“Do I Need a Lifting Belt?”
Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Lifting belts: Do you need one?
If you spend time in a gym, you have likely seen a variety of lifting belts. They come in all shapes, sizes and material, but how do you know which one is right for you OR if you really need one at all?
Lifting belts are often recommended as a preventative measure but also for interventional purposes for clients with low back pain. There are several hypotheses contributing to the regular use of lifting belts. The two most common are for prevention of excessive trunk motion with the theory that preventing extraneous spinal movement, particularly rotation, will in turn lower the risk of injury. The second is that increased intra-abdominal pressure will in theory reduce lumbar muscle activity, reducing risk of overuse and pain.
A systematic review published in SPINE in 2000 reported inconclusive results when testing both of the above hypotheses. It was also concluded that while the results of the studies were not significantly significant, there was a reduction in trunk motion seen. This could be a mechanism by which fatigue failure of spinal muscles could be limited for repetitive lifting tasks which can occur at large flexion angles (deadlift and front squat). Inconsistent results were seen for the effect on intra-abdominal pressure and its reduction in back muscle force generated.
In summary, a lumbar support for persons undergoing repetitive stress particularly at large flexion angles of the lumbar spine may benefit from a lifting belt as means of limiting extraneous trunk motion. Further studies are needed to draw clear conclusions regarding use and injury prevention. It is of this therapist's opinion that a lifting belt should never be considered as a means of drastically altering poor motor control patterns or moving weight which does not allow for proper form to be maintained. It should be thought of as a tool for slight refinement of an already efficient pattern of movement.