If you’re into following all celebs on the social networks, I’m sure you have noticed that everyone’s been talking about working out with the ab belts. Well, that’s become a polemic topic, actually. Many people believe in it, but there are others who are totally against it.
So I thought we’d talk to people who really understand about it to know how these belts actually work.
First of all, I think it’s important to know that the accessory is elastic and works by contracting the abdominal and back muscles. “Generally speaking, by contracting your muscles during its use, its possible to disguise some fat rolls. It also causes a reduction of the swelling in the area, reducing the excess temporarily”, explains Wendell Uguetto, a member of the Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery and of the clinical staff at Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein.
Uguetto adds that some belts may actually contribute to the reeducation of your posture during the practice of physical activities and that they should not be worn for over two hours.
This is when the polemic comes in. Some celebrities have been testing these belts in order to stabilize their core region (comprised by the abdominal muscles, the lumbar region, pelvis and hips) in workouts.
“Wearing these belts during workout brings benefits, like improving your posture and having them function as a lumbar belt, which the weightlifters wear to stabilize and position their core region”, Uguetto adds.
This way, according to the professional, the accessory should contribute to the right movements, since it increases the intra-abdominal pressure. This, in turn, is of great value at the moment you lift heavy weights, without the risk of compromising the technique and, at the same time, stabilizing all your upper body when you need more strength, which is when we’re more susceptible to injuries.
“What is also very clear is that when it comes to exercises that require more lumbar stabilizing muscles, like the regular squatting, deep squatting, stiff, not to mention the barbell deadlifts, it’s possible to reach the stabilization point that concentrates the movements of the required muscles at a great extent. Therefore, other than preventing injuries, wearing the belts contributes to good performance”, he clarifies.
The Other side of the Story
Still, many people are totally against this kind of belt. “Wearing the accessory nonstop could lead to weakening of the core structure. That happens because when the person wears the belt, it contracts the muscles for you, which leads to the reduction of the muscular tonus, which could cause the atrophy of muscles that should be actively producing strength” alerts Leandro Pessoa Olivério, a specialist in exercise physiology and the technical director at LPO Assessoria Esportiva.
Other than working out with weights, some people wear the belt when they go running or cycling in order to warm the region and, consequently, lose more calories.
Well, that’s a myth. What contributes to calorie burn is actually the muscle contraction during the workout as well as all the chemical reactions resulting from the exercise. Some people confuse dehydration, that is, the fluids you lose, and calories burnt. Well, these are totally different things.
Plus, the specialist explains that a wrestler, for instance, has to lose weight very fast before the weigh-in that precedes his next fight.
“After the weigh-in, in just one day, he recovers up to 6 kilos of his regular weight (which could be even more, or less, depending on his category). Well, that is all pretty much water. His muscles and fat are pretty much there, from the weigh-in until the fight itself. Therefore, drink a lot of fluids and focus on your workout”, he instructs.
Some people also put on the belt when they go to bed. Olivério tells me that having the belt on for over 4 consecutive hours is not recommended due to the compression the belt causes to some organs.
“That could lead to some health issues, like constipation, indigestion, breathlessness and, in some cases, thrombosis in the lower limbs with very bad consequences in case it affects a vein called vena cava”, he points.
So, my friend, yes, I guess the belts could help sometimes and contribute to our workout, but that when you perform an exercise with lots of weight.
Additionally, the accessory contributes to hiding some fat rolls and modeling your body. “After you take it off, you can see a – temporary – shaping of the waist since it reduces edema (swelling) of the region. But a few hours later, your body is back to normal”, Uguetto advises.
I’ve also talked with Carlos Kopke, an orthopedist and traumatologist at Centro de Qualidade de Vida (CQV), and he has pointed some benefits the belt brings. Check them out:
- Combats and prevents flaccidity, cellulite, stretching marks and fats;
- Contributes to postoperative moments;
- Shapes your body, allowing you to wear the clothes you think match your style;
- Its compression activates the blood flow, avoiding edemas;
- Leads to a good posture, straightening your back and preventing pain;
- Shrinks your stomach so that you’ll eat less in general;
- Forces your body into a new shape, conforming to the stiffness of the belt;
- Improves your posture.
The big problem about the belts lies in its long-term use, especially when it’s excessively tight. After all, when the belts are extremely tight they can compress your ribs, which makes their opening difficult and, in turn, breathing as well.
“Tight belts worn for very long periods can reduce the venous return of the blood coming from the legs to the abdominal area, which causes varicose and, in more severe cases, deep vein thrombosis” Uguetto alerts.
And that’s not all: its prolonged use may also lead to the atrophy (deepening) of the fat underneath the skin, which leads to unwanted aesthetic alterations, like permanent deformity of the ribs.
It’s also possible to feel some tingling or pain in your legs and blood clots. “The nerve injury is called meralgia paraesthetica, which means a peripheral nerve in your thigh is compressed. That leads to tingling, numbness and pain. It’s just like wrapping your thigs with plastic and tighten it when you sit down”, Kopke explains.
My conclusion regarding the belts is that they can contribute to the stabilization of the core region for those lifting heavy weights, especially when squatting.
However, I believe what Leandro Olivério said is just right: “People have created a culture in which everything has to be done right now, so, they’ll always enjoy this freshness this philosophy of getting everything just right now offers, so that effort becomes less important”, he states.
And he goes on: “The primitive man, from the caves, has evolved a lot until the homo sapiens of these days thanks to the effort of our bodies combined with our intelligence. I believe that if they had worn the belt back then, we would still be learning how to sustain our backs upright by now. So now that we have accomplished that, it seems that some of us are trying to go backwards in the light of millions of years of evolution”, he ponders.
Now, it’s your call, buddy. Think carefully if you want to be part of this trend.