This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sometimes people look more like they are preparing for battle than a weight-lifting session, thanks to all the weight belts, wrist straps and other gadgets they wear to gyms.
Well, I'm here to lighten your workout bag and make your wallet heavier: Stay away from such gadgets.
While there are certain instances when weight belts and wrist straps are used in rehabilitation scenarios, the general public normally is better off without such safety nets.
Here's why, starting with the weight belt. As you ben forward, the pressure in your lumbar disks increases. If working properly, the abdominal muscles contract, compressing and pushing the organs downward and upward into the diaphragm, helping the body to stabilize the lower lumbar disks. The effect is similar to when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste in the middle of the tube.
Weight belts get people into trouble for a number of reasons.
Natural hoop tension, such as performing-weight lifting by relying on a well-conditioned core, will make you strong. But cheating the system by using a weight belt can make you weaker, because you are relying on the belt to stabilize and make your core falsely strong.
So you might be fine wearing a weight belt in the gym, but bend over to pick up something like a bag of dog food or even the newspaper, and you could hurt your back because the stabilizer muscles have become so de-conditioned.
Furthermore, since weight belts tend to be wide, more stress is put on the lower-lumbar disks, the very ones that commonly succumb to stress and degeneration. Why make them even more susceptible?
Finally, weight belts can affect your breathing patterns. They restrict your lower belly area, which should extend as you breath in. The chest expands next. The restriction of weight belts encourages what we call "chest breathing," the shallow, chest-first breathing pattern that many people already have.
As for wrist straps, they act in similar fashion to weight belts, only they have a detrimental affect on the shoulder complex.
The grip regulates the body's stabilizers and how they are recruited through neurological overflow. The harder you must grip an object to lift it, the more excitation is generated to activate the grip muscles. A chain reaction is caused throughout the body to prepare it for a big lift.
When you wear wrist straps, this excitation process is decreased, because the body thinks it's lifting a lighter load. The next thing you know, you lift a big weight and bam!, you wrench a shoulder or hurt your back because your body wasn't prepared for the lift.
Furthermore, just like the weight belt, wearing wrist straps can allow you to lift more weight than the rest of the body is conditioned to lift, again setting you up for possible injury.
Rather than strapping and wrapping yourself up so the body can't work naturally, it's best to increase strength naturally, without the false sense of security of these gadgets.
Learn to use your body, and stick to the old adage: If you can't lift it, then don't!
Lya Wodraska is a certified CHEK Practitioner and holistic lifestyle coach. E-mail her at Lwodraska@sltrib.com