Deadlifting with or without a belt?

Trever

Double-Digit Post Count
Over the last 1.5-2 years, I’ve been practicing conventional and sumo deadlift without a belt. But, most videos I watch on technique show people deadlifting with a belt.
I like the idea of getting as strong as I can without a belt, but I also don’t want to be stupid about it and needlessly risk an injury.
What is everyone’s thoughts on this? Is there a benefit to lifting without a belt as in better overall core strength? Or can I develop all the core strength I need with a belt and stay safer?
Thanks.
 

Timo Keskitalo

Triple-Digit Post Count
Yes. You can lift with with good technique and develope core without belt. Maybe even better than with belt. But to train the absolute maximum single or a few reps, the very heavy weights, for most people the belt is helpful.

Proper use of belt has it's tricks and should be practiced. The belt alone doesn't prevent injury.
 

Antti

> 4k Posts
In my experience the belt mostly helps with overall lower back fatigue. With short sets and not a lot of volume it's not that useful.

I also find the belt depends a bit on the specific lift. Squats and sumo deadlifts benefit more while conventional deads not so.

One gets a plenty strong core while wearing the belt. It can provide a sense of injury prevention. Some value it more highly than others.

Personally, I got up to a decently strong deadlift without a belt, got one, and didn't notice any performance improvement. I do most of my training with the belt since. I don't give it much thought.
 

kennycro@@aol.com

> 1k Posts
I like the idea of getting as strong as I can without a belt, but I also don’t want to be stupid about it and needlessly risk an injury.
What is everyone’s thoughts on this? Is there a benefit to lifting without a belt as in better overall core strength? Or can I develop all the core lobstrength I need with a belt and stay safer?
What is everyone’s thoughts on this?
Intra Abdominal Pressure, IAP

The weak link in the chain in a Squat or Deadlift is the trunk. Thus, one of the benefits of wearing a belt is that it allows a lifter to maximize the larger muscles involved in the Squat and Deadlift.

Wearing a weight belt allows you to increase Intra Adbominal Pressure, IAP. Dr Mel Siff presented research on this in his book, "Facts and Fallacies."

Pushing your abdominal muscles into the belt ("Bracing") produces greater support for the lower back.

Powerlifting vs Olympic Lifting Belt

Olympic Lifting Belts are narrow in the front and wide in the back. Ironically, being wider in the back doesn't provider as much lower back support as a belt that is wider in the front does.

Powerlifting Belts are wide in the back and in the front. Being wider in the front provide a larger area for you to push your abdominal muscles into, "Brace" against.

The Early Days of Powerlifting

In the early days of Powerlifting, only the Olympic Weight Belt existed. There was no Powerlifting Belt.

Lifters would turn the Olympic Lifting Belt around. The wider part would be in the abdominal area, the narrower width in the back.

Powerlifter knew that worked better but not why.

Misinformation On The Belt And Abdominal Strength

One of the misconceptions that continues to be perpetuated is that wearing a weight belt does not develop strength in the abdominal muscles.

The abdominal muscle are "Bracing", being pushed in the the belt; performing a hard Isometric Action.

Essentially, you are performing a "Vertical Isometric Plank".

Belt Or No Belt

Both wearing and not wearing a belt works you abdominal muscles/core but a bit differently.

An electromyographic analysis of sumo and conventional style deadlifts.

"Compared with the no-belt condition, the belt condition produced significantly greater rectus abdominis activity and significantly less external oblique activity."

Bill Kazmaier

Kazmaier's heaviest Squat was 969 lb, his Deadlift was 890 lbs, wearing a belt.

Dr Tom McLaughlin's (PhD Exercise Bio-Mechanics/former Powerlifter) research on Abdominal Strength for Powerlifters included Bill Kazmaier.

Kazmaier's did no abdominal training. Kasmaier's (as per McLaughlin) performed "Indirect Abdominal Training"; Squatting, Deadlifting, etc with a belt.

McLaughlin's determined that Kazmaier had an incredibly strong core/abdominal muscles, which enable him to maintain an upright position with that kind of weight, without out folding over like a card table.

Take Home Message

When wearing a belt in a Squat, Deadlift, etc., the abdominal muscles don't take a nap during the lift and wake up after you have completed your set. The abdominal muscles are working hard, performing an Isometric, pushing against the belt.

The Core Bridge

Think of your core as the bridge between you lower and upper body.

Individual with a long torso have a long bridge. Individual with a short torso have a short bridge.

The longer a bridge is, the more support it needs.

That support is provided by...

1) Specifically strength training the abdominal muscles.

2) Wearing a belt during the lift.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Trever

Double-Digit Post Count
Thanks for the replies. I think I’ll start practicing with the belt on the heavier days of the wave cycle.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
The weak link in the chain in a Squat or Deadlift is the trunk.
@kennycro@@aol.com , I think this is going to depend on the person. Once I had learned how to deadlift, I never suffered an injury doing it. When the weight got too heavy, the weight didn't budge or moved a few inches and not further. For me, someone who suffered a back injury, that's the right "balance" - I'd rather a heavy lift not move rather than get me hurt.

My reasoning for deadlifting without a belt is simple - I deadlift to make me stronger for the rest of my life, not to maximize the weight I can lift within the rules of my division. I have never used a belt deadlifting and have no plans to. One has to ask, "What's the goal of performing this lift?" If it's to enhance the quality of one's life, I don't see how wearing a belt helps that.

Just my opinion, your mileage may vary.

-S-
 

Anna C

> 6k Posts
Elite Certified Instructor
Powerlifting Belts are wide in the back and in the front. Being wider in the front provide a larger area for you to push your abdominal muscles into, "Brace" against.
IMO, pushing into the belt is a mis-cue. You should brace the exact same way that you do without a belt. The belt provides feedback that allows you to brace better.

My reasoning for deadlifting without a belt is simple - I deadlift to make me stronger for the rest of my life, not to maximize the weight I can lift within the rules of my division. I have never used a belt deadlifting and have no plans to. One has to ask, "What's the goal of performing this lift?" If it's to enhance the quality of one's life, I don't see how wearing a belt helps that.
I think it helps make the abs stronger. You know the drill where you stand in a doorframe and push up against it to wedge yourself under it to learn how to press properly? It's that same kind of external resistance. Have the belt on correctly, brace the same way you always do, and you end up bracing just a little bit better and harder with the belt on. Therefore, you get stronger in the abs and in your lift, both with and without the belt.
 

kennycro@@aol.com

> 1k Posts
I have never used a belt deadlifting and have no plans to.
Belt or No Belt

Some people don't use a belt, which is fine.

However, research demonstrates that wearing the Belt increase dramatically increase Intra-Abdominal Pressure, which provide greater support for the lower back compared to lifting without it.

The greater your core stability (stiffeness), the more force a lifter is able to generate, which has to do with...

"Leakage'"

"Being able to stabilize the pelvis in the frontal plane as we move is important otherwise we create a disconnect in the connection of the muscles. Dr. McGill calls this a "leakage" of energy, and the knees and low backs generally pay the price. "

The Weak Link In The Chain

I've posted information on this before. The core is usually the weak link in the Squat and Deadlift. That means the core gives out long before the legs do.

The core ends up being Overloaded while the legs are Underloaded. For individual interested in maximizing leg development, wearing a Belt allow them to minimize "Leakage"; this core stiffness ensure more work is placed on the legs with eithera heavier load or more repetition.

What's even more effective are exercise that minimize or completely eliminate the core from the movement; Leg Press, Belt Squat (great carryover movement for the Squat), etc.

The core is then strengthened with exercise that directly focus on it.

My reasoning for deadlifting without a belt is simple - I deadlift to make me stronger for the rest of my life, not to maximize the weight I can lift within the rules of my division. ...One has to ask, "What's the goal of performing this lift?" If it's to enhance the quality of one's life, I don't see how wearing a belt helps that. One has to ask, "What's the goal of performing this lift?" If it's to enhance the quality of one's life, I don't see how wearing a belt helps that.
The Purpose

If an individual is lifting for health, there's no reason for wearing a Belt or even lifting heavy for low repetitions.

If an individual is a competitive lifter, a Belt will help the majority of lifters.

So, the right answer is dependent on your objective.
 
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Steve B.

Triple-Digit Post Count
I'll add my two cents.
Personally i've use a belt almost exclusively with weights 70% and beyond in my lifting career.
I have done periods/cycles without it to as mentioned develop the mid section strength.
I think it's a choice but i would go without one as long as possible before deciding wether to use one or not.
Build a solid foundation of strength first.
And then learn how to use it to your advantage.
You do not though have use one if you so choose not to.
I am reminded of an eighty year old man in know that pulls nearly 400 pounds that has never used one and continues to this day not to.
This man is Pavel's father who I've had pleasure of seeing in several meets pull big weights without a belt.
 

Blake Nelson

Triple-Digit Post Count
Certified Instructor
I put on a belt any time I go 90% or above in either a back squat or deadlift these days, which is to say VERY rarely.
That said, if you are going to lift using one, you should spend some time practicing with it. Find a belt you like and get comfortable with it.
Blake Nelson
 

Alan Mackey

More than 300 posts
I tend to avoid using the Valsalva maneuver and lifting belts for the exact same reason: if I need any of those, maybe the load is too high for me and I should focus on increasing my baseline strength until I don't need high tension to move that weight.

Since I care about improving comfortable strength (as opposed to maximal strength), this serves as an auto-regulation mechanism. So far, so good.
 

Glen

> 1k Posts
I tend to avoid using the Valsalva maneuver and lifting belts for the exact same reason: if I need any of those, maybe the load is too high for me and I should focus on increasing my baseline strength until I don't need high tension to move that weight.

Since I care about improving comfortable strength (as opposed to maximal strength), this serves as an auto-regulation mechanism. So far, so good.
It's an interesting one regarding techniques to increase lifting ability. Belts, valsalva etc etc.

Personally I've always found it good to learn how to increase the maximal amount of tension you can create - use all the available high tension techniques etc and then learn to dial it back to the required amount for the task at hand. Much like hardstyle planks etc.

I'm regards to using a belt I've done pretty close to my comp max with a belt in training belt less - not as comfortable or as confident but it's minimal PHYSICAL difference IMO
 

Anna C

> 6k Posts
Elite Certified Instructor
I tend to avoid using the Valsalva maneuver and lifting belts for the exact same reason: if I need any of those, maybe the load is too high for me and I should focus on increasing my baseline strength until I don't need high tension to move that weight.

Since I care about improving comfortable strength (as opposed to maximal strength), this serves as an auto-regulation mechanism. So far, so good.
Yeah this makes no sense to me. It's kind of like, "I tend to avoid using half my available muscles for a lift so I can increase my strength of the other muscles." 🤷‍♀️

I think the Valsalva and belt provide for the most effective strength training. The reason we lift is to get stronger, so why not do it most effectively?
 

Chrisdavisjr

> 1k Posts
I must admit, while I can understand not using a belt, avoiding the Valsalva would make lifting any kind of appreciable weight virtually impossible or, at the very least, somewhat unsafe wouldn't it?
 

Alan Mackey

More than 300 posts
Yeah this makes no sense to me. It's kind of like, "I tend to avoid using half my available muscles for a lift so I can increase my strength of the other muscles." 🤷‍♀️

I think the Valsalva and belt provide for the most effective strength training. The reason we lift is to get stronger, so why not do it most effectively?
Let me put it this way: you could probably do five squats at 65% of your 1RM while singing and without even breaking a sweat. So belt and Valsalva are optional at this point, right?

But if you are doing heavy doubles at 90% of your 1RM, those two elements are mandatory.

What I'm trying to achieve is raising slowly my 65% of 1RM, so I won't need neither belt nor Valsalva. I may use them, but not because I need them.

It's basically, doing things the Easy Strength way.
 

william bad butt

More than 500 posts
I always wear a belt when deadlifting and performing the other 2 powerlifts, even if im just lifting the bar with no weight. Whether it is 45 lb or my max, I always do it the same way (same mind set, same tension, same tecnique).

My abs are still plenty strong. I really dont ever wear a belt for anything else besides the 3 powerlifts.
 

Alan Mackey

More than 300 posts
I must admit, while I can understand not using a belt, avoiding the Valsalva would make lifting any kind of appreciable weight virtually impossible or, at the very least, somewhat unsafe wouldn't it?
No one I know does a true Valsalva during a set of pull ups or push ups... unless it's a 1RM attempt. One tend to breathe more naturally, while avoiding losing tension. The most common way to breathe doing pull ups and push ups would be the old inhale during the negative portion of the movement and exhale during the positive. And that's not a true Valsalva.

The SF approved way of breathing during the squat is quite different from what Mark Rippetoe teaches: fill your lungs and your belly before each rep, create intra-abdominal pressure, hold your breath during the entire rep and exhale only when the rep is completed.

Which is kind of contrarian to the brusque exhalation during the ascension portion of the squat promoted by SF. During a truly maximal attempt, one should not do that, but it's more than fine for lower percentages of 1RM.

I consider Rip's option a true Valsalva, while the SF is, in my opinion, breathing under load. Both options are perfectly fine.

What I do is my own version of breathing under load.
 

Anna C

> 6k Posts
Elite Certified Instructor
Let me put it this way: you could probably do five squats at 65% of your 1RM while singing and without even breaking a sweat. So belt and Valsalva are optional at this point, right?

But if you are doing heavy doubles at 90% of your 1RM, those two elements are mandatory.

What I'm trying to achieve is raising slowly my 65% of 1RM, so I won't need neither belt nor Valsalva. I may use them, but not because I need them.

It's basically, doing things the Easy Strength way.
Do reps at 65% drive a strength adaptation? I think it's on the low end of the effective range, but that's a whole discussion in itself... For me, 75% - 85% works a whole lot better. (Perhaps there are other factors, including gender. Maybe @kennycro@@aol.com can help here).

No one I know does a true Valsalva during a set of pull ups or push ups... unless it's a 1RM attempt. One tend to breathe more naturally, while avoiding losing tension. The most common way to breathe doing pull ups and push ups would be the old inhale during the negative portion of the movement and exhale during the positive. And that's not a true Valsalva.

The SF approved way of breathing during the squat is quite different from what Mark Rippetoe teaches: fill your lungs and your belly before each rep, create intra-abdominal pressure, hold your breath during the entire rep and exhale only when the rep is completed.

Which is kind of contrarian to the brusque exhalation during the ascension portion of the squat promoted by SF. During a truly maximal attempt, one should not do that, but it's more than fine for lower percentages of 1RM.

I consider Rip's option a true Valsalva, while the SF is, in my opinion, breathing under load. Both options are perfectly fine.

What I do is my own version of breathing under load.
Yes, I see your point. Personally I'm in the "hold your breath during the rep" camp, but I see that forceful and strategically-timed breathing can be effective also if IAP is maintained -- just like we do in the kettlebell swing, but adapted for slower movements.

Do you feel like you're creating a stiff torso -- that your intra-abdominal pressure is supporting your spine? That's what is important.
 

Alan Mackey

More than 300 posts
Do reps at 65% drive a strength adaptation? I think it's on the low end of the effective range, but that's a whole discussion in itself... For me, 75% - 85% works a whole lot better. (Perhaps there are other factors, including gender. Maybe @kennycro@@aol.com can help here).
My sweet spot is between 65% (the load I could lift running a mild fever and after a night with no sleep) and 85% (an honest hard effort). But I'm kinda biased, because my main goal is to turn my today's 85% into my next semester's 65%.

Yes, I see your point. Personally I'm in the "hold your breath during the rep" camp, but I see that forceful and strategically-timed breathing can be effective also if IAP is maintained -- just like we do in the kettlebell swing, but adapted for slower movements.
My point exactly.

Glad to see we basically agree. 👍
 
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