Should you really use a Weight Belt?

01/05/2018

Limp in Leap out Physiotherapy & Wellness in Belfield provides servicing to many near by Inner West suburbs including Belmore, Strathfield and Croydon park. See our weekly blog below if you are interested in new research, facts, general information or ideas.

If you attend any gym in Sydney you will find many people, male and female, utilising a weight belt during lifting techniques.

 

But why would you use a weight belt?

 

Weight belts are designed to increase intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). If you have an increased IAP, this pressure within your abdominal cavity will help to stabilise surrounding structures. It will

  • Reduce pressure on stabilising muscles around the abdominals and lower back

  • Reduce pressure and compressive forces on the spine

 

Let’s consider an analogy:

Imagine a spinal column, and then a heavy barbell loaded on top of it. The load is transmitted directly to the unprotected spine. Now picture a tubular shaped air balloon – like the air balloons you blow up, wrapped around your chest as a swimming flotation device, only this one is round and wraps around the entire spine.

Now imagine you fill the balloon completely with air that it becomes firm to the touch. When you stack a barbell on top of that, the increased air pressure supports a lot of the weight, taking some load off the spinal column and reducing compressive forces. This is similar to what happens with intra-abdominal pressure.

Now, this may be great to reduce pressure on your lower back during heavy lifting exercises … but what about your stabilising muscles that are supposed to be activated during these exercises.

 

Muscles in the lumbar pelvic region including the erector spinae, multifidus and pelvic floor become activated and assist to increase the intra-abdominal pressure during these lifting exercises. So, constant use of the weight belt will reduce its activation and thus, cause weakening.

 

Here is the trade off, and therefore our opinion:

  • If you are a heavy lifting gym goer: recommended, to reduce compressive forces and load on the spine

  • If you are not a heavy lifting gym goer: not recommended. We need to engage our own stabilising muscles to reduce weakness and complacency.

  • Constant users of the weight belts: increase intra-abdominal pressure yourself, without the use of a weight belt, by learning to switch on your own stabilising muscles. Continue using the weight belt for heavy lifting

 

Happy Training!

This information can be used to gain a better understanding on the pros and cons of utilising a weight belt. To find out more about how we can help your pain, or to book in for a consultation you can contact us via our Limp in Leap out Physiotherapy & Wellness contact us page, or book online here.

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