As powerlifting gains in popularity, many ask: what powerlifting equipment do I need in order to optimize my training to its fullest potential? What powerlifting gear should I buy, and when do I absolutely need it? With the growing number of products being targeted towards powerlifters, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. That is why I put together a list of all of the absolutely necessary equipment you need in order to maximize your powerlifting training (as well as some additional equipment that I’ve found helpful as well). Keep in mind, this is not a list of things needed for a powerlifting competition (AKA powerlifting meets)! That will be covered in another blog post later on.
So without further ado, let’s jump right in with the most important piece of equipment you’ll be needing for your powerlifting career…
Leather Powerlifting Belt
Above everything else, the number one thing you can add to your powerlifting arsenal is a good, quality, leather belt. Belts come in many varieties of thicknesses, cuts, colors, and tightening mechanisms, but essentially, you want a 10mm or 13mm thick leather belt, either single or double prong, with a standard, non-tapered cut. Some athletes prefer a lever belt, which utilizes a lever to tighten and release the belt from around your waist, but I’ve found that (1): levers are a pain in the ass to adjust, if your body is in the process of gaining or losing weight, (2): levers break, and (3): they are generally priced a little higher than pronged belts.
As far as thickness is concerned, you’ll get a lot more stiffness and resistance from a 13 mm belt, but many find 10 mm to be just as effective, and a lot more comfortable to use.
Some of the best belt manufacturers are listed below, and prices for a good belt will run you anywhere from $60 to $200+. Keep in mind, though, that a good belt will last a lifetime.
Powerlifting Knee Sleeves
Some lifters believe they have no need for knee sleeves until they start lifting “heavier” weights. However, I’m more of the opinion that knee sleeves should first be used as an injury preventative before they’re used as a performance enhancer. Knee sleeves will provide your knees with warmth and compression, which aids the lifter in preventing knee injuries. Sleeves for powerlifitng are made of neoprene foam, and can range in thickness from 3-7mm thick, with 7mm providing the most support and warmth. Companies like Rehband have been around for years, supplying lifters with quality knee sleeves intended for this purpose.
More advanced lifters, however, are now turning to certain companies making knee sleeves that not only provide support, but also act as “spring-like” tools to help lifters squat more. Sleeves which are tight fitting and sturdy will store elastic energy as a lifter descends into the bottom of a squat; when the lifter reverses directions, these sleeves will slightly propel the lifter up, and make squatting out of the hole that much easier. SBD makes knee sleeves that are often utilized for this purpose, and recently, Slingshot by Mark Bell has released their version of this sleeve (the STrong sleeves). Which are better? Read my post “SBD vs STrong Sleeves: Which is the Best Knee Sleeve?” to find out my opinion on this matter.
Rehband Knee Sleeves
Slingshot Knee Sleeves
Each of the three lifts can take advantage of different kinds of shoes available to lifters, and depending on how much you want to spend, you could have as many as three different pairs of shoes in your bag. Shoes with a thin sole will help your deadlifts, while shoes with a heel may help your squat. If you’re interested in a catch all shoewear, look for something with a flat, sturdy base that can grip the floor well.
Many powerlifters start off with and swear by Converse Chucks, since they can be used pretty well in all three lifts. However, you may find that Chucks don’t necessarily excel as shoewear for any one particular lift, and instead are just OK. If you’re looking to optimize the shoes for the lift, you may want to invest a little more money into your shoes.
Squat shoes, like Romaleos or Adipowers, have a flat base, but a raised heel. These can assist squatters that have poor ankle mobility, making it easier to hit the required competition depth. These are great for squatters that have a more narrow stance, or prefer to squat high bar. Squat shoes may also be used by the lifter in the bench press, as it allows for a bigger, tighter arch, since the lifter can pull their feet back further without their heels coming off the ground (per the rules of the USAPL and IPF).
Deadlifting shoes are shoes that typically have a thin sole, are very flat, and, for sumo pullers, are very grippy. Shoes such as the Crossfit Lite TR Training Shoes, or even specialty shoes like deadlift slippers, both meet this requirement.
Crossfit Lite TR Training Shoes
The fastest way to improve your grip strength, hands down. Chalk will provide you a better grip, and keep your sweaty hands from dropping the bar in your deadlift. Chalk can also be used on your traps to keep your back from sliding up the bench in a bench press and to keep the bar in place during the squat. It’s cheap, and it’s always a good idea to have an extra block ready to use in your bag at all times. Just make sure that you purchase Magnesium Carbonate, and not Calcium Carbonate (chalkboard chalk). A pound of chalk will set you back about $20.
GSC Gym Chalk
When deadlifts start to get heavier, you may find yourself having a harder time dragging the bar up your thighs to lockout. The weight of the bar grinding up your sweaty legs makes for a hell of a finisher. As such, a lot of deadlifters use talc or baby powder on their legs to reduce the amount of friction between the bar and the skin, and therefore makes lockout silk smooth. Just be sure not to get any on your hands, as talc will make your grip useless.
Talc is cheap, just like chalk, so there’s really no reason not to have some in your bag at all times.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder
Bench pressing puts a ton of strain on the wrists, as does low-bar squatting. Adding wrist wraps to your gear helps to relieve this strain, while also keeping your wrist in line with the forearms for optimal strength. Wrist wraps are also sometimes used with deadlifts to aid in grip strength. Both Titan and Inzer have top-notch wrist wraps, and Mark Bell’s Gangsta Wraps are gaining prominence in the powerlifting world as well. A good pair of wrist wraps will cost about $30.
Max RPM Wrist Wraps (My personal favorite)
Signature Gold Wrist Wraps
When the deadlift volume gets high, and the callouses get torn, it’s always a good idea to have a couple pairs of wrist wraps in your bag to help you finish that workout. They’re cheap, they’re small, and they’re Godsend for volume days.
Basic Lifting Straps
Bands have multiple purposes that can both assist your lifts and make your lifts more demanding. Through accommodating resistance, you can prepare your body for heavier lifts before you’re actually lifting that much weight. In squats, bench, and deadlifts, you can make the weight much lighter at the bottom portion of the lift, and fairly heavy at the top. Bands are also great for warming up for all three lifts, to prepare your muscles for that movement while preventing injury. I’ll spend about 10 minutes before each session utilizing bands for this purpose.
EliteFTS has a huge selection of bands to choose from, some thin and meant for lighter lifts, some thick and meant to provide super heavy resistance.
Did I forget anything? Comment below and let me know!