Powerlifting Gear for Beginner to Advanced Lifters

What’s up again fellow lifters? Powerlifting gear is not essential, but you will most likely benefit from using different pieces of equipment for training and/or competition. Now I’m not talking BS info like wearing a weight belt is only for heavy loads.

That statement is wrong and often what everyone talks about. But I’ll hit on that point in a bit when we cover lifting belts.

Alright brotatoes and chiclets, let’s take a look at powerlifting gear for beginner to advanced lifters. You’d be surprised how many amateur powerlifters have no clue what their gear is for. If others wear them then you should to right?


When to Start Using Powerlifting Gear

Using gear such as wrist wraps and knee sleeves should be held off until you have proper lifting form and technique down. Wearing a lifting belt isn’t going to help keep your back straight if you just suck at doing deadlifts.

That’s why it’s imperative for me to say all this before you even continue reading. Get your form down and practice the technique for each lift. Wearing cotton knee sleeves to keep joints warm and light wrist wraps for possible sore/injured wrists is fine.

The gear I’m talking about staying away from for a bit are tight knee sleeves and stiff wrist wraps that actually help support lifting more weight. We may refer to it as powerlifting gear for beginners, but I don’t need you hopping up and buying a pair of neoprene knee sleeves when your squats possibly suck.


Wrist Wraps for Powerlifting

Wrist wraps, not to be confused with straps, are a staple for my workouts focusing on pressing movements and sometimes curling as well. I’m not saying you should do everything like me and wear them for for only pressing lifts and here’s why.

The primary reason for wrist wraps during resistance training is because they take the pressure off of your wrist joint. This happens through resisting wrist flexion (bending) and keeping the joint closed.

When you wrap your wrists with these they go directly below the joint as shown in the image.

No part of the wrist wrap should be touching the meaty portion of your hands. Improperly wrapping your wrists makes it pointless to even wear them.

Waste your money on something else if that’s the case because gains won’t be happening anytime in the near future.

Long story short, these wrist bands are good for all movements including:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press

So why do I say that this type of equipment is not just for pushing movements like the bench press? Well let’s discuss this for a minute.

During squats your wrists can be under strain if you hold the bar thumbs wrapped under the bar, which is the most commonly executed method of grip. Those who wrap their thumbs above the bar have no need for wraps usually.

Some believe wrist wraps are used only by those who do low bar squats, but if you think about it high bar squats still require a heavy wrist bend during the hold.

Now, why would wrist wraps be used during deadlifts? The answer to this is so that your hands have more difficulty opening up.

Most powerlifting competitions allow you to use wrist wraps so might as well take advantage of them. Plus for those not competing; it’s to help develop grip strength by not helping you literally grip the bar like wrist straps.

So basically you’re tightening down the wraps to where your fingers are stuck in the claw shape. Obviously blood circulation will be bad to the hand, so perform your lift right after tightening the wraps down.

Last of all would be using this type of equipment for what we call pressing movement’s i.e. the bench press or overhead press based exercises. The wrist wraps basically help strengthen your wrist to prevent injury. There’s no carry over to actual pressing strength, but they will keep your wrists from becoming damaged.


Lifting Belts for Powerlifting

Lifting belts can provide several benefits for your body, but are often improperly worshipped as well. The common response for using a lifting belt is to protect the lower back during heavy lifts.

While this is “true” in a sense – the picture is much bigger than this. The reason you wear a lifting belt is to cause force against your abdominal wall leading to abdominal contractions.

This is literally causing your core to remain used, which means the muscles around your spine contract to protect against force. This is what leads to protecting your lower back along with keeping your spine neutral IF you have good form already. A BELT DOES NOT FIX BAD FORM.

Basically you’re not supporting your lower back. Just placing abdominal pressure that leads to protection.

Now, there are two common lifting belts the 4 inch and the 6 inch at thicknesses of 10mm and 13mm. They can be created through different materials, but leather and foam core seem to be the popular choices.

Lifting belts can be great for most exercises since core muscles are used the most for a lot of lifts. This is why even bodybuilders use lifting belts routinely for training. You of course need to contract your abs on your own, but the belt just helps this process go further.


Knee Sleeves and Elbow Sleeves for Powerlifting

Yet ANOTHER piece of powerlifting gear that has a bad use factor in terms of mindset. So let’s squash the BS that spreads rapid in our gym convo’s.

Sleeves for your joints are merely used to keep them warm so the synovial fluid within can resist friction and encourage maximum strength output. Essentially you are attempting to lower the chances of knee inflammation (pain).

Now, if you go a size or two smaller, some powerlifters are capable of pushing out a lot more pounds during a PR (personal record). That’s a big deal when it comes to beating out your competition, but the primary thing to remember under most circumstances sleeves just keep your joints warm.

When knee sleeves are tight to increase lifting potential they act like knee wraps, which is a piece of gear better saved after experience has been gained. But the reason for this relationship is because they act as a “spring” by taking your downward momentum and assisting with the lift back up like a rubber band.

Elbow sleeves are exactly the same concept with the exception that they are not legal for the bench press competition under most powerlifting federations when it comes to raw lifting. You can wear them to protect elbows during squats, but it’s a no for benching.


Wrist Straps for Powerlifting

All three of the previous powerlifting pieces are able to be worn for most competitions just with certain specifics on dimensions. Wrist straps are popular for training, but are not allowed to be worn during most competitions unless it says so on official rules.

Wrist straps work by wrapping around the handle or bar to keep your grip literally stuck to the equipment. This is good for pulling exercises such as deadlifts and rows, but you probably don’t want wrist straps on during the bench press.

Why? Remember I said you’re LITERALLY stuck to the bar, handle, whatever the hell you wrapped yourself on. Well guess what happens if something goes wrong and the weight tips over?

You get to go along for the ride shoulder popping out and all instead of being able to let go and bail the fuck out. The next time you see someone bench pressing with wrist wraps on then let them, but don’t reenact their ignorance.

When it comes to training with pulling exercises, you get the benefit of increasing your resistance without worrying about losing grip. Beginners grip strength is definitely gained using wrist wraps in the start to expedite strength gains.

However, eventually you’ll want to lose the straps while doing the primary deadlifts or else you won’t ever be used to lifting without straps before competition. I still use them for heavy barbell rows, rack pulls, and shrugs – just not for my deadlifts.

Choose your training program wisely to fully develop your power, strength, and grip. Here’s an article on STACK I wrote for those looking to improve grip strength.


Powerlifting Gear Truly Does Help

These are the basic types of powerlifting gear for beginners. But as you see noted in the title, the gear listed is also for advanced lifters as well. Powerlifting is a sport where true strength is shown, and we are allowed to use tools of our own particular trade to assist with making us even better.olympic front squats


This equipment also protects you, and is a good investment after you have proper technique and form down. There’s plenty of brands out there to select from, but my primary go to affordable shops are from:

Note I said affordable too. Sometimes it’s good to spend the extra buck like on a good belt, but wraps and sleeves shouldn’t cost and arm and two legs. That’s it for this article iron addicts. Stay safe and keep on lifting.

Strong Fit Living.

Live it. Do it.

Brian Pankau

Brian Pankau

Experienced personal trainer and strength coach

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