Using a weights belt is a good thing for keeping your core tight and your spinal column straight, if you have troubles bracing your core or if you are maxing out on a very heavy weight. Using one correctly however is just as important as wearing it.
If you have not learnt how to control your core you need to watch the 4minute video on how to engage your transverse abdominals and core muscles.
Personally I do not recommend using a weights belt during strength training (weights under 80% max) unless you have recently recovered from a back injury where you may have “tweaked”, “pinged”, “sprained” your back or attempting a near maximal lift.
If you have trouble keeping your spine straight or posture upright in a lift or you are unable to engage your core as well, you may choose to use the belt. The belt serves to do the above and increase intra-abdominal pressure which holds your spinal column straight.
Situations where a weights belt should be used
-Lifting weights that are heavy around 90%-100%
-High Volume reps under fatigue
-Recently cleared to exercise
Situations where a weights belt should not be used
-5×5, 3×6 Strength wods, low volume wods (under 30 reps)
-Walking around the box
Nevertheless sometimes regardless if the belt is worn, if the wearer is not shown how to use it, then it is just as useless as not wearing one. Often times I notice the spine arching in a heavy Deadlift just as much and athletes still injuring themselves after a lift and using a belt. Yes, you can still injure your back with a belt on after a awkward lift. The lifting belt is no guarantee that your spine or back will be alright after a heavy maximal lift if you do not know how to use it.
The key is really how to use the belt. You only need the belt just before you are going to lift and it must be strapped on tight.
Get set up near the bar for your single maximal lift.
-Take a deep breath in, suck your belly button to your spine.
-Tighten the belt around your waist. Make sure the belt is not sitting on your hipbones.
-Engage pelvic floor
-Push increase pressure around the mid section by forcing a valsalva manoeuvre
-One last breath of air in to cap the diaphragm
-Proceed to lift
You may choose to belt up before your normal setup routine. For multiple reps of a moderately heavy weight, the goal of the weights belt is different. The belt only serves as a reminder of where your spine is and to make sure you keep it straight. It will not be on as tight as it will severely restrict breathing.
Do not continually force past the belt. Just like rigid tape strapping, use the belt to know where your spinal column is and bracing against it will reduce your risk of getting injured. The minute you can feel the walls of the belt bite into your back or abs, straighten up and fight hard to maintain posture for the lift.
Remember, there is no guarantee against a back injury when using a belt. Use it and properly to get the best out of your lifts. Know when your shoulders-spine-hips are out of alignment and when your core is engaged or not. Otherwise it is just a useless fashion accessory.