Nothing says Im about to go hard in the paint, like ratcheting down the "Ol-Belt"! Am I right?? Its downright sanctimonious. It says, "Im here to party, but I also like to be responsible". It also wears like a badge of honor "Hell yeah I lift heavy shit, hold my beer". Its also freaking useless! Don't get me wrong, Im not asking you to be reckless. Quite the opposite really. What Im saying is the belt is a bandaid, on a giant gaping wound. The belt is lazy mans path to ego. Its a lot like racing tires on a prius. Certainly they will give you more grip, but you're never gonna get them up to temp, and honestly ever truly need them.
Honest admission; this is little to do with just a belt, and more to do with all gear. 100% they have a purpose, and they were designed for just that. In fact they can be quite advantageous in the right circumstance. That circumstance is not training. Let me be direct, If you need a belt, wraps, shoes, gloves, sleeves, diapers, or duct tape to get through a workout, you have perhaps overlooked the glaring principle of functional fitness, and perhaps skewed the view to high intensity a bit too much. This is where it gets tricky. Over and over again you've heard me preach that Intensity is the most variable in athletic adaptation. It is. How you get to this intensity is not race tires on a prius. How you get to this intensity is by building the race car. Meticulously engineering its geometry, power, weight, distribution etc, so that on race day, tires matter! This is the case of gear. It will help you win, if you've built the car. You need to understand why you need your belt, to understand why you don't need it in training, but also how it will help you on race day.
Lets start with how a belt works. In summation it works via compression. Cinching down your midline, giving you the ability to brace into it, and essentially trussing the bridge of the midline. Awesome! Except that A) theres no weight belts in the wild B) thats not exactly how your midline works C) If you need gear to complete it, is it really your record? All philosophy aside, lets discuss b. Your midline is a complex series of musculature. Midline stability is your ability to wed hip to trunk in one neutral and stable lever. It also goes much further into the concept that your entire midline (Spine, hip, abdomen, etc) is one large isometric group. Its development is dependent upon development of tension, not exactly flexion. Read: Hollow hold vs Sit ups. Therefore to get stronger, and even more defined abs (bonus) we must learn to brace and hold. In fact this theorem plays out across the gambit of common CrossFit movements; clean, front squat, snatch, ohs, deadlift, back squat, hollow, pressing, Etc.. See, in CrossFit, we don't really do abs, we do Midline stability, except you, you do fashion..
I respect that right now you're liking saying that this all makes sense, but you need the belt to lift heavy, and to do it safely. This is probably true, and if Im being honest, its going to get more dependent. Its a symbiotic-parasitic relationship. Your reliance on any gear, is a weakness in your physical preparation. To address this, you're likely going to need to table the ego, and get back to the basics. Assuming of course you want to do this for a long time, and you are actually doing this for functionality. Ive been teaching this for quite a few years now, and I see the natural evolution to the belt. Injury, poor-recovery, whatever the fault may be, the belt becomes the common sense solution. Except that in not one case Im aware of has the belt fixed the problem, more commonly I see it actually lead to weaker anatomy and stronger exogenous dependence.
"In my day" in CrossFit any gear was laughable. God forbid you got out gloves, or a belt, you'd be likely laughed right out of the gym. Then we pushed human performance to its limits, let more kids in the pool, and this combination lead to this misunderstanding. Gear is for competitive advantage, it is not for training advantage. Sure practice with it all so that you're comfortable, but reliance is not practice. I want to see you all better, not traveling with a blankey. This requires you to develop you, your anatomy, your physiology, your weakness, your end ranges, your capacity. Continue to work around them, and assuredly you will be back at the basics, whether its sooner or later! This isn't to embarrass any of you who love your belt, some of them are real pretty! This is just to help you understand what is actually going on, that you're likely not paying attention to. This is also not my first rant on the subject, and it likely won't be my last, but until you understand that what you involve in your athletic development will at some point have to be uninvolved to progress. We will continue to have this conversation.