You might think raw powerlifting would mean that no equipment is allowed. Well, you would be partially correct. Most federations describe raw as including only protective equipment and not supportive equipment. In light of that, I will outline the “necessary” equipment for raw powerlifting. First, a brief caveat, if you are just getting into powerlifting or strength training, you don’t need anything. Primarily, I would suggest finding some stable shoes to lift in (converse are a great cheap option used at all levels.)
First, a brief caveat, if you are just getting into powerlifting or strength training, you don’t need anything. Primarily, I would just suggest finding some stable shoes to lift in (converse are a great cheap option used at all levels.)
So here is the list of necessary and approved equipment for IPF Raw Powerlifting:
Let’s start from the ground up.
1. Shoes (Required)
So there are basically 3 options. Olympic shoes, flat shoes, and deadlift slippers. For the squat I personally have experimented with a variety of different shoes, using 2 types of Olympic shoes and now settling with Reebok Crossfit Tr Lite. They are good shoes, relatively inexpensive and have great grip. I actually currently use them for all 3 lifts. Honestly, converse or vans work in exactly the same way so if you have a pair of those go for it. It is hard to know if you need Olympic shoes, but there are some pretty solid theories on this page:
I actually currently use them for all 3 lifts. Honestly, converse or vans work in exactly the same way so if you have a pair of those go for it. It is hard to know if you need Olympic shoes, but there are some pretty solid theories on this page: Squat Shoe Tips
Ultimately, the decision is really personal. Like I mentioned I have flipped flopped between both options and I haven’t really settled on a permanent solution. It really depends on your squat stance, hip and ankle mobility. As I am sure you have realized by this point in your lifting career that is all subject to change. So, my recommendation is to experiment with different options until you find something you like for now!
For bench and deadlift, it is all a matter of preference. In the bench you just need to find shoes that allow you to increase leg drive this can go a variety of ways but anything that gives you leg drive and has strong grip is perfect for this lift. Deadlift is kind of the same, you just want to be as close to the ground with as much grip as possible, thus it is again preference based. Like a lot of people, I squat and bench in the same shoes because they have a ton of grip. (Reebok Crossfit Tr lite)
NOTE: Don’t wear trainers, compressible sole shoes will collapse under heavy loads and can put some unnecessary stress through your joints and muscles.
2. Socks (Required)
This seems straightforward enough but is often a failure point for beginner powerlifters. For most federations you need to wear Long socks for deadlifts, this is mainly just to prevent you bleeding all over the barbell. But, you won’t be able to compete without them so take them with you!
Secondly, I would also recommend shin high socks for squats. They help you to fill your shoe a little better and also help a lot with getting tight knee sleeves on!
3. Knee Sleeves
This is where it starts to get interesting. Knee sleeves are not a necessity. There are plenty of strong lifters that don’t ever use knee sleeves in training or in competition, there are plenty of lifters that swear they get 50lbs out of tight SBD’s. So much like everything on this list, it is a matter of preference.
But, the two most popular knee sleeves in the IPF are SBD’s and Titan Yellowjackets. Both pairs are pretty similar and most lifters just chose the ones that match their style better.
There are plenty of other options, such as Rehband, Eleiko, and Slingshot these sleeves are a little less stiff than the aforementioned products. But, they are great at keeping your joint warm and not limiting flexibility in the lifts.
4. Underwear (Required)
So for training, this isn’t particularly pertinent, I just wear compression shorts because they are the most comfortable to lift in IMO. But, for meets this is essential. In IPF you have to wear cotton briefs, not boxer briefs just briefs. Not ideal but a necessary component of competition to prevent supportive underwear. Also, trust me they check.
5. Singlet (Required)
Honestly, singlets all come down to cost and color scheme. I have had two singlets. Both from Strength Shop Mainly because they are really affordable. But, they also fit remarkably well and are IPF approved so that’s an added bonus. However, as long as your singlet is made to IPF spec it can be used in all local USAPL competitions. To be honest you might wear this 5-10 times a year if you also like testing your maxes in competition gear.
6. Lifting Belt
Ok while this is not a requirement within the rules, there are very few world records set without a belt… Additionally, belts are a great way to help you brace and protect your lower back from the sheer forces of lifting. So, in my opinion, they are essential to lifting heavy safely. But, it is dependent on your ability to effectively brace your core. If you are great at bracing or a larger lifter you might not need to, once again it is preference so you need to experiment and find what is best for you.
So, in my opinion, they are essential to lifting heavy safely. But, it is dependent on your ability to effectively brace your core. If you are great at bracing, or a larger lifter you might not need to. It is preference so you need to experiment and find what works best for you.
So what are your options: lever belt, single prong, double prong and hybrid. I will explain the merits of each and give you my recommendations.
They are a real love it or hate it kind of product. Lever belts are good in that they are easy to put on and off and remove the need for assistance or a physical element to help you out. Additionally, you can often put a lever belt on even tighter than a prong.
But, there are a bunch of negatives in my experience. Firstly, they break… a lot. I am on my 3rd replacement lever and I have only had my belt for a year. So recommendation, buy a belt that has an unlimited warranty (Inzer forever lever) because if you put a lot of pressure on the belt it is likely to break… a lot. Also, due to the complex mechanics of the lever the pins often fall out and move which can be very irritating and the main reason I am switching back to a single prong.
Secondly, you can’t adjust them… not useful if you wear your belts with different tightnesses between lifts…
Thirdly, they take ages to break in. Stiff lever belts are the worst. It takes ages to make it mold to the shape of your body and even longer for it to become flexible and comfortable.
Finally, they cut headphones. Lol I know this sounds ridiculous but I have cut 2 pairs of headphones in my lever lol! Not really a significant reason to not buy one but annoying af none the less!
Which one should you buy?
On price: Lifting large Economy Lever belt ($50 ish, 1-year warranty)
On Quality: Inzer Forever Lever ($100 ish, unlimited warranty)
Simple, cheap and easy to use! Single prongs are the best belts in my opinion for beginner lifters and first-time competitors. They break in the easiest of all the belt types and they are easily adjustable. The only drawback is taking them on and off. It can sometimes be quite difficult to put a single prong as tightly as you would like. Which one should you buy?
Which one should you buy?
On price: Lifting Large Economy Single prong ($48 ish, 1-year warranty)
On Quality: Titan Toro ($100 ish)
Okay so I personally think double prong belts are pointless, while they allow you to be more secure and are probably the least likely to fail during a lift, they are the most annoying creation on the planet. Getting one prong in is hard enough, two prongs is an absolute nightmare. Plus they are probably the worst belt type to break in which is great if you love a stiff uncomfortable belt. But, the benefit is they will probably never break unless you squat 2000lbs…
Which one should you buy?
On price: Inzer forever buckle belt 13mm ($100 ish)
On quality: Beast Genetics Double Prong ($150 ish)
So this is the most exciting option in my opinion but also the most expensive by far. Hybrid belts are ones that combine both lever and prong technologies to give you the best of both worlds. The advantages are thecomfort, ease of use, convenience and adjustability. Disadvantages most are 13mm and all are very expensive.
Which one should you buy?
On most hybrid: SBD ($250 ish)
On comfort: Eleiko Quick Release ($230 ish)
7. T-shirt (Required)
This is the last required one, your best option is to go plain cotton but if you want a branded shirt to pick one with a USAPL sponsor. But, I recommend bringing a spare in case your shirt is not legitimate.
8. Wrist Wraps
Probably an essential if you have a weak grip. Obviously most important for the bench press, to protect your wrists and allow you to feel strong under the bar. But, they are also really useful for the squat if you cock your wrists back. Surprisingly one of the best uses is during the deadlift, wearing tight wrist wraps during the deadlift forces your hands closed and can help in preventing grip failure in maximal attempts.
The list above is pretty extensive and covers almost everything you need to succeed at a meet. But, a few notable other things you might want: pre-workout, this is great when you need to get hyped for your lifts and sustain some energy throughout the meet. Ammonia/Nose tork: personally I love ammonia and it is an essential tool for any angry lifter. I mainly use mine for my last attempt squat and deadlifts especially, if I am feeling sore towards the end of the meet. Regardless of how you use it get some and try it out before the meet day!
Food: bring a lot the saltier the better if you did a water cut and energy foods high in fat and protein can be very helpful, think pita chips and protein bars early on and Oreos and candy late in the day.
Water: Bring a lot you would be surprised how many venues don’t have immediately accessible water or fluids to keep you hydrated so bring a gallon or two.
Friends and a handler!!!
This one is something you might not consider but it makes a hell of a difference. Prior to nationals last year I had never gone better than 5/9 in a meet. Looking back I blame that on bad attempt selection and not having another set of eyes to help me through the experience. At nationals, I had one of my best friends and business partner Andrew handling me having him tell me objectively about my performance and get me hyped up before my big lifts were awesome. Plus having someone to load the warmups and check the roster for you makes an enormous difference especially at bigger meets. Friends are great too, even if you are blindered in and completely focused hearing someone shouting your name encouraging you to finish the lift is awesome and makes the experience even better!
On the whole, you would be surprised how much equipment plays into the competition. Don’t overthink it but just find equipment that supports the way you lift and stick with it. There isn’t a set of knee sleeves or a belt that will add 100lbs to you total just work with what you have and destroy your competition!!!