Stiff Lifting Belt Effect on Spine Compression During Lifting

Summary

The article entitled “Effect of a Stiff Lifting Belt on Spine Compression During Lifting” appeared in the Spine Journal, and was written by Idsart Kingma, Gert Faber, Edin Suwarganda, Tom Bruijnen, Rob Peters and Jaap Dieen. The following paper provides a summary of the article’s key sections.

Purpose and Design

The proponents of the study wanted to learn more about the impact of weightliftng on the weightlifter’s spine, especially the use of a leather belt while engaged in the process of lifting weights. The value of the study is clarified in the prior discovery of the existence of significant spinal compression forces during the act of weightlifting. Researchers linked this phenomenon to the increased risk of sports-related injuries and the development of low back pain problems. They made the connection that excessive compression forces exceed tissue tolerance causing unintended damage to the affected areas. However, they also found out that during the process of lifting weights, the weightlifter’s abdomen exhibited a rise in “intraabdominal pressure” or IAP that resulted in the enhanced stiffness of the trunk and created spine stability in the said area. In addition, previous studies uncovered the benefit of using the weightlifting belt in order to enjoy the advantages of increasing the body’s IAP. Aside from preventing lower back pain and potential injuries, the lifting belt’s practical value was also made clear in the mechanism’s documented ability to help the weightlifter improve his or her performance. This was made possible by how the leather belt affects the kinematics and kinetic of the person lifting weights. The proponents of the study wanted an in-depth understanding of this scientific phenomenon. The researchers specifically wanted to find out how the lifting belt affects spinal compression and the exact mechanism used to generate the said effect.

Methods

Nine men, all approximately 20 years old, participated in the study. They were not only of similar age, because they also shared similarities in terms of the body mass and height. In addition, none of them were known to have suffered from the effects of low back pain. They were also not new to the sport, because many of them have been lifting weights for more than a year prior to their participation in this study. They were asked to lift weights from different angles and from different height levels. The participants were asked to lift different types of weight. They also performed the task using a variety of weightlifting techniques, such as the use of various ways of breathing. However, the most critical component of the research design was asking the participants to lift weights with and without the aid of the weightlifting belt. The participants were also equipped with a flexible tube with a pressure-transducer in order to measure their respective IAPs. The researchers not only measured the IAPs but also recorded the weightlifters’ EMG measurement. This was made possible by attaching 14 pairs of EMG electrodes to the weightlifters’ exposed skin after removing hair and cleaning the area with alcohol.

Results and Discussion

After collating the data, the proponents of the study highlighted key results. First, they discovered that there was no significant difference in terms of EMG data between those who wore the weightlifting belts versus those who were not allowed to use the same device. However, the proponents of the study noted that compression forces were smaller when the weightlifter was equipped with the belt and inhaled before lifting the barbell. At the same time, the weightlifters’ IAP measurements were higher when they were belted and inhaled before lifting weights. The proponents of the study made the argument that smaller compression forces that was recorded when the weightlifter was using a belt and utilizing a particular breathing technique was the end-result of the minimal activation of the muscles as opposed to higher exertion levels requried for weightlifters that did not use belts and did not use a particular breathing technique. When a weightlifter was equipped with a tight and stiff belt, and applied a particular breathing exercise, he experienced enhanced trunk flexion stiffness. Therefore, aside from generating high IAP compression forces, the use of the weightlifting belt reduced the energy required to generate back muscle forces, suggesting that this phenomenon can help prevent low back pain issues. The members of the research team also pointed out that the weightlifter’s IAP ensured the stability of his spine during workouts.

In simpler terms, weightlifters are going to prevent injuries and future back pain problems if they constantly use the lifter’s belt during their training sessions. In addition, for enhancing the effectiveness of the weightlifter’s belt, it is best to inhale before exerting the effort of lifting the barbell. The inhalation of air enhanced the mechanics of the weightlifter’s body, reducing the amount of work required. Less effort needed to lift weights reduced stress levels affecting the weightlifter’s lower back.

Although the review of the article revealed the benefits of using a stiff leather belt to stabilize the spine during weight lifting, the authors saw only a limited practical value for this technique if applied in the workplace, especially in jobs requiring workers to carry heavy loads. However, the use of a stiff and tight leather belt is not a practical idea when working in a factory and other work environments that require mobility while lifting heavy objects. Even weightlifters expressed their discomfort in wearing the lifter’s belt. The use of flexible belts was mentioned, increasing the importance of conducting further studies to verify the idea that it was the belt’s stiffness and tightness that were the key factors in experiencing low compression forces.

Conclusion

Compression forces are byproducts of an action when back muscles are forced to load up and carry heavy loads. When compression forces exceed normal levels, the tissue in the back area experiences high levels of stress that can lead to low back pain or back injuries. The members of the research team were able to show that the use of a stiff and tight leather belt reduced the need for loading the back muscles in order to perform weightlifting tasks by ten percent. Thus, the lower levels of compression forces reduced stress levels and the likelihood of back-related problems. In the beginning, the proponents of the study believed that the leather belt played a key role in the loading process. However, at the end of the exercise they found out that the use of the leather belt exceeded their expectations, and the reduction of compression forces was mostly the work of the belt and not the IAP. The IAP was previously believed to be a major contributor in the loading of muscles to perform work, but the results seemed to indicate that the main purpose of the IAP was to provide stability to the weightlifter’s trunk area.