Want Stronger Abs? Use a Belt. Want Stronger Abs? Use a Belt.

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Thread: Want Stronger Abs? Use a Belt.

  1. #1

    Default Want Stronger Abs? Use a Belt.

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    I am so sick of the belt-bashing.

    Belts are a legitimate training tool that help you get stronger faster.

    A couple days ago I was heading to the water fountain after a set of squats. An acquaintance at the gym stopped me and asked "Gary, what's happened to your stomach? It didn't used to bulge out like that."

    What he was witnessing was my powerlifter "mono-ab." I'd been using a belt and squatting increasingly heavier loads and--gasp!--my abs were growing!

    Yet according to all the internet chatter, the midsection "goes to sleep because of reliance on the belt."

    Wake up call to all the internet geniuses out there: The belt allows one to squat more weight NOT because it provides rebound...and not because the belt itself increases the necessary intra-abdominal pressure. The belt gives the abs something to push against so that the ABS THEMSELVES can provide more pressure. The belt just allows the abs to generate more tension by providing external resistance...just like a freaking weighted barbell on your back allows you to generate more tension than just flexing your lower body muscles really hard without the barbell as you stand up.

    I repeat: a belt allows the midsection to work HARDER.

    A belt is not a crutch; it is a training tool, much like proper footwear in the squat.

    Weighted sit ups will build up abs, but so will strapping on a belt and doing heavy low bar squats. The belt gives you the additional benefit of training the abs as they will be used in the movement.

    No, you will not be able to use as much weight in the low bar/bent over squat without the belt. But your beltless squat WILL improve even if you train with the belt all the time. It's easy to forget to pressurize the midsection properly if you're used to the tactile cue that the belt provides and are suddenly without it...but a couple of reps should be sufficient to remind you that you have to push OUT your abs and stay tight through the midsection.

    You still won't be able to squat as much without the belt because it's just not possible to build up as much tension without something pushing back. Just remember that even with the belt, it is YOUR abs providing the tension, not the belt. Just like it is YOUR muscles providing the tension, not the bar against which they're pushing.

    Feel free to disregard this little post and still poo-poo the belt as a crutch. But you won't get as strong in the low bar squat without the belt as quickly as you could with it.

  2. #2
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    Is any belt better than no belt?

  3. #3
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    very interesting post Gary. it might explain the increased soreness i feel in my obliques the day after heavy squat workouts--soreness i didn't feel when squating without a belt.

  4. #4
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    Based on my experience, I agree. I can definitely feel some ab soreness after doing max singles on the deadlift.

  5. #5
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    How interesting that you should post this right as I've been wondering if I should get a belt.
    Noob question: Is a belt a good training tool even if you're not squatting that much weight yet? I'm still squatting around 160 for reps at a bodyweight of 160 and height of 5'9". So I could benefit from a belt now?

  6. #6
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    I've just started using a belt for my deadlifts and squats (same color as yours, Gary) and I've noticed these lifts have been a lot easier. In fact, almost to the point where I'm worried that I'm worried that I'm wearing the belt in a manner that somehow cheats the lift. I know that's not possible, but it still pops up into my head.

    Gone are the days of an achy back after deadlifts and squats. Not only that the belt serves as a great reminder to really set those abs tight by providing you with feedback.

    To answer Gwynn's question, the belt is used a means of support when the abs can no longer keep the torso upright during a lift. I recognized the signs when I had an achy feeling in my lower back, a feeling that felt more spinal than muscle-related.

  7. #7
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    How important is belt quality? I have squat shoes but have put off getting a belt, but I was recently thinking it would be good to have for my work sets. I live in a small town in eastern Canada and could probably find a Weider or similar belt local, but if that's not sufficient I'd have to spend some more and order online.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by brobinson View Post
    How important is belt quality?
    Very. Inzer sells quality belts, and I'm sure others here can suggest alternative sources for them.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by msingh View Post
    Is any belt better than no belt?
    A dress belt--the sort you wear with your Sunday best or in a nice pair of tan slacks--is best. If you cannot get a hold of one of these, then a belt that tapers in the front is second best. NEVER ever use a thick leather belt that is four inches all the way around like the strongest men in the world do when they lift the greatest loads possible by genetically elite humans.

    And NEVER ever read Starting Strength, especially the pages at the end of the squat chapter that talk about belts, why to use them and which kind to use.

    Seriously...

    You want to give your abs and obliques as much surface area to push against as possible without compromising form...and as much resistance as possible. Strapping a thin, elastic hose around your waist is about 0.00001% better than going belt-less. There's a reason powerlifting belts are as thick and wide as they are. Shorter squatters with less space between ribcage and iliac crest would probably be more comfortable with a 3" wide belt, but--again--there is a reason powerlifting belts are about 4" of thick leather all the way around.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gwynn View Post
    How interesting that you should post this right as I've been wondering if I should get a belt.
    Noob question: Is a belt a good training tool even if you're not squatting that much weight yet? I'm still squatting around 160 for reps at a bodyweight of 160 and height of 5'9". So I could benefit from a belt now?
    This is a judgment call. At the urging of a big powerlifting friend I strapped one on when I had a 325 max. Got me 355 right away and my form was sharper than it had been at 325. I never looked back when it came to maxing out. I hesitated to use a belt for training sets then realized that according to my log--surprise!--I got stronger faster when I used the belt to be able to load my legs and hips heavier with more volume. And my abs and obliques actually got bigger and thicker, too. And my belt-less strength was going up.

    Realize that a belt is "gear"...but so are proper squat shoes; every gear is beautiful in its own way. Far be it from me to recommend gear to anyone before the time is right. But you should have proper squat shoes from the beginning...and then a good belt not too long after that. At some point, at least a little knee protection in the form of neoprene sleeves as well as some hip protection in the form of neoprene "warm pants". ("But I can squat fine without neoprene"; wait till you're squatting over double bodyweight for volume a few times per week, then we'll talk.)

    My advice: you're going to end up needing a belt at some point anyway...so go ahead and get one and try it out. Odds are that you'll see immediate improvement in your 1RM, just like I did. Then you'll realize that you can do 185 for reps at the same bodyweight, and that your legs and midsection are getting bigger, harder and stronger faster than before.

  10. #10
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    starting strength coach development program
    a 325 max? And here I am belting up at 280 lbs and I probably outweigh you by 80 lbs or so. Were you doing direct ab work at the time?

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