Should I or shouldn’t I wear a weight belt?
People have asked me this over the years and my answers have changed over the years. In the Crossfit community of old (like 3 years ago) it was looked down on for wearing a weight belt. But let’s take a look at it with new eyes. You have to look at it with each persons goals and past history with injuries in mind. I will simplify it for you with three categories; average Joe, competitive Pete, and injured Ike.
Average Joe is wondering if he should use a weight belt? He has seen many top crossfitters wearing one, so figures he should probably wear one too. I would say diffidently not because he needs to create more trunk or core stability and needs to know his limits without any specialized equipment. This person might have been doing some cardio and light strength training before coming to Crossfit. At CrossFit we combine weightlifting (both Olympic and power) with body weight movements. Average Joe still needs to strengthen his body to prevent injuries without the added worry of extra equipment. Also, people that are novice lifters rely heavily on the fact that the weight belt will keep them safe. This is wrong and dangerous.
Competitive Pete and weight belts, now that is a different story. This person has the strength and has been doing weightlifting for awhile, in the gym or competitively. Now to this person I would still have him do most of his strength training without his belt. This person would know his max lifts with and without his belt and would then decide if he wants to use this equipment in competition. Look at it this way, if I was going to the crossfit games and wearing a weight belt in event one will help me do event two later that day then I would use it, but most people don’t have to worry about that scenario. If I was competing in a weightlifting competition I would know if I want to use a weight belt before I step one foot on the platform. Be prepared for your sport.
Injured Ike is the same story as average Joe with one difference. Taking it slow. We would build this person up from proper movement to light weight with good form and then start to strengthen. Now this is where I hear a lot of guff on this issue. ”But I have hurt my back I need support, Every time I try that it hurts, I need it, etc.” Moving correct first and foremost is the answer, NOT strapping on a weight belt in the hopes that it will support what you cannot. If you think that technology will make you stronger than you are wrong. You have to put in the work. This rule for injured Ike can be bent on special occasions, but I still want that person to move correctly and to strengthen themselves.
I am not an expert on weight belts but from what I have been told you need at least 3″ to 5″. I am a smaller guy so I would start with 3″ and see if it works (trial and error). I would also rely on the advice of people that use this equipment and use it well like USA weightlifting (Olympic lifters) and westside barbell (powerlifters). Do some research before you buy one.