Ask Greg: Issue 72
Greg Everett

Brian asks: Wouldn't the Jerk Dip Squat be more effective as an explosive exercise? I read a russian book that outlined an exercise of jumping with 50% bodyweight (similar to a "jerk drive" I guess) and it found that those who could jump higher had a higher jerk, even if others had a stronger squat.

Greg says: More effective for what? To improve the drive of the jerk, yes. But that's not the purpose of the exercise; a jerk dip squat is to develop strength and position. With an athlete who has an inconsistent or improper dip position/movement, adding speed to it just reinforces the problem rather than helping to correct it. In this case, my goal is to practice and strengthen correct positioning, not improve explosiveness.

Jerk drives are great in theory, but I've never seen anyone be able to perform them without pushing the bar forward considerably. This is not a habit I want to encourage. It's also pretty rough on the body to bring the weight back down. You can do them on jerk blocks, but there is the same problem - people will push the bar forward or jump their bodies backward every time; if you try to just drop out from under the bar as it comes back down, you're going to chin check yourself. So then people, consciously or not, cut the drive short to prevent killing themselves, and then they're just training that - not finishing the drive of their jerks.

The best option in my opinion is to do a jumping quarter squat from top or bottom depending on what exactly you want to work on. Bar on traps like a back squat. In a power rack or on jerk blocks. I believe there is a video of this on the site under "jumping squat". If you're working on the jerk specifically, set the start position with an upright torso and knees forward rather than more of a squat position. These can be done light to extremely heavy and there are no problems preventing correct execution at any weight.

Regarding the book, that those athletes who had higher jumps were better jerkers doesn't mean the exercise was responsible; the exercise was, just like the jerk, an opportunity to demonstrate that particular athletic quality. Not to say that it couldn't help, but it's easy to attribute success to things like that when they're not necessarily responsible.

Cheryl asks: First off thank you for all that you do in the strength and conditioning, fitness, weightlifting and CrossFit worlds; it is very much appreciated. My question is regarding weightlifting belts—do you need them, if so when? Pros/cons, proper fit? What type/brand would you recommend? I’ve read a lot of information both for and against their use, but I am curious to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Aimee says: I think weightlifting belts are a valuable tool if used correctly and don’t become a crutch. I have seen many successful lifters lift without a belt, and I have seen many who use a belt. We can always ask questions like, “Would that lifter who doesn’t use a belt be able to lift more if they used a belt?” or “Does that lifter who uses a belt only lift that much because they have a belt on?” I don’t think there is a yes or no answer to the belt question; I think it really varies amongst athletes. Some may prefer it, some may find them uncomfortable, and some may have never used one and find no need to do so.

I use a belt and I love it. I used to only use my belt on heavy clean & jerks and heavy squats, but now I use it during other exercises as well. A couple years ago, I started wearing the belt during my snatches after training with my good friend Natalie Burgener, who snatches with a belt. I thought to myself, “Well if this girl snatches the way she does using a belt, then it must be an asset!” She told me how the belt made her feel tighter when receiving, as well as off the floor. So I tried it, I loved it, and snatching with a belt became my new thing. However, I do not recommend snatching with a belt to any of my friends, unless they really want to. This is because snatching with a belt is uncomfortable for most, and thus, most folks think it sucks.

When do I use the belt? I use it when I back squat, front squat, snatch, clean & jerk, jerk of the rack, and sometimes when I do heavy push presses off the rack. I NEVER use a belt when I do pulls, or deadlifts because I want to make sure my back is getting strong, and my body knows how to secure those positions. Never ever. Even if they are ridiculously heavy or if someone is offering me chocolate. I never want to get to a point where I am not strong, and NEED the belt; I want to be able to use the belt as a tool, something to help me out, and snaz things up a bit. Your belt should be your friend; a nice aid, a confidence builder—but never the reason you can do something.

With this, I also only put the belt on when I get to about 85ish % and up. An exception to this is in my snatches, where I put the belt on at a certain weight. The reason is that I want to put it on early enough so that I get used to it.

Now, there is another exception, and let me show you with an example. On a day that I am going to snatch heavy (above 80kg), I ALWAYS put the belt on at 65kgs. Always. Even if there is a fire. On days that I am going to snatch 80kg or below, I don’t use the belt. This way I can get some good work in sans belt.

The same thing with the CJ. If I am going to be CJing over 95kg, I always put the belt on at 85kg. If not, then I don’t use the belt.

So I may not use a belt in an entire workout session, and another workout session I may use the belt on every exercise.

To sum that all up, I try to train without the belt as much as possible, so that when I do use it, I know I am not using it merely to get me through the workout.

Regarding proper fit, again, I think this is a preference. I have seen some athletes who tighten their belt so much they can barely walk or bend-over. Have you seen that person? The gal or fella who walks over to a heavy stationary object and puts the end of their belt against it and pulls so tightly that they can then hardly get it off? Ya, that’s what I mean. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with that, but that is not what I personally try to do. I tighten it enough so it is snug, so that I can push my breath against it, but not so tight that it is causing me to pee my pants. And then I loosen it immediately after the lift or set is complete. Retighten for the next lift or set, and repeat. Some folks like to keep their belt tight the whole entire time they are lifting, even when they are sitting on the bench resting between sets and playing scrabble on their iPhones. Not me.

Once upon a time I used the leather belt. But here is my problem with that. ATTN! TMI COMING. On a day that I am having a very fat day, or extreme bloatedness due to that time of the month, my belt would never fit right because in order to get the metal thing in to the designated hole, the regular hole would be too tight, and the next hole over would be too loose. Sick of the aggravation of these times, I ordered the Velcro belt from Valeo, and I didn’t have to tighten it to the standards of preset holes, but to my own desire.

But, again, some folks may think the Velcro belt sucks and you must use the leather. Those people are free to make their own decisions, and likely don’t have periods or fat days.

Greg Says:
Whether or not you need a belt, or should use one, is dependent on who “you” are. The first thing to keep in mind is that in few sports or activities will you be wearing a belt; weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman and throwing are the only ones that come to mind. If training for one of these sports, it makes sense that a belt will have some kind of utility. For an athlete whose sports involves strength and power but is not in a controlled environment that allows a belt, such as a football player, any strength they have will have to be applied without the use of a belt in the game, so it makes sense that these athletes will need to have the trunk strength to support their leg and hip strength. Of course, it’s argued sometimes that wearing a belt in training allows the use of more weight, which develops more strength. My opinion is that this doesn’t make much sense—if the rest of your body can’t support a given degree of strength, you won’t be able to use it (at least safely) anyway.

For the abovementioned athletes who can use belts in competition, whether or not to use them is still a choice. I see no reason for a powerlifter to not use a belt. The sport encourages the use of gear, the goal is to move as much weight as possible, and a belt certainly helps that, and I don’t see any detriment in wearing one. The same goes for strongman competition—these guys are moving enormous weights, but more importantly, they’re putting themselves in compromised positions, and many events have a considerable stamina component. The back tends to give out before the muscles it’s supporting, so a belt can be the difference between success or failure and safety or injury. I haven’t seen many throwers wear belts, and I’m not sure I think it would be particularly helpful; it strikes me as being more disruptive to fluid movement. That would be a very individual decision.

For the weightlifter, belts are also a pretty individual choice. There’s no question that a belt will help a lifter lift more, at least in the clean & jerk. Some find it helpful for maintaining trunk rigidity in the snatch as well, but I find it too cumbersome and prohibitive of proper movement and positioning.

I discourage the use of belts with anything less than 85-90% or so in the squat, clean and jerk. It’s important to continuously improve trunk strength along with the rest of the body. When it’s time to go big, the addition of a belt will add a bit more on top. Using a belt more frequently and with lighter weights just makes a lifter dependent on it; in some cases, psychologically more than physically.

For weightlifting I prefer nylon belts with cam buckles over leather belts with traditional buckles simply because they’re more adjustable and less restrictive. As far as fit goes, the belt should be snugged up a bit tighter than you unbelted brace position—don’t crank it down like a corset and turn your trunk into a skinny base that won’t support any weight.

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