Do weight lifting belts protect your spine?

5 minute read

Do weight lifting belts protect your spine? This is such a big misconception that I likely won’t stop sharing it until all of the misconception is gone. Weight belts have a huge misconception, in that often times people assume that they should wear a weight belt because it reduces the risk of injury. They assume that because you have a belt on, you are less likely to herniate a disc, sprain ligaments, or strain a muscle. In some ways, MAYBE. But, the effects are minimal compared to that of what people believe. 

Let’s spend some time to shed light on the reason you SHOULD wear a belt. Proper use of a weight lifting belt is to create a rigid support for your abs to push out against. When doing so, this allows you to create an increase in what’s called “intraabdominal” or “intrathoracic” pressure. In turn, this allows you to create extra stability in your back, this plus the increase in pressure allows heavier weights to be lifted. 

If you want to wear a belt to prevent injuries, you are simply doing it wrong. What you should try is to create as much resiliency in your low back as you can prior to attempting weights that scare you enough that you think will injure you. In turn, what you should really be focused on using a belt for is to lift heavier weights by essentially cheating the system. 

So, what’s the big deal? Should you be able to just lift the weights without using equipment? It always helps, don’t get me wrong. However, if your overall goal is say a powerlifting meet or to pack on a ton of muscle, the belt will help because it does allow you to lift more based on the principle of increasing intrathoracic and intraabdominal pressure, this in turn will allow you to overload the muscles and therefore, as a result you get stronger and bigger. 💪🏼💪🏼

**It is important to note that holding your breath (also called a Valsalva) can be dangerous, so while you are lifting these heavy loads, remember to exhale while creating stiffness in your core. This ensures you will not be lifting without a tight core, but also does not produce ill-effects of the Valsalva.

Dr. Kaytlyn Wells, PT, DPT


Kisner, C., Colby, L. A., & Borstad, J. (2019). Therapeutic exercise: Foundations and techniques. Vancouver, B.C.: Langara College.

PT, T. (2020, December 06). Do Weightlifting Belts Actually Work With Exercise? Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://theprehabguys.com/do-weightlifting-belts-actually-work/

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