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The deadlift seems to put a lot of pressure on the spinal vertebrae. Is it safe to deadlift without a belt or does correct form completely eliminate the need for one?

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Using a belt is like training wheels for bicycles. Sure, they will help you increase your weight more quickly then without one, but with proper form and care for your body, you can maintain your skills better.

Deadlifting is a exercise that uses many stabilizing muscles, and if you do not have all of them working together, that's an easy road to injury.

Source: Got a hernia in college from forgetting to wear a belt during a workout. The doctor said that I was using the belt as a crutch so I didn't work my core muscles enough. Once I recovered, I found a trainer and completely reworked my form to focus more on helping my core support the rest of my body. I still cannot lift as much as I did during college, but I've improved in more areas and I've limited my chance for injury.

More sources: The article by Paul Chek is particularly informative.

Paul Chek via University of Washington, Sakar Training, Elitefits guide to how to wear belts

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As I understand it, belts are used in powerlifting to provide something for the abs to push against, which increases intra-abdominal pressure and locks the trunk in place during the lift. This helps prevent movement of the lumbar spine during the exercise.

As a beginner lifter (300# deadlift), I do not find it necessary. Some people consider it helpful when lifting heavy. Others consider it to be a crutch.

Also, this question is similar but not quite the same, I think.

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  • Is there some research to backup either opinions? In terms of risk or effectiveness – Leo Dec 30 '11 at 17:39
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    In terms of effectiveness, those who use belts generally have "with belt" numbers that are slightly higher (on the order of 5%) than their "without belt" numbers. As always, reliable research in the realm of practical lifting is essentially negligible. I would look for opinions of experienced coaches and lifters, but when it comes to questions of technique or specific safety issues, I highly doubt the existence of research I would trust. It's an unfortunate state of affairs. – Dave Liepmann Dec 30 '11 at 18:00
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    I'd lean towards the "crutch" point of view. I don't use one at ~500#. On a slight tangent, the two best equipment changes I ever made for deadlifts were eliminating shoes (Vibrams, or sometimes barefoot) and eliminating gloves. – G__ Dec 30 '11 at 19:26
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    Hernia anyone!!? My max is 510 and I definitely want to use a belt as I'm forcing all my intestines against my stomach wall. Each to their own. – Mike S Nov 1 '12 at 22:57
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    @MikeS If you expand that (or add any source to back it up) it could make a good answer. – Dave Liepmann Nov 2 '12 at 1:53
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A belt should only be worn if you having issues keeping your back flat. Using a belt all the time can wreck your core strength pretty badly. Most lifters use the belt on their heavy lifts to ensure compression. To some, they are like a safety blanket just like wrist wraps and knee wraps.

http://deadliftworkouts.com/choosing-the-best-deadlift-belt/

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This is a matter of personal preference but I train without a belt on lighter sets and use one on heavier sets. Most lifters tend to use belts all the time, everytime. That ends up lessening core strength due to over-reliance on the belt. If your core is weak, I would advise to train without it and start implementing more core work to build up a stronger base.

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