Should you Deadlift With a Lifting Belt or Without?
by Evelyn Valdez·
Out of all fitness gear items, the lifting belt is one of the most popular ones because they help you get through heavy pulling exercises while minimizing lower back pain and risk of injuries. You might see lifters around the gym wearing these belts during their deadlifts, but there are also many lifters who don’t use one at all… So who’s in the right?
Well, there’s no such thing as right or wrong, but instead different circumstances. Lifting belts are designed to support you during heavy lifts, keeping your back and your core stabilized and tense throughout your sets so your muscles can fight against the weight more easily. Because of this, there are different reasons why you might need a lifting belt during your deadlifts, but also a few reasons why you might not – it all depends.
We’ll show you the pros and cons of wearing a lifting belt for deadlifting, and a few examples of when you should wear one so you can take your strength training routine to the next level safely.
Pros and cons of using a lifting belt
Do you have a brand new lifting belt and are wondering if you should use it? Or have you seen lifters around you using it and want to get one too? Lifting belts can offer great benefits to your strength training routine, particularly when it comes to deadlifting.
Whether you’re performing a conventional deadlift, a sumo deadlift, a Romanian deadlift, or any other deadlift variation, a lifting belt can give you great support during your training. But there are also a few disadvantages that you should keep in mind when lifting with a belt, so keep reading to understand how the weight lifting belt works.
Pro: It’s better for beginners
Naturally, any kind of belt, strap, or wrap will work great for beginners who are just starting their strength training journey and still need to get used to both the equipment and the intensity of the workouts.
This is exactly the case for deadlifting with a lifting belt because it allows beginners to practice their deadlifting form and develop their confidence using a heavy barbell with the help of the belt.
Of course, beginners can always start their deadlifting journey without a belt, but it can be more challenging. The lifting belt offers a smoother ride and can be a helpful tool, particularly for those who find it difficult to get in the correct mind space during the lift and need some kind of secondary assistance.
Con: Doesn’t let you develop proper form
Because the lifting belt is there to support your core, you don’t need to put as much mental and physical effort into lifting the barbell. This can cause you to forget to properly brace your core and keep a neutral spine during your lifts without a belt, risking an injury in the process.
It’s important for heavy lifting exercises such as deadlifts to be performed in the correct form because you’re already putting your muscles and spine under a lot of stress. If you get used to lifting with a belt, your core muscles will not get properly developed, resulting in a lack of form during your lifts and other exercises.
Pro: Allows you to lift heavier loads
When lifting without a belt, you rely on your muscles and their strength to finish your reps – and there’s only so much that your muscles can do at any fitness level.
During your deadlifts, using a lifting belt will help you preserve your muscles a lot more. This allows you to take on heavier loads or increase your workout volume because your muscles will not get fatigued as quickly as they would without a belt.
While the actual amount depends on each person and their fitness level, a lifting belt can help you lift anywhere from 5 to 15 and even 20% more than your 1RM (one-rep max). That could be 10 lbs more for some people or 30 lbs for others – but the difference is pretty significant.
Being able to lift more than what you’re used to helps to increase your confidence, get used to new weights if you’re working on your progressive overload, and get out of both the mental and physical plateaus that you might find yourself in.
Con: Limits core strength development
If you rely on a lifting belt, not only your form will suffer, but also your overall strength. Particularly in your core area, because your belt is assisting your muscles during the lift, taking much of the load off your core.
This lack of core strength can interfere heavily with your workouts. You won’t be able to lift as much, no matter how heavy you can lift with a belt, which could cause you to reach a workout plateau and lose your lifting confidence in the process.
Not only that, but core strength is essential for a lot of upper and lower body exercises. From the most basic ones to more complex exercises, your core is the center part of your body and thus very important when it comes to working out. Keeping it strong is important, especially if you’re on a strength training journey.
Pro: Helps prevent injuries
There’s a good reason why lifting belts are great for beginners and to lift heavier loads – they help prevent injury!
Lifting belts brace your core very tightly, allowing you to keep a neutral spine during the lift without struggling as much. Lifting without a belt puts your spine and lower back under a lot of stress, and if you’re not keeping the correct form this can result in injury.
This is particularly important when you still haven’t learned proper deadlifting form, or when you’re moving up to heavier weights that you’re not used to yet. If you’re worried about either of these factors, using a belt can help you avoid injury until you’ve progressed enough to successfully lift without using it.
Con: Creates false security
When you use the lifting belt too often, you can develop a dependency on it. Relying on any kind of fitness gear to perform your workouts isn’t ideal for many reasons, such as not being able to develop proper form or strength, but it also creates a feeling of false security.
The weight or the volume that you’re able to lift with a belt isn’t the same as without, but you might believe it is, which could put you at risk when trying that same weight or volume without a belt. That false confidence while lifting can be dangerous because your mental and physical fitness is not aligned, risking getting injured during your session.
When to deadlift with a lifting belt
As you can see from the pros and cons, a lifting belt can both support and hinder your progress, depending on how and when you use it. However, learning when to actually deadlift with a lifting belt can help reduce the cons listed above!
You should deadlift with a lifting belt only if you’re performing maximal or submaximal lifts – this goes for any exercise that involves the weight to be supported by your back! Never use a lifting belt for your warm-up reps or lighter weights.
Because although beginners can benefit from using a lifting belt, they have to learn how to deadlift with proper form before wrapping a belt around their waist. Or else they never develop good form or technique! So, beginners should always start by deadlifting the barbell itself, and gradually increase the weight as they make progress. Once their form is down and they’ve increased the weight on their deadlifts then a lifting belt can start being used.
So, to reiterate, only use it for your heaviest reps that way you can avoid the cons listed above!
Hit PRs on your deadlifts with a lifting belt!
Using a lifting belt while deadlifting or other heavy pulling exercises has its pros and cons. However, don’t think lifting belts aren’t useful. They can be extremely beneficial and help you hit PRs on your deadlifts when used correctly. So, remember only use them for your heaviest reps to avoid heavily relying on them and reducing your core strength!
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