The question was put to me by a new athlete at Daylesford CrossFit “When should you start using a weightlifting belt?” It was a hard question for me to answer because the decision should be made on your own. There are lots of factors to consider, where do you want to go with your CrossFit Training? what are you training for? How much available cash do you have to spend?
I personally, do not use a belt when lifting weight, not even for Deadlifts. I never have and at this point of my life I do not intend too. I train to keep healthy, not to go to CrossFit games or even local competitions. I believe I am training for every day life so I should train the way I spend every day life. “Train how you Fight” is the saying and I do not intend on wearing a weightlifting belt every day.
Now if you are serious about your training and are training heavy lifts that have a risk of injury, there are some reasons why you would want to wear a weightlifting belt.
First off lets consider what the belt designed to do. The purpose of the belt is to increase abdominal pressure against the spine. During large lifts, lifts that can compromise mid line stability, we use the air in our lungs and our abdominal muscles to create pressure against our spine, keeping the spine and our mid line in a stable position. The belt tightened around the waist acts as blocking force against the abdominal muscles, supporting the muscles and then increasing abdominal pressure. This theory has been proven by the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Gifu University, School of Medicine, Japan in a study on the effects of abdominal belts on intra-abdominal pressure in the erector spinal muscles. see link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10619094
So there is a huge benefit to using a weightlifting belt when completing large lifts. But our body is equipped to lift heavy weight safely, with good technique and a gradual increase of intensity, without a belt. So If you are thinking of buying a belt first consider, Am I training to compete? Do I have good consistent technique without the belt? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then I belt may be a good purchase. If the answer is no, save your money or better yet invest it in one on one coaching.