Squatting without a belt

Does anybody have any problem with squatting without a belt. Is it harmful?

I don’t think its harmful, I have never injured myself squatting with or without a belt. I have been squatting exclusively without a belt for about 2 years now. Take that for what its worth though the most I have ever squatted is 375lbs. If I was a 500lb plus squatter I may want to have a belt for safety. The only reason i use a belt now is every now and then for ego, because I can squat WAAY more wight with a belt.

nope, same with deadlift, never had a problem, this includes a 495 max out on squat

i virtually never use a belt when squatting, and i have had no problems.

thanks guys, would it matter if you used the high or low bar. I use the low bar.

Back in undergrad we were not allowed to use belts in the weightroom because the S&C coach said if you used proper form you wont get hurt and if you use belts long enough they will actually weaken your back and abdominal muscles actually causing injury rather than preventing it.

A lot of stuff this guy said I didnt really trust, but this seems very reasonable and I never saw a back injury from squat or deadlift in my four years there.

exactly, squating with a belt only takes over the job that your muscles should do and continued use not only weakens the needed muscles relative to the other unassisted muscles but also establishes improper motor patterns. i dont kno about the rest of you but i am intrested in human performance, unaided human performance. so squatting with a belt is just that … squating with a belt, not squating. you have to ask yourself all these people with their great squat and deadlift numbers, how much of it is them and how much of it is the belt not to mention the squat suit.

CHarlie always wanted me to use a belt to squat when I began lifting 2 years into my serious athletic career. Occassionally I did not use a belt when I was lifting routine weights but alsmost always we used a belt.
TUdor Bomba used to tell me my lifting techniuqe needed to be better before going up in weight but Charlie was always of the opinion that because I had an extreme leg differential and my legs were long I should be as safe as I can be and use the belt more often than not.
Perhaps I was not doing what was " natural" for the human body but in reality as I look back on my athletic career and now at 40 years old look at
" normal" people I was never normal.

Charlie did Ben always used a belt when he squatted? Or did he only use it when he was doing monster sessions such as the 2 X 6 X 660 session.

i’d say the belt would be helpful on big lifts for safety, but for more functional strength it may be more useful to lift without it as then you are forced to use your core muscles for stabilisation during the lift - more specific to sprinting as the core muscles are constantly being used. what does everyone else think?

i guess it depends on how u look at human performance. im a strong believer that we should strip away everything that assits expression of human ability and that human ability should stand alone. i guess this is a personal philosophy more than anything but im more concerned with how much a person can squat without a suit a belt, squat shoes ect.

I guess it depends on your reasoning and purpose.

In terms of sprint specific I guess you could somewhat say that, but a majority of lifts use abs for stabilisation.

If its for safety well then I guess you ask yourself why you risk getting injured on this lift compared to previous lifts and if the risk reward is worth it. And if your taking your core out of it for the most part then there may be a leg press machine at your gym that would be more suited for the lift. Just my thoughts.

could there be a mental aspect to it? if you arent comfortable without a belt, it may just be better to lift with it, because that discomfort could cause the person to cheat or short themself in terms of weight. as long as ur sprinting, doing ur ab work, and some assistance exercises, i dont think it is a problem either way

James; In sprinting it is how high you can create a stimulus safely. THese are CHarlie’s words.
According to CHarlie, Ben always squatted with a belt.
Yes I think for some, like myself I liked and felt safe using a belt especially when the weight was high.

From Facts and Fallacies of Fitness,

"It is becoming fashionable to warn lifters that regular use of a belt will cause the body to rely on this performance aid and lead to the trunk muscles becoming weaker, although there is no direct research evidence proving that this is indeed the case. We have already discussed the benefits of enhancing the safety and efficiency of lifting by means of a lifting belt, but we have not questioned the possibility that this may cause the body to become reliant on its help.
The contention is that the belt, in assisting the abdominal musculature to increase the intra-abdominal pressure for supporting the spine during lifting, eventually leads to the abdominal muscles becoming weaker. It is presumed that this leads to more stress being imposed on the lumbar disks, thereby promoting their degeneration. No research using X-rays, CAT scans or MRI’s, however, has yet been conducted to show any difference in spinal degeneration among belt users and non-belt users. On the contrary, such research hs shown that the use of a lifting belt, especially if it is at least as wide in the front as the back, definitely protects the lower spine during lifting.
My research using EMB and muscle tension devices has shown that use of a belt can create circumstances for increasing rather than decreasing abdominal strength. External pressure exerted on the abdominals by a belt or medicine ball thrown against the abs in boxing training, increases tension in the abs and thereby serves to strengthen them, provided one’s breath is held during the relevant movement.
It is sometimes also believed that belts, in restricting the natural range of movement of the lower spine overstresses the first few lumbar discs. It is surprising then that medical specialists often prescribe the use of lumbar belts or corsets to severely limit the range of spinal movement in patients with back problems or paraplegia. Manual laborers are also sometimes encouraged to wear similar belts during heavy lifting, carrying and hauling, since ergonomic research has shown that this reduces the likelihood of lumbar injury, even though the belts may be worn for prolonged periods. In this regard, it is relevant to read Chaffin & Andersson, Occupational Biomechanics, as well as Dr. Zatsiorsky’s spinal research summarized in his book, Science and Practice of Strength Training.
Undoubtedly, one can become very psychologically reliant on the use of any ergogenic aid, including a belt, and this can lead to disrupted kinesiology when one tries to lift wtihout it. One can also become proprioceptively reliant on or guided by a belt. It is in these functional respects rather than the presumed structural respects that overuse and incorrect use of a belt may sometimes be inappropriate. Well-meaning experts who condemn regular belt use fail to distinguish between two different functions of a lifting belt: Mechanical support offered by tight application of a rigid belt and

Proprioceptive feedback offered by contact of the belt with the trunk

 Their criticism of long-term usage of a belt concerns largely the first function, but it ignores the possible training benefits of the latter function.  A lightly fastened belt offers little mechanical support and leads to no supportive reliance on it, thereby removing all criticism about weakening the trunk muscles.  Moreover, the touch of a fairly loose belt around the midriff can be very useful in offering the lifter tactile feedback about whether or not the lower spine is overflexing, overextending or rotating during any lifting.  In other words, a loose belt can teach one how to use the back more competently, especially among novices.  It can also keep the lower back warm in colder weather.  
 Clearly it is nonsense to condemn long-term use of a lifting belt without considering the manner in which the belt is to be used, since belts can be both used and misused.  Equally clearly, you should never rely psychologically or physcially on a belt to help you execute training lifts which you cannot normally manage without a belt, whether this is due to inadequate strength or poor technique.  In serious competition, belts may be used for maximal attempts, since this can offer added safety insurance when one is usually psyched up to exceed one's normal training capabilities."

The Weight Belt Controversy
By Christopher C. Frankel and Len Kravitz, Ph.D.

“The affect of increased IAP during lifting has been theorized to aid in supporting the spine during lifting. An increase in IAP is assumed to provide a mechanism of anterior support for the spine during lifting, decreasing the load to the spine and protecting the vertebrae, discs, and articulating muscles. However, even when rigid weightlifting belts were studied, as opposed to softer belts used in industrial settings, some studies demonstrate increases in IAP by as much as15% to 40%, whereas other investigators have shown no consistent effect on IAP (Smith et al. 1996).”

“In a recent study, Bauer, Fry and Carter (1999) investigated the EMG activity of the erector spinae muscles during high bar squats. Ten men with weightlifting experience performed two sets of three repetitions: the first set with and the second set without a weight belt. The load used in this experiment equaled 60% of each subject‘s 1RM. Findings indicated that the average erector spinae activity was greater in the lumbar region of the spine while wearing the belt. The hypothesis of the study stated if weight belts provide additional support to the spine during squatting there should be a decrease in the activity of the back extensor muscles. This lead the authors to conclude that the weight belt did not provide the biomechanical change expected to minimize the risk of low back injury.”

Back to the original question.

Is squatting without a belt harmful?

No, most likely it is not harmful to squat without a belt, in fact for a majority of your lifts it is probably best to not use a belt.

If you have proper form and are not stack a bunch of extra weight on trying to max out then lifting without a belt should be very safe.

That being said there is no serious problem with using a belt once in a while especially if you are loading up the rack for some very heavy sets or if you are in a competition.

A belt does not replace proper form or correct volume of weight lifted, but it can be used as a safety mechanism from time to time to aid someone on heavy lifts if need be. Short term use of a weight belt isnt going to cause many ill effects, however long term use could become troublesome and a lifter should at least split time between belted and non belted lifts, with in my opinion more lifts being done on the non belted side.

A couple of thoughts on the subject:

Ben’s 2 x 6 x 660 (or thereabouts) was a routine session for Ben and, obviously, by no means near to what he may have squatted Had He Bothered to find out what his absolute 1rm was.

The point being, as Angela wrote, the squatting and indeed almost all weightlifting is in the program as a supplement to the all-important Sprinting component of the overall workload. The weightlifting is just a stimulus to assist in developing sprint potential.

How strong is strong-enough? No-one probably knows for sure. And for certain it will vary for individuals.

Ben never went higher than 600lbs because it was felt that this was enough of that sort of strength. Additional loading would probably provide no extra capacity for sprinting and might increase the risk of injury.

Ben is by no means the strongest squatter. He wasn’t even the strongest squatter in Charlie’s squad (Floyd Heard weighed about the same and went heavier). Others in Charlie’s squad opted not to use a belt when squatting.

But Ben sure as hell was the fastest 100m man in Charlie’s squad.

Ben always lifted with a leather belt and always wrapped both knees when squatting.

The idea that a belt would replace the work of muscles is foreign to me. We always squatted with a belt primarily to assist proprioception of the lower spinal muscles. That is, the lumbar muscles tensed against the belt and once the athlete could Feel that everything was switched on, the lifting began.

What does the athlete gain from seeing how much they can squat Without a belt? Who needs a dead hero?

Will s/he be a faster sprinter if they can squat without a belt? Not on the empirical evidence of the 100m results yielded by those in Charlie’s squad over the years.

Wasn’t aware that cat trained with Francis during the 80’s and that he was capable of more in the squat than Ben. That’s crazy cause he, Floyd Heard, was still going sub 20 as of 2000. Guess he carried all the fundamentals and basics learned training with Charlie group and applied them rightly so even as a vet against young cats like Capel.

this where we often differ. we arent training lifts, we are training movements. the only way to have a significant transfer from a movement such as the squat to an event such as the sprint is to focus on intermuscular coordination. you cant do that properly while wearing a belt. you will strengthen the muscles involved in the lift but not the movement. when squating you are not only working your legs your entire body is involved, that goes for any excercise. if you think the bench movement is soely one for the upper body then you do not understand training movements because training movements involves not only activation of a muscle group but also proper relaxation of other muscle groups whether cyclicaly as in repeated effort movements or statically.