Why I Choose Equipped Powerlifting Over Raw

This article is not going to be a knock on raw powerlifting. I am not going to sit here and say raw lifting is dumb and you shouldn't lift that way. I simply want to explain my point of view on the topic and my experience with lifting both raw and equipped


For those of you who are unfamiliar with equipped powerlifting, it is the use of either a single ply or multiply squat/deadlift suit or bench shirt in competition. This equipment is a tight material that allows you to lift much more weight than your body could handle raw. It is not a form of cheating, but rather a completely separate division and style of powerlifting

Back in the early 2000's and beyond, equipped powerlifting is all the world really knew. That is just how you competed back then. It is important and interesting to note that raw lifting has taken powerlifting by storm recently, it was not always like this. Equipped powerlifting has been heading more by the wayside in recent years

Even with equipped powerlifting seemingly on its way out, I don't like to follow the pack so I found myself exploring the world of equipped powerlifting. I took to the lifting gear right away, not in the sense that I was good at it off the bat but rather I fell in love with the style of lifting

Equipped powerlifting is extremely technical. If you think raw lifting involves a lot of technique, wait until you try this. With a raw lift, since you are handling weight the body is capable of holding with no support, if you fall out of groove on a lift you can still muscle through most the time. However if you fall out of groove on an equipped lift, it is all over, no chance. The groove is extremely precise and unforgiving, there is no room for error. I enjoy the technicality of the lift. It separates lifters who are genetically blessed and strong from lifters who are technical powerhouses and practice their craft with precision. It levels the playing field a bit in my opinion and that attracts me to equipped lifting 

Another reason I enjoy equipped lifting is because it is not easy. I don't want to say raw lifting is easy either, but in comparison it is. To be at the top level in gear vs to be at the top level raw it is night and day. So much more goes into equipped lifting. Recovery needs to be paid close attention to just for the fact that you are handling enormous amounts of weight that can severely tax your nervous system and body. You are handling well over 100% of what your body can handle raw every time you throw on the gear. There are extreme cases in which lifters could lose up to an inch in height just by having a fully loaded bar on their back for a squat session. 

In addition to recovery you also need to know how to properly fit your gear and train in it. Top equipped lifters have different suits and shirts for all types of bodyweights and periods in their training. You need to pay attention to your bodyweight because a few pounds too heavy or too light and your suit won't work properly. If you train too early in a competition shirt and get close to touching chest you could stretch the shirt almost an inch at the chest plate and then you won't get the same pop for the meet. These are all factors that need to be taken into account. Raw lifting is pretty much chalked up to getting under the bar and lifting with good technique. Comparitivley in my opinion raw lifting is simple. Equipped lifting takes so much more patience and effort to become elite in

The main reason I was drawn to equipped lifting is the shear brutal force it takes to withstand all that weight trying to crush you and somehow press it back up. Handling the kind of weight you can handle in gear is an experience you need to have firsthand before you truly understand. It is the most empowering thing you'll ever do. All that pressure is building up in your body as you are lowering the weight. You feel like you could literally explode or shatter at any moment. Somehow you are able to hold yourself together and move weight you couldn't even fathom touching as  a raw lifter. The feeling of overcoming such an immense obstacle keeps bringing me back for more. Not to mention the crowd you draw from moving such huge weight. Everyone wants to see a huge lift, raw or equipped. Just like everyone likes to see huge dingers in baseball

Again, this isn't to say raw lifting is an easy way out. Raw lifting is no cake walk. I have competed in both divisions, however nothing can compare to the feeling you get while lifting in equipment. It is truly an amazing feeling. You are pushing the body to maximal limits and beyond. You also form a bond with the equipment you use. You find different suits and shirts you have success in and you get modifications done to them. You build a relationship and create memories in the gear that you compete in

I was inspired to write this article from a video I saw of all time great bench presser Scot Mendleson. This man was the only lifter to hold both the raw and equipped bench press records at the same time. He was asked why he chooses to compete in gear and his answer was the best I've heard yet. How he explained the feeling of lifting in equipment was spot on and I second everything he had to say. I hope everyone reading this takes a moment to watch the video. It is explained perfectly. Hell, who knows, after watching and reading this maybe you'll throw on a suit yourself and give it a try. It is a style of lifting I hope every lifter has the chance of experiencing in competition at one point in their careers