Theory on why the Belt helps the squat Theory on why the Belt helps the squat

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Thread: Theory on why the Belt helps the squat

  1. #1
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    Default Theory on why the Belt helps the squat

    Hi Rip,

    There has been a lot of discussion through the years on this forum about the use of the belt and what it does for the abs, back and power of the lift. I forgot to wear my belt on one set this week on light squat day and I had a very hard time completing the set even though the weight was only 85% of my heavy day. I had to think about why that was.

    I've read here that it helps to have the belt for the abs to push against and thus they can push harder. Sure, but why does that help? What is the actual mechanism by which tighter abs helps you lift? This might also explain why the valsalva maneuver is so helpful.

    The clue to me was that when I was at depth in the squat without the belt, my pelvic girdle felt "loose" and "hinged." It felt like my posterior hip and thigh muscles didn't have a solid anchor to pull against.

    So here's the setup of my theory: When the gluts and hamstrings (and other muscles in the anterior chain) are in strong contraction they will tend to rotate the front of the pelvis upward toward the chest with the pivot being the lower spine. This is countered by the lower back muscles. (Big powerful leg and hip muscles countered by much smaller muscles in the lower back.) However, with a valsalva maneuver the abdominal pressure provides a strong force against the upward rotation of the pelvic girdle, holding it in place against the powerful contraction of the leg and hip muscles. This is countered somewhat by the abs which create the valsalva pressure, pulling up on the front of the pelvic girdle, but it seems that the net force is to help keep the pelvic girdle static against the pull of the posterior hip and thigh muscles.

    My theory: Adding a belt increases the abdominal pressure you can create, providing even more pressure against the hip/pelvic girdle providing a very stable pelvic girdle platform from which to contract the powerful muscles of the hips and thigh. (While, to do this, you contract your abs more against the belt, this added upward rotational force is more that compensated by the additional pressure created in the abdomen pushing against the pelvic girdle.)

    I hope I explained this clearly enough without a diagram. Does this make sense?

  2. #2
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    It's good, but I think you're unclear on the role of the abs. If the extended lumbar position is established by the erectors on the posterior, the abs and the other circumferential muscles around the spine, ribcage, and pelvis contract isometrically AFTER the lumbar erectors establish extension. There is no tendency for the abs to pull the system into posterior pelvic tilt/lumbar flexion unless you perform this setup incorrectly. And this would be an excellent argument against doing situps if you're physically stupid: if you learn a lumbar flexion in a situp or a crunch, and if you're physically stupid, the tendency might be to allow it to carry over into the squat or pull. But the lumbar extension is easy to teach, and any coach with any experience in this method should be able to correct even a physically stupid person who does this.

  3. #3
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    This is the only information I could find on why a belt means more kilos on the bar. From the Baby, Bathwater, Gear article:

    'Higher ab tension means higher internal abdominal pressure, which means a more rigid spine which means a more secure spine that transmits energy to the bar more efficiently.'

    I can't wrap my head around the last part, maybe I just need it explained to me a different way. My two guesses prior to reading that were that the more rigid trunk means it's harder for you to collapse over (explaining why a belt benefits low bar more than high bar) which would throw the bar infront of the midfoot/cause the hips to rise too fast in relation to the chest. That or that the increased tightness has a knock on effect, like how getting tight everywhere else benefits the bench press.

  4. #4
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    You can't wrap your head around force transmission?

  5. #5
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    Rip, I got this one:

    JB47 - Can you push something harder with a steel rod or with a pool noodle?

  6. #6
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    I can, force will have to travel through everything between the ground and the bar, it's just that I've put on a belt and nailed a weight that I failed beltless but my back didn't go into flexion on the failed unbelted attempt, I just hit a point where I couldn't apply enough force even with my back in extension. Or I've seen people's lower back unlocking during a max effort deadlift but they still managed more weight than they could with good extension.

    Unless I'm linking a secure spine with an extended spine when that's not what's meant?

  7. #7
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    Stef has a good explanation for this at the seminar. I'll see if she has time to post.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahogany View Post
    Rip, I got this one:

    JB47 - Can you push something harder with a steel rod or with a pool noodle?
    Steel rod, although lumbar extension/flexion isn't quite as stark a contrast as steel/polythene. Like I said, people's backs have been in extension in both beltless and belted attempts but the belt still added weight and we've probably all seen cases where a pool noodle (flexion) meant more weight pulled than a steel rod (extension, which is tighter/more secure) but maybe this is just because you can get your hips closer to the bar?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JB47 View Post
    Steel rod, although lumbar extension/flexion isn't quite as stark a contrast as steel/polythene. Like I said, people's backs have been in extension in both beltless and belted attempts but the belt still added weight and we've probably all seen cases where a pool noodle (flexion) meant more weight pulled than a steel rod (extension, which is tighter/more secure) but maybe this is just because you can get your hips closer to the bar?
    Are you ok?
    The pool noodle means soft.
    The steel is rigid.
    Flexion and extension were not even remotely mentioned.

    ESL? Brain Damage?
    Reading Comprehension?
    Drunk?
    A combination of all the former+high altitude?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JB47 View Post
    and we've probably all seen cases where a pool noodle (flexion) meant more weight pulled than a steel rod (extension, which is tighter/more secure) but maybe this is just because you can get your hips closer to the bar?
    A thoracic flexion aids the pulling mechanics by shortening the moment arm between bar and hip. But if you think Konstantinovs's back is the equivalent of a pool noodle, you're very new to deadlifting.

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