L to R: suede, velcro, and leather belts- all options at The Compound
Learn to use your belly!
Many of you may have noticed a fashion statement going around the gym lately in several classes, the wearing of the weight belt. The weight belt is more than just an awesome adornment, or a way to protect your back when from injury, or an item that you think you should wear just because other people do so it’s got to be cool. It makes an effective training aid too.
Everyone who squats or moves heavy weights around (everyone who trains at The Compound for example) should know how to use his or her abdominals. You must learn how to breathe into your belly. You want to pull as much air as you can into your belly, then flex and force your abdominals out.
How can you tell if you are breathing correctly? Walk over to a mirror. Take a look at your shoulders and take a deep breath. Did they rise? If they did, then you're pulling all the air into your chest, not your belly. You need to learn how to breathe into your belly. At the moment you’re exerting the most force on an external object (the weight); your belly must be pushing out, making your entire core stable and strong. The air in your belly creates tightness in the midsection that also protects the back. The weight belt serves as an extra set of abdominals.
For lifting, I’d advise tightening the belt as much as it will go, then backing it off just one notch. This is to teach you to pull air into your belly then push out into the belt. The belt acts as a great training aid to push against and you should be attempting to break the belt off you with your belly. We can use the belt to teach how to use the abdominals for the squat, bench, deadlift, shoulder press, etc. I do not necessarily advocate its use for every lift unless the lifter feels it's needed. If it’s necessary for you to use a belt to place more weight on your body and put more stress on your prime movers and the spine, then have at it because it will make everything stronger. I believe you should try to lift as heavy as you can on your warm ups sets as possible, eventually trying to wean yourself off the belt for the most part.
We want as much tightness and support as we can get from the gross muscles of the spinal erectors, abdominals, and obliques. Many of you have already noticed when you put the weight belt on AND breath properly you are sitting up more in your squats, back pain that was there suddenly is not, and you are able to lift a little more weight. This is NOT a consequence of wearing a weight belt. It is a result of how you are breathing with the weight belt on and the immediate feedback you get from pushing out on an object. If you can learn to do that on your own on any and every exercise, injuries will go way down, efficiency will go up and with it your weight on your Totals as well! cc