When you’re first starting out, the amount of powerlifting gear for you to choose from can be incredibly daunting.
People discuss ‘equipped’ and ‘raw,’ and you’re often forced to smile and nod, pretending you know exactly what they mean, before rushing home to Google to find out what the hell they were talking about!
Even as you begin to progress further in the sport, it can be difficult to understand the differences between the products available, particularly when it comes to performance, quality, and price.
We’ve made this guide to try and help you navigate the world of powerlifting gear, because we want to help you find the equipment that will help you achieve your goals.
It’s easy to assume that the most expensive equipment is the best, but (as in any sport) that’s not the case. The real key to powerlifting is to find the right equipment.
The first step for anyone in Powerlifting is to choose whether they’re going to lift Raw or Equipped.
Raw, or ‘Classic’ as the IPF call it, means that all equipment is for safety, and offers no physical advantage to its lifters.
Equipped events are where the weight really starts to fly up. The equipment for these events is aimed at working with the body to lift the highest weight possible.
You’ll pretty much live in your singlet once you buy one.
You’ll be training in it, and then spending hours in it during competitions and meets, so you need to make sure you get one that’s comfortable, and works well with your lifting style.
The cut of the singlet can have a huge impact on the way it feels during a lift.
Singlets like the Titan Triumph have wider shoulder straps and a high neck line to reduce pressure across the shoulders during a lift. Whereas the SBD Competition and Titan Classic singlets have much slimmer shoulder straps, which may suit smaller competitors much better.
The key when choosing your singlet is to focus on how it feels through the full range of motion for all of three of the events.
When you’re buying your powerlifting gear, the belt is probably where you’re going to spend the most money. But a high quality, good fitting belt will last you a long time if you’re willing to pay a little extra for quality.
The main choice to make when buying a belt is what type of fastener you want – Buckle, Lever, or Quick Release.
All three buckles have their pros and cons, but it’s largely a personal decision.
Buckle belts can be much harder to get on, but are unlikely to slip or fail during a lift. Lever belts can be difficult to set up, but are great once you’ve got the fit sorted. And quick release buckles can be difficult to grasp, but allow much quicker set up before a lift.
One thing to consider is the thickness of the belt. Some shorter lifters, with shorter torsos, often find that the standard four-inch belts sit too high, and dig into their hips and ribs. We now have two-inch belts in stock to solve this problem.
It’s also important to make sure your belt length is correct, so that the buckle sits in the centre of the adjustment holes when fastened. This gives you the most flexibility when it comes to comfort, and gaining or losing muscle mass or weight.
Wrist wraps offer little variation between brands.
All IPF approved wraps must be no longer than 1m, and 8cm in width, but there is some flexibility in how you wear your wraps provided you’re within the allowance of 10cm above the wrist, and 2cm below.
Some people prefer the shorter straps (12 inch), while others like the bulk and layers added by a longer strap.
The key difference when choosing a set of wraps is the option to have a softer or stiffer wrap.
The softer, more elastic straps offer much more flexibility in the wrist joint, whilst allowing you to tighten the straps as much as you’d like.
The stiffer straps offer much more support for the wrists when lifting heavy, and reduce flexibility in the joint.
Knee sleeves come in many styles, but one of the biggest factors when picking a pair is the size and stitching.
What feels comfortable for some people may not be for others, so it’s important to make sure your sleeves feel good through every part of the squat.
You may find you feel more comfortable in a looser or tighter fit, depending on how the sleeves feel at the bottom of the squat, but try not to go too loose or you’ll lose the helping hand they can give you “out of the hole.”
The only IPF regulation regarding to socks is that they can’t touch your knee sleeves, and that you must wear shin length socks when performing the deadlift, so you’re free to let your imagination run wild!
There are lots of options to consider when it comes to powerlifting footwear, but most weightlifting shoes will give you the support you need through each lift.
If you’re going for the squat with a sumo stance, something like the Adidas Havoc boots or Titan’s Deadlift Slippers might be a better choice, as they bring you closer to the ground, making it easier to reach the bar, and giving you less distance to lift it.
Some people feel most comfortable in a pair of Chuck Taylors, as they offer a flat sole, and are much cheaper than the power/weightlifting specific shoes that are available.
Squat Suit or Briefs
Squat suits, and briefs, can vary depending on your stance width. Anything over a shoulder-width apart is generally considered a wide stance, so it’s important to be clear on your style when looking for the right suit.
It can be tough to know what level of support you need when you’re trying on the suit without any weight on, but here at Pullum we generally recommend being able to squat to no more than a 45° angle before feeling any tightness.
Deadlift suits are also categorised by stance, either sumo or conventional, again depending on what your lifting style is.
The only thing to look out for here is the assistance when you’re bending down to grab the bar; you should feel some tightness up your back as the suit tries to pull you back up. The tighter the suit, the more assistance it’ll give.
A bench shirt has several variations it’s important to consider.
First and foremost is your pressing style – do you press with a flat back, or an arched back?
The size of the shirt comes down to personal preference. Size guides give a good idea of fit in terms of bodyweight and size, but some prefer opting for a size down to give a tighter feel, while others opt for a larger size that’s less restrictive, but also offers less assistance.
According to the IPF Rule Book, knee wraps must be no more than 2m in length, and 8cm in width, and must not cover more than 15cm both above and below the knee joint.
There are several different wraps available, so it all comes down to personal preference, and whether you want all your kit to match or not!
As with any sport, there are some extras that some people like to use during their training sessions and meets; but they’re not necessary, and they may not be for everybody.
Some people like to use lifting chalk to take the moisture out of their hands, and improve their grip on the bar during heavier lifts.
It’s worth talking to your gym before you go bowling in with a bag of chalk though, as some prefer you to use liquid chalk to prevent their gym ending up looking like Scarface’s living room!
Perfect for perking yourself up before attempting a new PR, ammonia has recently been proven to aid force development.
People often sit on either side of the fence with ammonia, some swear by it while others fail to see any benefit. Again, it’s down to personal preference.
While pulling straps aren’t approved for IPF events, they can be a great way to train on heavy weights to help push your PB further.
Powerlifting is all about strength, not bank balances, and it’s important to remember that expensive equipment can only take you so far. The important thing is to enjoy yourself, have a laugh with your mates, and lift some heavy stuff off the ground!
If you need any more advice about what equipment would be best for you, we’re always happy to talk about powerlifting, so give us a call or send us an email, and we’ll do our best to help you out.
What do you think? Did we miss anything important? Let us know.