Some people get lower back pain from excessive cycling. I know I do sometimes. A recent cycling event left me with a little pain so I started reading how people deal with this is in other sports. There are always concerns when performing physical activity about the risks of injury and as a gym user I took a look at weight lifting in particular. Lifting weights often poses a risk of injury. For many the risk is low but for some, the risk is high. The most common injuries with weight lifting are to the shoulders, knees and most often back.
The lower back is a complete system made up of the spine, the pelvis and abdominal cavity. The spine itself is made of vertebra, discs, nerves, fascia and ligaments. The lower back is particularly vulnerable to injury and this can be quite debilitating as it used in some way for the majority of our movements. The anatomy of the lower back differs from the anatomy of the mid back and the neck. The neck designed for movement such as rotation, bending and retraction. The movement of the mid back is limited because of the ribcage but it can do rotation, flexion and extension. The lower spine is quite weak in comparison for the load and movement that it needs to handle hence a weightlifting belt is often useful for extra support.
A power lifting belt will make the wearers back more rigid by limiting the movement of the spine and the belt will actually act as a wall and limits the expansion of the core so the more air that you inhale, the more pressure is built up within the core. This increase of pressure supports the lower back and makes it much easier to stabilize and so makes it easier to lift heavy weights. During training, a powerlifter’s intentions are to improve their body’s ability to move weight. They can be wanting to move more weight, move it more times or improve the movement of the exercise. When a powerlifter competes, they want to get their best out of every effort by using every resource possible to win. There is a special breathing technique to build up and retain the pressure called the Valsalva Maneuver and this does take some practice to achieve effectively when performing a lift. In fact, you can see a lifter holding their breath when performing a lift in competition by looking at their face.
There is also a grey area regarding use of belts. Many people say that they should only be used for the heavy lifts and only for certain exercises which put stress on the back. These exercises are generally squats, deadlifts and overhead press. Many people also suggest not wearing a belt for the majority of training as this can lead to a reliance on the support of a belt and weaken the core muscles which would otherwise be strengthened. By only using a belt for the heavy and competition lifts, this worry gets removed.