There is a lot of debate between lifters about whether a weightlifting belt is a good idea or not. On the one hand, plenty of studies support the benefits of using one. On the other, the belt could very well prevent the lifter from improving certain weaknesses in their core by working as a sort of crutch.
A study by Lander, Hundley, and Simonton (1992) found that wearing a weightlifting belt increased intra-abdominal pressure and also increased muscle activity in vastus lateralis and biceps femoris muscles . Another study, in 1989 found that wearing a weighted belt increased the perception of improved trunk stability. How you feel is a very important factor when it comes to lifting heavy weights.
Another study in 2001 found that a weighted belt can actually alter the path of the barbell and the speed. But it didn’t increase muscle activation. The researchers concluded that this would allow lifters to be more explosive and lift more weight, without “compromising the joint range of motion or overall lifting technique”.
A 1991 study found that wearing a weightlifting belt helped reduce discomfort in squatters and increased stability in the trunk. As you can see there appear to be a large amount of pretty big benefits to wearing a weighted belt, but many experts still feel that you should be careful with how often you use them.
The problem is that weightlifting belts are too effective and as such they can prevent your body from naturally adapting to squats. Intra-abdominal pressure is vital to good squatting, and a weightlifting belt can really help improve this. But what happens when you’re not wearing it? You won’t be able to recreate that same level. A weightlifting belt will also prevent your core from getting as strong as it would without a belt.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid weightlifting belts, just that you should be selective with how you use them. Keep them off for the majority of your lifts, and save them for the big ones. If you only wear them when you are approaching your 1 rep max you’ll get the best of your workouts.