Powerlifting Misconceptions

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Lately I’ve been seeing some powerlifting numbers thrown around on the LBEB and I feel there might be a misconception or a lack of understanding as to what powerlifting, specifically geared powerlifting, is.  Did you know or realize that when you see numbers like a 1000lb bench press or even a 1000lb squat, these are not in fact what we at LBEB would call “pure lifts”?  In other words, the lifts were not accomplished using only the power of the human body and gear that is designed to keep it safe like a belt.  Rather, these lifts were accomplished using “bench shirts”, “squat suits” , “squat briefs” and even “deadlift suits”.  A lot of times when you see powerlifting videos on the Internet, the athlete is not wearing a singlet, but rather a variation of one of these suits.

Before I get into the explanation of the gear used, I feel it necessary to explain the current state that modern powerlifting is in.  Quite a while ago as more and more assistance gear was introduced, there was much debate amongst the athletes as to what gear should and should not be allowed.  What this caused was a major split, then even more splits, in the powerlifting world.  Tons and tons of powerlifting federations popped up, each with their own set of rules regarding assistance gear, squat depth, bench pause time, etc etc.  Unfortunately, this greatly divided and confused a once GREAT sport where pure, raw, static strength was tested on standardized equipment.  We are starting to see the revival of more and more “raw” (no assistance gear) federations, specifically under the direction of Sean Katterle, but again unfortunately more often than not, when powerlifting numbers are thrown around people are usually referencing “geared” or “equipped” powerlifting.
So, lets get into the gear.  Powerlifting gear is varied and wide in its scope. Nowadays an athlete can find a suit or shirt to fit any body type and to provide almost as much or as little assistance is needed, and if an athlete can’t find what they want they can contact gear companies and have suits or shirts custom made to suit their needs.  How much assistance does gear provide you ask? Well, that all depends on the gear.  I’ve personally known “1000lb squatters” that could only squat 5-600 without their gear.  Bench shirts offer even more assistance at times.  No man has ever benched more than 730lbs without assistance gear yet the “bench press world record” currently stands at a little under 1100lbs!!!!  I myself am a 500lb give or take a little depending on the day, but my very first time in an Inzer Rage X bench shirt I was able to bench press 700lbs!  Not all gear offer extreme gains like in my examples, deadlift suits for example only offer 20-50lb no matter what type of suit you use simple because the mechanics of a deadlift don’t allow for gear to be effective.  The IPF and USAPL powerlifting federations also minimize the type of gear that can be used in order to more legitimize the lifts being accomplished.


We at LBEB are not bashing on geared powerlifting,  in fact some of our lifters have dabbled in it a time or two.  What we are doing is trying to educate you as a lifter.  There is nothing wrong with being a geared powerlifter, but if this is the route you choose to go accept and realize that you are competing in a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SPORT than raw or standard powerlifting.  Please don’t claim to be a 1000lb squatter if your best squat raw is 405, just say you are a 1000lb geared squatter.  We have the utmost respect for geared powerlifters and we agree that these men and women are in fact very strong in their sport.  The fact is though that we at LBEB prefer raw lifting in all it’s forms so we will always be biased towards that.  In addition we will always be more impressed by a 400lb raw squat than even an 800lb geared squat for example.  So, when hearing numbers thrown around keep this in mind, only 18-20 men have ever deadlifted 900+ under powerlifting standards in competition, no one has EVER squatted 1000lbs without gear and the biggest raw bench to date is 730lbs.  This should give you just a bit of a reference point to go by.

Written by Marshall White. 

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14653653403277113001 Kyle Kroll

    Great article Marshall. I am a raw powerlifter(belt and knee wraps only) and hate when I see people throwing around these big numbers, and come to find out it’s their geared numbers.

    Not bashing those who choose to gear, but I admire and prefer raw lifting any day of the week.

  • Anonymous

    Your numbers are wrong. By a lot. There are 14 900+ deadlifts done in competition. 2 1000+ one of those is raw. There is 1 1000raw squat as well as a 992 done by Malanichev(who also holds the single ply record at 1034 I believe). And the all time raw bench record is 715 by Scott Mendleson(also having the 275 shirted record with a 1030 press).
    Sam Byrd has done a 782 squat at 220 with no knee wraps and has who also has the suited record with a 1100 squat. A 405 raw squat doesn’t equate to a 1000 lb suited squat. Nor does a 405 bench equate to 1000 shirted.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12985368207372790975 Peter "Fucking" Baker

      Im pretty sure Donnie Thompson beat that squat record.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06705293384540366402 John McCord

      Donnie Thompson definitely just hit a 1300 geared. If you watch the video I’m pretty sure he saw Jesus at one point.

    • Anonymous

      Eric Spoto hit a 722 lb raw bench

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02946399467383171486 Birdman

      Andrey now has 1014 lbs squat in just belt and knee wraps– looked like a warmup!

      Sam Byrd

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t Benedikt Magnússon hit over 1000 DL with no gear?

    • Anonymous

      Yes he hit a 1015 pull with just a belt.

    • https://twitter.com/LilMissMuscles Peleiake

      Marshall never said he didn’t. Regarding deadlifts, he only stated that “only 18-20 men have ever deadlifted 900+ under powerlifting standards in competition” & I would imagine that Benedikt Magnússon would be included in those 18-20.

  • Anonymous

    Raw is making a large boom these days for the same reason within the powerlifting community. Some of the federations allow triple and quad ply suits = those huge numbers. So some powerlifters may take this article personal – but some new raw lifters such as myself don’t mind these comments because we also understand these numbers are with huge assistance of their gear. But for some geared lifters – some do geared to help with injuries that would not allow them to powerlifter such as the squat without knee wraps. Raw does not allow wraps – only knees sleeves, which does minimal. Listing above cannot be raw – due to its not legal in raw meets to use knee wraps. I would suggest to come and find a raw meet and support your opinion – maybe even hit raw nationals. Hope to see you out there on a platform.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12985368207372790975 Peter "Fucking" Baker

      Most feds consider raw lifting to include the knee wraps.

  • http://whosthisjoelguy.tumblr.com/ Joel H

    Great post Marshal. Even if you ask alot of strong geared lifters they will say ‘Just because I can squat xxx doesn’t mean I can pick a couch any easier than anyone else’. Gear, leverages and sport specific training make them good at geared powerlifting.

    Even in our association though there’s animosity from raw lifters towards ‘geared’ lifters. I can understand that to a point, but in IPF and in the canadian powerlifting union we have geared and raw categories for all age and weight class. So you aren’t really competing against them anyway.

    @Kyle Kroll – Unless they have changes in the last few months according to IPF Rules the inclusion of Knee Wraps means you are not a raw lifter. You can use Knee sleeves but as soon as you wrap up your equipped.

    This is yes another example of different federations.

  • Anonymous

    As a power lifter, I have dabbled with gear a couple times. I own a bench shirt and deadlift suit but rarely ever use them. I competed in an all-raw meet just this past Sunday. I actually prefer raw over geared but my issues are with records. I lift in WABDL and RAW United meets. The WABDL does not have a raw division. I have set/broken multiple records in the single ply division lifting without gear. The stronger I get, however, the more weight and more records I want. It’s nearly impossible to keep up when everyone else is wearing gear.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12985368207372790975 Peter "Fucking" Baker

      Did you compete on Sunday at the RAW United Record Breakers meet? If so, I was there too and you were probably in my flight.

  • Anonymous

    I was hoping the article would mention how the gear helps.

  • Anonymous

    It helps by packing your fat and muscle into a tiny little area, creating a crap ton of unnatural pressure, which assists in the lift.

    If you read the title of the article, you would probably realize that this article was not designed to discuss the benefits of suits but rather the misconceptions created by geared lifting. Misconceptions like, “I squat 700 pounds!” … above parallel with a two-ply suit on…

  • matt

    Its about integrity. If you’re using gear be open about it when you talk about your numbers. The same goes for steroids. If you can’t do the weight without it then it counts as gear. Not saying its cheating just dont pretend to be some genetic phenom

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13047638048463160737 Kyle

      I don’t think anyone is going to openly say they’re taking steroids, what with its being a felony in most of the Western world and all that. Even if it weren’t most wouldn’t admit it, few bodybuilders and fitness models admit that on their trips to Thailand and Mexico they juice up, for example.

      While you’re bashing gear, just remember that unlike drugs at least they use it openly.

    • matt

      My point has nothing to do with bashing gear of any kind. My point is simply this, do not pass off numbers achieved in gear as raw numbers. More weight is lifted in gear, that is why people where it. While you may not do this there are people who do ESPECIALLY ON THE INTERNET. I agree that most aren’t going to admit to steroids. That was also part of my point. Mark Bell and Simmons said it on camera on a video they knew would be published for a movie, Clint Darden openly talks about his steroid use all the time. It aint a big secret.

  • Anonymous

    I understand that geared lifters get a lot of assistance from their gear and many folks don’t consider that “pure strength.” Like any sport, technology continues to improve the boundaries that the human species is capable of. Remember the controversy in Olympic swimming a few years back in regard to the full body suit being worn that reduced friction and allowed swimmers to move faster in the water. The same in sprinting, bicycle racing, or any other sport.
    There is also a misconception about how “pure” powerlifting was in its infancy. Stories of guys showing up with tennis balls in their tall sock behind the knees are common. Bench pressing with a touch and go style, depth in the super heavyweight class, even deadlifting with a sumo stance was once controversial.
    Some people choose to compete raw, others choose to compete geared. You rarely hear of a geared lifter talking down about raw lifters, the reverse is rarely true. Both types of lifters work hard and their accomplishments should be acknowledged. Its the same as if I were to disregard Michael Jordans accomplishments because balls were better, shoes were better, and gymnasium floors had more bounce to them.

  • Anonymous

    The first 1000lb squat was raw. Once again, showing your great research ability.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09881917370396752069 Cory P. Boyd

    Solid article Marshall. I did a PL meet back in November and jotted down a few thoughts on it as well.

    http://stronginwilltostrive.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-pl-meet.html

  • Anonymous

    It seem like you think that geared powerlifting is not real powerlifting. Yet using performance enhancing drugs doesn’t seem to bother you.
    I think a a squat by a drug free geared lifter is more of an achievement than a raw squat by a drug enhanced lifter.
    Don’t throw rocks in a glass house.

    • Anonymous

      Can’t tell if you are a troll, or just can’t read? Dude goes out of his way to say that geared is fine, he’s only asking that people be upfront about what gear they are using to help everyone understand what is going on.
      “We at LBEB are not bashing on geared powerlifting” “There is nothing wrong with being a geared powerlifter” “We have the utmost respect for geared powerlifters and we agree that these men and women are in fact very strong in their sport.”
      I mean, come on.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03545268693485552319 j harb

    I agree with most of the above, and I love and agree that raw powerlifting is making a major resurgance. Heres my report for those interested. I got into powerlifting after college football and what I was introduced to was geared lifting ( I am lifetime drug free and still am as a side note). My Best raw lifts at that time were 605 raw squat, 405 touch and go bench, 615 deadlift. My first meet ever, I wore only 2 ply squat briefs and knee wraps loose, I squatted 800. Bench with a single ply shirt I hit 500, Deadlift 600. I eventually added a suit ( the big thing is knowing how to use the stuff and fine tune technique. It is a little different from your raw strokes. The more patient the more you get out of it. I have seen people get 250 to 300 out of shirts, 3-500 out of squat gear, very little out of deadlift gear. Eventually I got my equipped lifts to 876, 575, 645. It took up so much training time getting into gear, and I was tired of KNOWING I was stronger than my competitors without the gear so finally I said fuck this. I started competing raw in 2009. I am now much stronger than I was before (715/425/645), and went from a full 275 to bouncing between the 242 and 259 class. I believe raw is what real powerlifting is…..or as some say “classic” or “unequipped”, basically as the forefathers of powerlifting in its hey day in the 60s and 70s did, belt knee wraps wrist wraps and a singlet. I will do everything in my power to help grow raw lifting and im glad to see you and Brandon supporting raw!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00046109027950432741 90inFIRST

      This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16621715135678665329 r3volutionary

    There was a spoof video floating around the Intertube a while back – “Sh*t powerlifters say.” The comment that stuck with me was the guy saying, “Was it ‘Raw raw’ or ‘Knee wraps raw?”. The feds are too many and too divergent in my opinion. Olympic lifting has one standard and guess what? No pissing matches about the lifts (bad judging aside). Anyway, as one commenter above mentioned, it is about being open and honest. If you used gear say what kind. If you use performance enhancers (even those just banned by the NCAA) – stand up and say so. If you are raw, state what your fed defines as raw.

    We have an International governing body in the IPF and I feel our sport would have a lot more traction and popularity if we all gravitated toward IPF rules. For a newcomer to the sport just seeing the list of hundreds of feds and trying to decipher what is and is not allowed can be daunting and ultimately turn people away to other things. Lift how you want to lift – but for the sake of the sport can we try to do it under five or less federations?

    At the end of the day, honesty is the best policy. “With steroids and four ply I squat 550Kg.” – Great. “Raw with a belt and knee sleeves and a drug test I squat 225Kg.” – Wonderful. If we need a current example about what lying about your achievements gets you, call up Lance Armstrong and ask him how that’s working for him.

    And for the love of all things post in Kilograms! :)

  • Anonymous

    So when your deadlifting with wrist wraps and a belt, and squating with a belt and knee wraps/sleevs… Is that also considered “Geared”?

  • MikeWilson

    I do all my squatting with a Smith Machine while wearing shirtless. Would LBED consider that ‘geared’?

  • Anonymous

    You mean to tell me that can bench significantly more jus wearing a specialized shirt? Lol thats just crazy

    • Anonymous

      you should do some research before posting ridiculous comments.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10304554232794630557 Jeremy Clifton

    Good article, I completely agree. I am good friends with one of the greatest benchers all time, and he and I have this argument occaisonally. I a 300lb raw lifter and he a 1000lb+ geared lifter. That being said he is a strong dude anyway. I choose to lift raw because i believe it is a truer measure of strength, but my son who is competing in High School Powerlifting I encourage gear or else he would not be able to keep up. either way just get strong.

  • Anonymous

    As long as there is competition, there will be people who seek ways to best their opponents, and even moreso when there is money involved. Such is the nature of our species. In light of this, the best option is to distinguish as clearly as we can the two variants, as others have mentioned.
    That said, the inherent goal of our – and any – sport is to showcase the abilities of the human body and/or discover which body (i.e., athlete) is best (fastest, strongest, etc.) at the given sport. It is therefore neither strange nor offensive to say that powerlifting records and regulations ought to be reserved for raw lifting. Having different “divisions” is not enough to maintain the integrity of either variant.
    After all, running and cycling are two distinct sports even though they share the same goal (traverse a set distance/course as quickly as possible) and vehicle for acheiving said goal (the muscles of the lower body, primarily).

  • Anonymous

    I want to see you LBEB athletes start doing your deadlifts with no straps and no ramping or hitching. I mean if we’re going to be elitist let’s be elitist. And while we’re critiquing all things strength lets start evaluating lifts in relation to the lifters body weight. I think that will pretty much show that your mouths are bigger than your lifts. But hey, whatever sell t-shirts right?

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02996401684724176243 Kristoffer Sunneson

    Haha, how about when strongman competitors wear their suits underneath their clothes at events such as WSM. Do they announce that they were geared to the crowd?

    Come on Marshall.

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  • Anonymous

    I benched 1000 ten times last night in my dreams :-) lol