What Does a Weightlifting Belt Do?

Strength Training 5 min Read

Written by

Gustavo Ramos

You may see all the big-time lifters wearing a weightlifting belt at your gym.

You know that a weightlifting belt helps you lift more pounds, but have you ever wondered how the belt does this?

The way a lifting belt works is probably slightly different from what you may think.

Let’s dive in.

A Core for your Core

Abdominal Muscle Strain 1
#1
Abdominal Obliquables
#2

To better understand how a belt works, we have to look at the core. The images above show the rectus abdominis (#1), the obliques (image #2, A and B), and the transverse abdominis (image #2, C).

The rectus abdominis is usually the muscle you use when someone says, “squeeze your abs.” It is the six-pack muscle in the front of your body. But our natural “belt” comes from the obliques and transverse abdominis.

We want to think about these muscles when lifting weights and wearing a belt. Using a belt properly will help reinforce this bracing pattern and work with your core.

Since a belt fits tightly between your rib cage and hips, it is an external addition to your core.

Below is a video that demonstrates how to use a weightlifting belt properly.

Extra Pressure

Diaphragm Iap

A belt works primarily by increasing the pressure on your abdomen when lifting.

This pressure transfers to and supports your spine (see the image’s arrows) throughout a big compound lift like a squat or deadlift.

Pushing your muscles against the lifting belt increases intra-abdominal pressure (pressure within your belly) higher than you ever could by just contracting your core.

The more rigid your spine and torso are during a lift, the better your performance.

Core Activation

If you’re using a belt correctly, you will be flexing your rectus abdominis hard and pressing outward into the belt through your obliques. As a result, the belt can increase the activation of the rectus abdominis muscles and the erector spinae

But realize that all your core musculature will contract hard if you lift heavy weights.

A belt used for big lifts won’t make your core weak, but having a strong core comes from a great core training program. 

Read our core training guide for more on this.   

Before you learn how to use a weightlifting belt, you should be sure you know how to brace your core.

Below is a video that will teach you how to quickly and effectively brace your core muscles for strength training.

Confidence

There’s something about having a tight belt wrapped around your core that gives you a little more reassurance going into a huge lift. This slight increase can be the difference between pushing past a sticking point or failing a rep. 

Mental confidence can go a long way when lifting heavy. 

One other thing that should give you the confidence to use a weightlifting belt is knowing that a lifting belt makes your core stronger. It does this by increasing the activation of your core muscles so they become even stronger than they could without the belt. It is a common misconception that your core will become weak if you use a weightlifting belt. It isn’t true.

More Strength Gains

Every client I have ever trained has been able to lift more weight with a lifting belt. It is like magic.

You can lift more weight. I’m not talking about 100 lbs more. But a belt will help add another 5-10% on a squat or deadlift if appropriately used.

More weight lifted (safely and with proper form) means more gains made in the gym.  

If you have been lifting for some time and have never used a belt, read this to see if you’re ready to wear one and hit some new PR’s.

Choosing the right belt for you can also be a confusing subject. There are many options, and it is hard to know which is right for you. Read this article to understand how to pick the best lifting belt for you.

A strong core is mandatory if you want to make the most out of using a belt.

Gustavo Ramos

Gustavo, “Goose”, is the Director of Operations at Seriously Strong Training Tallahassee and holds a Masters in Exercise Physiology degree from Florida State University. Gustavo is responsible for the education of all personal trainers at SST, and creates training materials to ensure our coaches are always at the top of their game.