilize the body.
It’s impossible to speak to why someone would wear a belt when they are not doing lifting exercises (I carry mine with my lifting shoes in a brightly colored bag so I would notice if someone tried to walk off with it).
But I must take issue with the deeply incorrect information in some of the answers above.
The most common misconception about weight lifting belts is that it passively supports the spine. This just isn’t true.
The way a lifting belt supports the spine is by providing stimulus and resistance for the abs, the muscles that support the spine and by extension all the muscles of the intra-abdominal cavity.
Proper use of a weightlifting belt is:
-Wear it tight
-Before beginning the lift take a deep belly breath and “bare down” pushing the abs against the belt to create maximal intra-abdominal pressure. (The “pushing the truck breath”, the “constipation breath”, the “giving birth breath” whatever picture works for you.)
-Hold that breath the entire time you are in motion. Breathe only when in the most stable position i.e. the top of the Press, the top of the Squat, the top of the Deadlift, between the Clean and the Jerk.
-Anyone who has used a Belt correctly with tell you IT DOES NOT MAKE THE ABS LAZY. It makes the whole mid body stronger. It is particularly useful with a new trainee who does not have as much control over their spine and again when a trainee is strong and trying to make consistent gains.
Wearing a belt passively serves little to no purpose and may induce a trainee to be lazy about form thinking that canvas or leather will take car of them- that is the only way a belt can do harm.
Good luck with your lifting!!