Another take on the subject for digestion. Not my opinion, but interesting FWIW. http://www.cbass.com/Potpourri.htm
Originally Posted by Clarence BassLifting Belts, Are They Necessarily?
I always wore a weightlifting belt during my early years as an Olympic lifter. A belt was standard equipment when the military press was included in the Olympic lifts; it provided welcome support for the lay-back pressing style in vogue at the time. The loose pressing style used by most lifters was partly responsible for the elimination of the lift. The press became more of a contorted jerk and almost impossible to judge. With a few exceptions, the best pressers were basically rubber-backed acrobats. It was very hard on the lower back. When the standing press was eliminated from competition – the Olympic lifts now consist of the snatch and the clean & jerk – belts began to disappear. As you may have noticed from watching them on television, most of the currently active Olympic lifters do not use belts. Powerlifters still use them, however.
When I turned to bodybuilding in my mid 30s, I continued to use a belt for squats, pulls and deadlifts; for the most part, I stopped doing the standing barbell press. A little more than a decade ago, however, I stopped using a belt. As I recall, I took my belt off one day because it was pinching me – and never put it back on. I now do my power snatches, power cleans, pulls, deadlifts and squats without a belt. And I can truthfully say that I don’t miss it one bit. In fact, I believe I’m stronger now that I don’t use a lifting belt. The muscles of my lower back and abdominal area – not my belt -- now provide the stability I need to do squats and other movements were the lower back plays a major role.
I made the right choice, according to a study reported by Sohail Ahmad, MD, division of orthopaedic surgery, Albany Medical Center, Albany, New York, at the 1998 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The study found no difference in the strength gains made by those who used a weightlifting belt while exercising and those who did not, with two notable exceptions. "Individuals not wearing a belt showed better performance when tested for abdominal and lower back strength," Dr. Ahmad said.
Dr. Ahmad and his colleagues divided 50 male lifters into belt users and non-users and followed them for two years. Both groups trained three times a week using standard weight training exercises, including the bench press and squat.
Every six months, they were all tested on the bench press and squat. Frankly, I don’t know why they were concerned with the bench press; a belt is clearly no help there. Anyway, there was no difference found in either group’s muscular strength. "But, we did notice that individuals not wearing the weightlifting belts could do more repetitions of exercises that involved the abdomen and back," said Dr. Ahmad. The specific exercises used to measure lower back and abdominal strength were not reported.
Nevertheless, Dr. Ahmad did not discourage the use of weightlifting belts for all activities. "People who have jobs that involve heavy lifting on a daily basis may find that the belt gives some support and may alleviate discomfort," he said.
Maybe so, but the people I see in the supermarket and elsewhere wearing supportive belts don’t use them to best advantage; they typically have them on loosely, like they were purely ornamental. If they want real support, they should take a cue from powerlifters and tighten up their belts. As powerlifting aficionados know, powerlifters wear their belts so tight that they often need help putting them on and taking them off. It’s not necessary to go to that extreme, but people who want back support and protection should cinch up their belt. If they simply wear a belt for show -- because their supervisor or union tells them to -- they are clearly not getting much benefit. The fellow who drives the garbage truck in our neighborhood has the right idea, however. He wears a lifting belt, and pulls it tight.
Finally, lifters who choose not to use a belt should take special care to keep their lower back straight and tight when doing squats, deadlifts and other exercises involving the lower back. That’s what I do. I consciously tense my lower back before going down in the squat or beginning a pull. Maintaining a tight back not only protects my back, it also makes me stronger. I can lift more with a tight back.
If you’ve been lifting with a belt and decide to try it without, it would be a good idea to reduce your poundages until you get used to the added stress on your abdominal and back muscles.