Spinal loading during weightlifting results in a loss of stature which has been attributed to a decrease in height of the intervertebral discs--so-called 'spinal shrinkage'. Belts are often used during the lifting of heavy weights, purportedly to support, stabilize and thereby attenuate the load on the spine. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a standard weightlifting belt in attenuating spinal shrinkage. Eight male subjects with a mean age of 24.8 years performed two sequences of circuit weight-training, one without a belt and on a separate occasion with a belt. The circuit training regimen consisted of six common weight-training exercises. These were performed in three sets of ten with a change of exercise after each set of ten repetitions. A stadiometer sensitive to within 0.01 mm was used to record alterations in stature. Measurements of stature were taken before and after completion of the circuit. The absolute visual analogue scale (AVAS) was used to measure the discomfort and pain intensity resulting from each of the two conditions. The circuit weight-training caused stature losses of 3.59mm without the belt and 2.87 mm with the belt (P greater than 0.05). The subjects complained of significantly less discomfort when the belt was worn (P less than 0.05). The degree of shrinkage was significantly correlated (r = 0.752, P less than 0.05) with perceived discomfort but only when the belt was not worn. These results suggest the potential benefits of wearing a weightlifting belt and support the hypothesis that the belt can help in stabilizing the trunk.
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