So you decided to get stronger to support your outdoor pursuits. You did the right thing, read Starting Strength and got some weightlifting shoes, and you're eating and sleeping to support muscle growth. Yet you yearn for more gear. Fear not, there is one more piece of gear for you: a belt.
I used to believe the old caricature of some musclebound ape with a belt, dragging his knuckles around a weight room just for show. But now we know that weight training is the single most important thing you can do not just for raw strength, but for your brain, your balance, to counter the inevitable loss of muscle and bone that starts in your late forties, and it even can have a positive effect on your VO2 max. It's time to update your knowledge of the function of a belt as well.
The most important thing to realize is that the belt is not "cheating," in fact it helps you get stronger faster while decreasing the chance of injury. This is a really difficult point for most people to absorb; I know it was for me. For the bottom line, I'll just quote two of the points made by Mark Rippetoe in his article for T-Nation:
- The lifting belt isn't a passive device that works all by itself. One of the ways the belt works is by allowing you to produce a harder muscular contraction against it than you can without it.
- The combination of the harder isometric trunk muscle contraction made possible by the belt, and the fact that the heavier weight you're lifting provides more training stimulus than the lighter weight you'd be lifting otherwise, means that using the belt allows you to get stronger.
He also makes the points that you don't need a tapered belt, nylon/velcro belts are better than nothing (I started with this one) but not as good as a thick leather belt, and you probably need a narrower belt for the deadlift than for the squat and presses. No worries, Best Belts has you covered. Their belts are nice and thick, you can get them with two prongs or one (one is really fine and easier to use), they have a large selection of colors and they are absolutely bombproof. They also have a stellar reputation for customer service. So what are you waiting for?