Expanding Abs ?belt

One of the pieces of squat technique Westside advocates is expanding the abdominal muscles against a loose belt in order to increase intra-abdominal pressure, and thus boost strength, presumably, in part by stabilizing the spine and activating the trunk, possibly by some other reflex. This is derived from Zaitovsky's experiments with direct pressure measurements, and his subsequent development of a belt with an abdominal pad which would aid in this boost in IAP, with supposed concommittent strength gains.

Anyone use this?

Do the natural constraints of the tissues suffice for this maneuver to work, or does this require a belt?

It seems like this would elevate intrathoracic pressure less than constricting the TA and pelvic floor during a lift.

Any thoughts on this method vs. sucking in your waist to stabilize?

I presume this would be a bad idea on a deadlift?


"Anyone use this?" Yes, a lot of people use it. I knwo that's not exactly what you meant (LOL), what I mean is a lot of people use because of it's effectiveness, or at least it's percieved effectiveness.

"Do the natural constraints of the tissues suffice for this maneuver to work, or does this require a belt?" A belt is required. You run out of range of mation for abdominal expansion before "optimal" resistance is released.

"It seems like this would elevate intrathoracic pressure less than constricting the TA and pelvic floor during a lift." Hard to tell without some means of testing it. But the last thing I want to think about under a 500 lb. squat is whether or not I'm contracting my pelvic floor. It's a lot easier to just go against the resistance of a belt than it is to work on that much point specific muscle contraction(s).

"Any thoughts on this method vs. sucking in your waist to stabilize?" I believe that the way that would restrict proper diaphramatic movement would cause more problems that it would solve. Also, "sucking" the abdominals does not have as much effect on lumbar stabilization as direct muscular pressure would. Note: That last statement is my opinion, but I'll give it thought and try to come up with a good way to phrase why that's my belief.

"I presume this would be a bad idea on a deadlift?" I don't think it is. What is your belief behind why it would be bad?

Best in Health and Training, J. R.

I think that is the technique called the valsalva. It comes with a side effect though. It increases blood
pressure a lot. If you are really unlucky that can cause a stroke.

Here is a list of what causes the most deaths (i.e. in Sweden but I guess it is roughly the same in other countries)

1. Heart disease (whatever that means)
2. Cancer
3. Stroke

I'm not saying that you will fall down dead if you do it :-) A lot of people do it. I don't do it because of genetics. Both my dad and granddad got stroke and I don't want it (they didn't get it from lifting though).


stabilizing by sucking in the abdomen is what Pavel T. has talked about, and is the technique he demonstrates with his lifts. He lifts without a belt, and uses this method- sucking in the waist, and taking a deep breath to expand the rib cage, pushing the diaphragm down to pack the viscera into the L-spine.

This gets into whether or not to lift with a belt, and what the best way to lift sans belt is, vs. with a belt.

The pelvic floor thing isn't hard to do once you learn how, and given that clip of rectal prolapse while squatting that was circulating, has been one of those little things that I've tried keep a part of anything elevating intra abdominal pressure.

The deadlift thing- I was thinking you might lose some tension in the low back by doing this, and was wondering aloud of this was applicable to deadlifting. I was watching the Westside deadlifting DVD last night, and those guys clearly are using this expansion as part of their technique.




HMm.... without the belt i definitly dont suck in. I tighten the abdominal wall and then i sort of..... put pressure on it. It's tough to explain because it feels as though im pushing out and in at the same time, but the belly is not out or in. I can feel a tremendous amount of support on my spine.



You want to tense the abs as if taking in a punch, NOT "suck in", as if trying to pull your bellybutton into the spine. That's completely counterproductive, might get you hurt.

I haven't kept up with his writings, but I did a seminar with Pavel before he got so expensive... he certainly wasn't advocating "sucking in" at that point, though he did inisist "no belt" (which I think is debatable, but it's another debate for another time). I've never used a belt, actually, but... your abs if anything get pushed outward rather than sucked in when you tense them for a squat. Not too much, of course, given no belt. Again, I think that thinking about it as if "taking a punch in the belly" was the most useful description I've heard. (And though most of my lifts are pathetic, yes I do squat over 500 lbs if knowing such things helps).


The following is a link for a very nice well-referenced article by Paul Chek at t-mag. His ultimate conclusion is that lumbar spine stabilization is maximized by two factors- hoop tension from the transversus abdominus and internal oblique contracting in concert, and the 'hydraulic amplifier' effect of the change in cross-sectional area with contraction of the erector spinae. Basically, contracting the erector spinae (getting a nice arch in the low back) shortens and thickens the muscle as filaments slide together- this increases the cross-sectional area of the muscle within the fixed compartment of the fascia, generating hydraulic pressure, stabilzing the L-spine.

I need to read primary sources on this, but he concludes that using a belt is dangerous and of little use.

Based on this, increasing TVA strength, and cross-sectional area of the erector spinae seem logical moves to help your lifts.

Of note- Louie S. advocates the 'pushing out' manuever- this will increase the cross-sectional area of the abodomen, thus decreasing the PSI any one portion of the abdomen will see. Whether this is of any relevance is unclear.

More thoughts later, I'm still chewing on this, but there some good food for thought in the article.