Updated: Sep 21, 2020
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 you have to wear a lever belt to lift properly.
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 all, 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 belts and stiff 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 tight 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 stiff knee sleeves and the likes that actually help support lifting slightly 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.
The only one's that can stray slightly from this are those in the sub-masters and masters categories (35+) years of age. Those starting in these categories may need that extra support until the bones strengthen and muscles get stronger without getting an injury.
Wrist Wraps for Powerlifting
Wrist wraps, not to be confused with straps, are a staple for my workouts focusing on heavy pressing movements. I rarely wear equipment these days for anything under 80% unless experiencing minor strain (I’m 33 now). I’m not saying you should do everything like me and wear them 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.
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 wraps are good for all movements including:
Clean and Jerks
So why do I say that this type of equipment is not just for pressing 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 depending on arm length and grip position, and this especially applies to front squats.
Is it common for wraps on the wrists during high bar position. No and it's pretty rare. However, each person is different and if it keeps the pressure off that's causing pain then wrap them up.
Now, why would wrist wraps be used during deadlifts? The answer to this is so that your hands have more difficulty opening up.
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. Might feel highly uncomfortable for sets over 3 repetitions.
Another reason for wrist wraps during deadlifts is to simply keep compression against the wrist. This could be beneficial for those with wrist pains at the moment or recovering from a previous injury.
Last of all would be using this type of equipment for what we call pressing movement’s i.e. the bench press or overhead pressing exercises. The wrist wraps basically help support your wrists to prevent injury. There’s no carry over to actual pressing strength, but they may keep your wrists from becoming damaged.
Lifting Belts for Powerlifting
Lifting belts can provide several benefits for your body, but are often improperly worshiped 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 core 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.
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.
Prong or lever is really a preference, but beware the two-prong belts can be a pain in the ass getting to the tightest hole.
Lifting belts in my opinion are for heavier lifts. If you can’t perform beltless squats with 70% your 1RM then you should be working on your core strength more.
Another version of a lifting belt is the tapered variation. The front portion is thin and the back portion is the full belt width. Normally popular for weightlifting as it gives more flexibility in movement.
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 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.
However, you shouldn't be needing that spring assist from your knee sleeves starting out. Give your muscles and joints the time to develop before squeezing into a pair.
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 (small local meets may allow them).
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 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 straps on then you can let them know, but don’t reenact their ignorance.
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.
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.
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