5 Reasons Why You Should Not Lift in Gear

We made it. 2017 is here. A lot happened in 2016 that was pretty impressive. More than a few 1000 lb squats at the World level, several Massachusetts lifters taking medals at Worlds, and membership and interest in meets are through the roof. Many of you though are probably pretty glad 2016 is over. For you all, I would like to share some insight on the never ending debate between Equipped and Raw lifting, something to carry you into what I hope is a successful year of heavy squats and heavy deadlifts.


New year, new me! I went down to the local gym and signed up for the free month. I also signed up for an online coach who I’ll never meet but says we’ll hit an 11 (no idea what that means) in Week 16. I became a member of a Powerlifting Federation, signed up for a meet, bought a cool looking singlet, a pair of knee sleeves that already smell funky, and a belt with my nickname emblazoned on the back. All said and done, I just spent $500, not including the new Adidas sweatpants I’ve been eyeing. But hold up. Powerlifting Equipment? I don’t know about that, and let me tell you why.

1. It is too expensive.

You are saying that you want me to buy more? Stuff to lift in? Didn’t I just purchase a singlet? That’s  another $150 for a suit, $100 for a bench shirt, and I don’t even want to get started on the deadlift suit. Please, that’s how much I spend a month at the bars. Nothing comes between me and the loaded nachos and beer battered fried stuff. I’m comfortable strutting around the gym in my knee warmers, leaving a trail of stench behind me so I can mark out my territory in the gym with my distinct odor.

2. It hurts, and it’s hard to squat to depth.

Seriously. Since joining the gym, I’ve seen some of these Equipped lifters going at it late on a Friday night. After they squeeze into the suits (I’m talking 10 lbs of sausage in a 5 lb bag) and having their knees wrapped tighter than a tourniquet (screaming and grunting the whole time, mind you) they finally take out the weight and just barely hit depth in the time it took me to do my set, load the next set of weights, check Instagram, unfollow my ex-girlfriend on Twitter, and text my online coach that my legs hurt and you want me to go up 10%?!? Forget that noise. Plus, I’ve seen the marks on their arms and chests. Blood shot eyes? Popped blood vessels in my face? Not for me.

3. The suit does all the work, and that is cheating.

I read it on the Internet once, so it must be true. Enough said.

4. No one will help you get into the gear.

The guys who lift in gear at the gym are crazy! They have a group that gathers three times a week get suited up, rub chalk everywhere, smear baby powder on their legs, and lets loose ghastly yells whenever they hit massive sets. I’m also pretty sure they use their sweat as a lubricant to get into bench shirts. All night long they’re yelling “Light Weight!” (the bar, bowing in the middle, loaded to the gills with 45’s), “Kill it!” (just how do you “kill” inanimate metal objects exactly?) And “Single! Single! Single!”. We get it. You’re lifting at a dimly lit gym on Friday night at 10 PM while Ozzy’s Metal Graveyard radio station plays the same 20 songs on repeat. We all know you don’t have a girlfriend. These guys have begun to haunt my dreams. Face it, even if I did get into gear, I’d have to ask them to help me out, and I don’t want to be friends with those weirdos.

5. You don’t want to get stronger.

Wait, what?


Hold Up

The five points listed above are all valid concerns when considering if a lifter should take the plunge and jump into Equipped lifting. It is important to understand however that the real answers can sometimes get lost in the noise created by Social Media stars, Instagram coaches, and outspoken advocates from both ends of the Raw-Equipped dichotomy that divides the Powerlifting community. This debate breeds some pretty crazy misinformation that can easily dissuade people from trying Equipment. So if you’ve successfully navigated this war being fought out on the Internet forums and Facebook pages, here are five reasons why you should get into gear.


1. It is not expensive as you think.

Lifting in gear has long been derided as “too expensive.” But while Raw lifting may appear to be cheaper, in actuality it is probably just as expensive a hobby to maintain as Equipped lifting. Those knee sleeves that are entirely optional for Raw lifting contests don’t do anything, and make you smell like dirty gym socks? More expensive than knee wraps. Keep in mind that when you first start out, you do not need the most expensive gear on the planet. Borrow gear from others. Wear the squat suit when you deadlift. Check out the powerlifting forums where you’ll find people peddling second-hand gear they barely wore in the first place (usually because the suit was too small. We’ll get to that). If you want to go the brand new route, I guarantee that if you put aside some cash every month that you would have spent at some overpriced club anyway that after a few months, you’ll have more than enough saved to pick up a suit or a shirt and not even notice from a financial standpoint. Plus, you’ll save yourself from the hangovers and help you with any general diet goals you may have for 2017.

2. You will squat to depth, it won’t hurt (that much), and it will be awesome.

Geared lifters can’t get to depth? Sometimes. It could just be the lifters are part of the “Misc Quarter Squat Gang of Peace” crew that lurk in the dark corners of the Internet when not at the gym. Or, they’re training for a backyard competition that does not adhere to strict rules set by more reputable federations. Take a moment and look up some of the real drug-free greats like Joe Cappellino, Carl Yngvar Christensen, or Liane Blyn. They all squat incredible numbers, Equipped, to depth, and at the highest level of competition that our sport has to offer. It’s not all about squeezing into tight shirts or tiny suits. It takes time to become a good Equipped lifter, and if you are new to it, starting out with a loose shirt or suit that won’t leave marks or cause intense discomfort will only benefit you as you progress into a better lifter. As well, this will prevent the inevitable “my suit is too tight” problem many first time Equipped lifters have. Forget trying to squeeze into the tightest, stiffest Equipment out there, and stick to the easy stuff at first. I guarantee you’ll feel awesome when you hit new PRs because moving the most weight possible is what powerlifting is all about.


3. The suit does do work (but not really)

The most illogical argument I have ever heard to justify not using Equipment is that the suit or shirt “does all the work” and that is cheating. Really? I’ve never seen a squat suit walk up to the rack, take out the bar, and squat a G. That extra weight you say the suit helps lifters handle? Their nervous systems have to handle that extra stress, suit or no suit. And don’t get me started on a geared squat walkout. I promise, the suit is of no help there. Combining Equipment with boards for bench, chains for the squat, or block deadlift pulls all help you work harder while handling more weight, which will get you stronger. Powerlifting Equipment is a set of tools that the lifter has in their toolbox to help them work on technique, make gains, and get stronger.

Liane Blyn making easy work of 391lbs, M1 World Record Bench

4. Someone will help you, you just need to look.

It is possible, no matter where you are, to find good help as far as getting started with gear. There are good coaches everywhere (even some respectable online coaches who are starting to do Equipped training programs) and if you spend enough time around the powerlifting community, you’ll find that many people would love to help newcomers get more involved, especially those within their own state. Depending on what type of gym you lift at, it is very possible there is already a group of people that get into Equipment, and if there isn’t one, see about getting it started. Many gym owners may also be closet gear-heads and would be stoked to have the presence of a bench shirt or squat suit grace their gym.


5. You will get stronger, and you’ll have fun doing it

Fact: Lifting Equipped will help make you stronger. The community that is built around the Equipped training cycle will help you become friends with serious strength athletes. It takes some dedication to become a good Equipped lifter and simply being around people who share this type of work ethic will be hugely beneficial. Doing an Equipped cycle or two will increase your raw numbers, especially if you focus on improving your form, hitting good numbers, and following the advice of other Equipped lifters. Plus, it’ll be awesome when you crush heavier numbers than half the people in your gym.

Final Note

Ultimately no one can make you lift geared. Some of the most respectable athletes around the world lift Equipped while some only lift Raw. Many people are outspoken critics against Equipment and their minds will never be changed. This is unfortunate because when you get down to many excuses for not getting trying out Equipped powerlifting really are silly. If you are serious about Powerlifting, consider making a New Year’s resolution to at least try out Equipped lifting. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Roy Apostle is a Mass-Lift staff editor. Contact him at roy@mass-lift.com.
This is an opinion article, and these views are my own. They are not related to any positions held by either Mass-lift.com or USA Powerlifting. Do NOT do anything described above before consulting a physician or trainer.