Weightlifting, Belts, CrossFit and Back Injury

Weightlifting belts?  Should lifting belts be worn while weightlifting?  Or during CrossFit WODs?  Or during CrossFit competitions?  Many weightlifters swear by lifting belts.  But some believe weightlifting belts are a crutch that will slow progress.  There are a lot of strong opinions.

One of the dangers with CrossFit and weights is that people can get hurt.  This is especially true when enthusiasm and fatigue cause athletes to choose excessive weight and lose form.  Or worse, never develop good form at all.  We highly recommend attending extra lifting workshops if you are doing CrossFit. CrossFit Lifting Certifications are great too.  Even if you are not a trainer.

Weightlifting belts and how weightlifting belts work.

This belted lifter was called a eunuch.
Unnecessary.  But he did refuse to disprove it.

When a weightlifter (or worker or anyone) lifts a load, pressure on the spine increases.  If pressure is extreme the spine may be immediately damaged (acute damage).  Long term and repeated high pressure to the spine can cause damage over time.  Either of these situations should be avoided.  A weightlifting belt will reduce the amount of compression on the spine.  That is why many workers are required to wear weightlifting belts on the job.

Research on weightlifting belts indicates that it is very important to inhale before the lift.  Even if you are wearing a belt.  This increases intra-abdominal pressure, which reduces stress on the spine.  Inhaling before lifting without a belt also reduces pressure on the spine.  But not as much as inhaling before lifting while also wearing a weightlifting belt.  There are some other things going on too.  Highly technical readers will want to take a look at the reference article below.

Weightlifting belts let you lift heavier weights.

Weight belts let you lift a heavier weight while reducing risk of injury.  Good.

Weightlifting belts reduce trunk muscle activation.

You can get stronger while wearing a belt.  You can get your legs stronger without crushing your spine.  Weight belts can be a good tool for increasing the amount of lift you can do.  You should probably not wear one all the time.  They can be uncomfortable after a while anyway.   This is why no one likes to wear them during CrossFit workouts.  You will see competitive CrossFit athletes using them selectively during CrossFit competition.

Kingma I, Faber GS, Suwarganda EK, Bruijnen TB, Peters RJ, & van Dieën JH (2006). Effect of a stiff lifting belt on spine compression during lifting. Spine, 31 (22) PMID: 17047531

Miyamoto K, Iinuma N, Maeda M, Wada E, & Shimizu K (1999). Effects of abdominal belts on intra-abdominal pressure, intra-muscular pressure in the erector spinae muscles and myoelectrical activities of trunk muscles. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 14 (2), 79-87 PMID: 10619094

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