The Dos and Don"ts of Belts and Wraps

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There's a right (and a wrong) time for everything - and strength training belts and wraps are no exception to the rule.
If you were to ask 20 different trainers their opinion on the benefits of belts and wraps, you'd probably get at least 15 different answers, but for now, you'll have to settle for mine...
You can't imagine how many times I've hit the gym and watched guys (and a few gals) strut into the place, strapped into their wraps and belts for their regular everyday workout, and apparently, their warm-up too! Sure, if they were out there towing trains with brute force, that MIGHT make sense.
Otherwise though, it's just plain stupid.
Equally stupid are the OTHER guys, who head into potentially dangerous training techniques (like their second attempt at their all-time personal best squat) without the additional safety and support that belts and wraps have to offer.
Whether this is due to pride or ignorance is immaterial.
The point is that both of these scenarios are the flip side of the same coin.
The trick to doing things the RIGHT way is finding a "happy medium" that doesn't spoil (and therefore weaken) your body or neglect it either.
First off - if you're a newbie, don't waste your money on belts or wraps - not yet anyhow.
At this point, you should be focusing your attention on strengthening target muscles, plus your core, your abs and the all-too often overlooked joints, ligaments and tendons.
There's also your confidence to take into consideration, which can be shaken by getting into the habit BEFORE your body can actually handle the weight.
There's also dependency to take into account.
This stems from the fact that the more you rely on supportive equipment when you're hefting sub-maximal weight, the more dependent you'll become on the gear - weakening your overall progress in the long run.
Of course, newbies aren't the only people guilty of abusing belts and wraps, even "seasoned" trainers fall prey.
Here's my Rx for success: First off, lose the belts and wraps.
Train tool free.
Then, decrease the load you're lifting by roughly 20%.
So, if you're routinely dead-lifting 350 pounds using belts and wraps, you'd knock off 70 pounds and perform the exercise without supportive equipment.
If that doesn't do the trick, and you can't perform the exercise, don't run back to belts and wraps just yet.
Instead, decrease your load by ANOTHER 20% - even more if necessary.
Gradually, you'll increase your body's strength and stability independently, saving wraps and belts until they're truly necessary.
Without wraps or belts masking your true progress, your goal should be pretty simple: focusing on proper technique combined with a full range of motion.
Just don't freak out if it takes a while - without your typical crutch, it'll take time to strengthen your joints, as well as re-developing your overall musculature.
Ultimately, your driving desire should be re-programming your body's ability to handle as much weight as safely possible BEFORE moving on to the next level of training, and therefore, support.
Then, later on, once your own natural protective and stabilizing abilities begin to fall short, you can then start integrating belts and wraps to protect muscles that are ALREADY strong.
When in doubt, look at things like this" once your already-trained muscles simply are no longer capable of supporting the load (a perfect example is the intra-abdominal pressure when performing a 1RM squat) belts aren't just recommended - they're an absolute necessity.
This is, honestly, the only time breaking out your "tools" is wise, since you need the support for safety and you won't be creating a dependency, as you would when lifting sub-maximal weight.
If your workout doesn't pass the litmus test, keep those wraps and belts in your bag where they belong!
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