Strength & Speed


"If you want something you never had, you have to be willing to do something you have never done."

S&S Articles

Off Season Strength: Weight Belts for Obstacle Course Race Training?

Posted by Evan Perperis on January 1, 2022 at 4:45 PM

I fully expect a string of “No” in the Facebook comments of this article without them reading beyond the headline.  That’s fine, they can go back and read it after they hurt their lower back.  Weight belts are typically associated with bodybuilders, strongmen, Crossfit athletes or powerlifters.  However, they do have a place in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) training when used appropriately in a training environment and here’s how...


I’ll start off with a case study of myself.  Personally, as an OCR athlete on most days I separate my endurance and strength training, only combining them once or twice a week.  This allows for my strength to develop without interference of an elevated heartrate and my running systems to develop without constantly stopping to do exercises.  Think of it like how a baseball player does batting practice and doesn’t run around the bases after each swing or a triathlete doesn’t do a swim/bike/run workout every time.  Due to this, I often endurance train in the morning and strength train in the evenings.  Which means my body is already fatigued in the evenings, which increases the probability of my form slipping when doing heavier compound movement exercises.  So, I wear a weight belt if I’m going heavy on a compound movement to avoid possible injury.

 

I’m not suggesting you put a weight belt on for every set, nor for every exercise.  Nor am I suggesting you put one on for crossing a rig.  I’m suggesting when you do heavy sets (think five or below repetitions) or plan on doing compound movements after another workout, it is probably a good idea to play it safe.  After all, over the last 15 years I have seen plenty of athletes leave their chosen sport due to injury and not by voluntary choice.  Out of the people I serve with in the military and train with for sports the two most common injuries I see are lower back problems and knee injuries (RockTape has Assassin knee sleeves if anyone has the latter concern).  Having a strong back will make you more resilient to injury and building that strong back safely is where the weight belt comes to play.


Here’s an OCR specific example:  If you have trouble with the tire flip, then you should probably be practicing deadlifts.  Deadlifts will give you the strength you need to successfully complete the tire flip every time.  Deadlifts provide the foundation of strength providing an easy method for progressive training (it’s easy to add weights to the bar but not easy to constantly find heavier tires as you improve).  Build the strength with deadlifts, then work on technique with the actual tire and do it safely by incorporating a weight belt when you are approaching your max effort.


Using a weight belt on your heavier sets of compound lifting exercises (like deadlifts or squats) can help keep your form tighter and lowers the possibility of injury.  The heavier your go (which is a relative term), the more likely you should put a belt on.  Your lower back is used in almost every obstacle/exercise as a stabilization muscle but also gets specifically used during heavy carries.


So if you decide to invest in a weight belt to avoid future injury, the next question would be which brand should you buy?  A full answer would require another article, but I would recommend Harbinger Fitness.  Their products high quality and a staple of gym goers everywhere.  You get what you pay for with them and if they save you from an injury the belt will be an invaluable piece of your training gear.  Train hard and as always make sure you practice safe sets.

Categories: OCR, Strength