Should You Wear A Belt?
Wearing a weightlifting belt for lifting certainly is NOT cheating, but it’s also not always necessary either. However, appropriate context NEEDS to be considered when making that choice. Recently, and periodically in the past, the idea of a weightlifting belt has come up. Some feel that if you need to wear a weightlifting belt, then you’re lifting too heavy and risking injury, while others wear a belt as they start warming up. These are two opposite ends of the spectrum, and unfortunately the answer of whether or not you should wear one lies somewhere in between.
My personal view is that if you don’t need it, then don’t wear it, until you need it. However, that would imply that the athlete in question has taken the time (years in most cases) to develop proficient technique. However, as a result of those years of experience, those same athletes would have likely already come to understand the context, and necessity of the occasional use of a belt when needed. So, by the time they’d be using it appropriately, it would actually lessen the risk of potential injury at those heavier loads. In context, more experienced lifters also don’t make “gains” as quickly, or as often as those with less experience. Therefore, if the goal is to improve, get stronger, and continue to hit new personal records, wearing a belt may become necessary for more experienced lifters.
With beginners on the other hand, I believe that a weightlifting belt can be an extremely valuable teaching tool. One of the most common problems with beginners is that they don’t know when, or how to properly breathe, and brace the torso. This is one of the first skills we go over with beginners, and probably the most important. As coaches, we are constantly trying to improve movement proficiency. We are quick to pick out someone who’s deadlifting with a rounded back, or squatting only through a partial range of motion. Those faults are easy to see, and it’s much harder to watch the rib cage, and determine whether or not a lifter is properly bracing. But, an experienced coach will be looking for that. Helping a lifter here, as opposed to just yelling; “Straighten your back!” Or; “Get deeper.” will often fix both of those (and many other) common issues. Therefore, if wearing a belt is a cue on how to properly breathe & brace, which will actually help to improve a new lifters technique, and movement proficiency, I’m not sure how it could be viewed as “cheating”.
PS: Anywhere above where it says; weightlifting belt, just replace that with weightlifting straps, weightlifting shoes, knee sleeves/ wraps, etc. If and when you might question their use in training.