Attention all gym bunnies. Contrary to what your well-intentioned trainers and coaches may have told you, back braces and weight belts are not—repeat not—going to protect you from body injury. As rough-and-tough as they may make you look at the gym, they actually increase your chances of injuring your back down the line. Why? Because your body learns to rely on them for support during heavy lifting—much like you rely on crutches during a sprained ankle—so your back and abdominal muscles start to become weak on their own. A safer alternative: Talk to your trainer to determine how much weight you can lift safely on your own. A massive injury doesn’t look fit and fab in the long run, after all.

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