Getting ready for a powerlifting meet? The last thing you want is to get disqualified over something you’re wearing after the amount of hard work it took to get there!
To avoid this horrible scenario, you’ve come to the right place. Today, I’ll be listing and discussing all the competition gear for powerlifting, as well as give you my personal recommendation for products in every category.
But before we get started, there are a couple of points regarding powerlifting gear that you should be clear on:
- On a competitive level, only certain gear is allowed in a powerlifting meet. These are the ones we’ll be talking about here.
- All the gear and products I’ll be mentioning today are legal in compliance with the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). This is the largest governing body for powerlifting, so we’ll be sticking to their rules today.
- Not every piece of gear is mandatory. Actually, as you’re going to find out, most powerlifting equipment is optional. But even if it’s optional, the fact remains that most gear will help you lift more weight thanks to the added support.
- You should absolutely avoid buying just any gear from any seller, simply because there are both approved and unapproved equipment manufacturers, so you need to be extra careful. No need to worry though, I’ve done the homework and made sure that any manufacturer listed in this article is indeed approved.
With that out of the way, it’s now time to get down to business.
A powerlifting belt is one of the most iconic pieces of equipment when it comes to powerlifting gear. You’d think that it’s mandatory, but wearing powerlifting belts is optional.
The purpose of a powerlifting belt is to keep the back steady during heavy lifts by maintaining proper intra-abdominal pressure. The added core stability helps powerlifters lift more weight.
Although not required, I strongly advise you do wear a belt to enhance your overall performance. Of course, you can choose to ditch the belt in training to build strength (and confidence) without support, but make sure you go back to wearing the belt before a meet with enough time to get accustomed to your gear.
Powerlifting belts come in various styles, the two most popular ones being single-prong and lever belts. Single-prong belts are enduring and very low maintenance, while lever belts are pretty easy and quick to take on and off. However, single-prongs belts are difficult to get on and off and lever belts are only adjusted with a screwdriver.
You’re allowed to wear a belt with a maximum width of 10 cm and a maximum thickness of 13 mm. The belt must be made of a non-stretch material without any extra padding, bracing, or supports.
My recommendation for a powerlifting belt would be this lever belt from LiiftngLarge.com. Besides the high-quality suede leather material and the sleek look, I really like that it can take serious beatings for years thanks to the heavy-duty stitching. I’ve had mine for 12 years and it still works like brand new.
The sizing is pretty straight forward too, simply measure your waist circumference and order the belt size within the range provided.
One last tip on powerlifting belts – be sure not to wear yours too tight! This is a common rookie mistake.
The correct way is to wear the belt a bit loose so you leave some room for your abs to push out against the belt. Remember, the goal here is to create intra-abdominal pressure that’ll support your back.
Shoes are mandatory; you must wear something to cover your feet during all the lifts.
Think of shoes as the foundation that’s supposed to carry your body and the weights you’re lifting. So unless you’re wearing a ‘solid foundation’, which is proper footwear, you’re at a high risk of demonstrating subpar performance or sustaining an injury.
You see, powerlifting shoes are specially designed to grip the ground for efficient delivery of force.
Too much compression is a no-no for lifting weights because compression actually absorbs force as you push against the ground. This will cause you to lose poundage.
On the other side, flat and hard soles on shoes will give zero compression so that all the force originating from your legs will transfer through the shoes and straight into the ground.
Powerlifting shoes are also here to put your body in the most optimal position. In the squat, this means wearing a shoe that places your hips in an advantageous position to squat to the proper depth.
In the deadlift, this means that you’re wearing a minimalistic shoe where you’re reducing the range of motion you have to pull the barbell.
Not only are shoes mandatory, but also no part of the underside of the shoe may exceed 5 cm in height. Additionally, the underside must be free from projections or doctoring from the standard construction.
As for my recommendations in this department, I think the Adidas Powerlift 4 Shoes make for excellent squat shoes. I like how durable the outsole is and the way it creates a snug fit. It has a hard sole and a slightly raised heel that puts your body in a more mechanical efficient position while squatting.
For deadlifting, I’d go for this minimalistic pair of deadlift shoes from Sabo Sports. Unlike deadlift slippers, I really appreciate the extra side support on the outsole. This allows you to spread the floor without worrying about your ankle rolling over or feet sliding.
For bench press, you can wear either the squat or deadlift shoes I recommended above. It’s just a matter of personal preference as both of these shoes will allow you to drive into the floor with your legs, without having your feet slip.
I’d also like to point out that most lifters start out with at least two pairs of shoes. You can also use a different pair for every lift as many lifters, including myself, do later on in your powerlifting career.
Much like wrestling, a singlet is a mandatory piece of equipment to wear for powerlifting competitions. The reason behind wearing a powerlifting singlet isn’t to add any kind of extra support or protection, but it’s just to make sure that you don’t get any part of your attire caught in the rack, barbell, or bench.
Additionally, wearing a singlet helps the referees determine whether you’re moving to the competition standards. For example, proper depth in the squat requires the referee to see whether your hip crease went below the plane of the knee. If you were to wear baggy shorts or leggings, this would be impossible to tell.
This is why singlets are required to be tight-fitting without any looseness when worn. Powerlifting singlets are to be entirely made of fabric or synthetic textiles in single thickness, with a second thickness of material allowed only in the crotch area.
As for what to wear underneath, you should know that non-supportive underwear is banned, which means you can’t wear anything with rubberized fabrics except in the waistband. So it’s either classic briefs or boxers, but not compression tights.
That being said, the main thing to keep in mind here is that only certain brands are approved by the IPF for the manufacture of powerlifting singlets. So while you can get cheap wrestling singlets off from any sporting goods store, you cannot wear these in a powerlifting competition.
The Triumph Powerlifting Singlet is a great choice if you’re in the market for amazing fit and comfort. I especially like the quality of the stretch fabric and the spandex leg bands because they keep everything secure in place. Other singlets have a sheer material, which either becomes see-through over time or doesn’t offer a secure fit.
Powerlifting Knee Sleeves
Powerlifting knee sleeves are one of the supportive gear that you’re allowed to wear in powerlifting meets. They’re optional, but almost no lifter ever competes without a pair.
The main reason is that knee sleeves reduce friction in the joints, which promotes smooth joint movement. This can be attributed to the ability of the knee sleeves to keep synovial fluid around your knee joint warm. In the long run, wearing knee sleeves helps reduce the risk of tendonitis.
Powerlifting knee sleeves are made of a single ply of neoprene. They must be worn on the knees only; you can’t wear them on any other part of your body (like your elbows), and they must not come in contact with your singles during the lift.
Approved knee sleeves have a maximum thickness of 7mm and a maximum length of 30 cm.
My recommendation for knee sleeves is the Titan Yellow Jacket. They have the utmost support, offering a unique X-frame stitching across the centre of the kneecap.
Unfortunately, they only come in one color (purple), so if you don’t like that style then my close second recommendation are the knee sleeves from Sling Shot. The brand was IPF approved starting from 2019 and these particular knee sleeves were designed by the legendary lifter Mark Bell.
Both knee sleeves have high levels of support and compression, yet still are comfortable and secure.
Besides avoiding injury, many lifters use knee sleeves as a way to avoid squatting high. They do so by becoming used to the sensation of the stretch followed by the bunch in the hole at a certain depth.
Powerlifting Wrist Wrap
Not be confused with wrist straps that are never allowed in powerlifting meets, wrist wraps act to deliver structure and support to the bones and ligaments of your wrists. They help prevent flexion at the wrist joint.
Wrist wraps are optional, but a lot of lifters regard them as crucial to avoid injuries of the wrist that may force you to stop lifting altogether until healed. Wrist wraps allow you to get into a better biomechanical position, which in turn and indirectly, can help you lift more weight.
Powerlifting wrist wraps must not exceed a length of 1 cm and a width of 8 cm. When you put on the wrist wraps, they must not exceed 10 cm above (towards the elbow) and 2 cm below (towards the hand) the center of the wrist joint.
A reliable pair of wrist wraps would be the Titan Signature Series Wrist Wraps. I really like the extra tension these wraps provide, and I think you’ll agree once you give them a try.
You can get these wrist wraps in various sizes (shorter or longer). My recommendation is to get the 24-inch. However, if you’re someone handling over 400lbs on the bench press, you’ll want to get the 36-inch for added support.
As for knee-high socks, they’re only mandatory to wear while performing the deadlift. But for all other lifts, socks are options.
The sole purpose of knee-high socks is to protect your shins from being cut by the bar knurling so you don’t get blood on the barbell.
You can wear powerlifting knee-high socks of any color or combination of colors. However, the socks must not be so long that they come in contact with your knee sleeves or knee wraps.
I personally recommend the Adidas Rivalry Field OTC Socks as they provide arch and ankle compression for extra stability, along with moisture-wicking properties to keep the feet dry and cool.
All lifters are required to wear a t-shirt under their lifting singlet during the squat, bench press, and deadlift. The construction of the t-shirt must be free from any stretchy materials and has no pockets, buttons, or zippers.
It must carry a round neck collar and sleeves that don’t cover the lifter’s elbow. You can also choose any color you like.
I really like this t-shirt from Hanes because it’s made of 100% cotton, and all shirts worn in powerlifting competition must be made of cotton, polyester, or a blend of these materials.
It also doesn’t have any logos. Depending on the level of competition you’re competing, there may be a restriction on the kind of logos you can or can’t wear. Check with the meet director for your competition to clarify these rules.
Chalk is an optional item to use in powerlifting, but it’s absolutely essential for many lifters as it seriously improves grip strength for deadlifts, as well as helps prevent the bar from sliding during squats when applied on the back.
Also, you can put it on your hands for the bench press so that the bar doesn’t move around in your grip.
The SPRI chalk block is an excellent choice. It effectively absorbs moisture to give you a very secure grip.
Most competition will have chalk available. However, I’ve been at competitions where meet directors have run out of chalk, or the chalk being supplied is low grade (i.e. not ‘grippy’ enough). For these reasons, I always suggest bringing your own chalk. Just put it in a Tupperware container and toss it in your gym bag.
The very same baby powder that you can commonly find in households is allowed for optional use in powerlifting meets.
Lifters often use baby powder to cover their legs during deadlifts to minimize friction and let the bar slide easier on their thighs. It’s not a huge help, but every bit of advantage is important when you’re in a competitive setting. If it’s your first competition, it may not be something you want to try. But all elite powerlifters wear baby powder for deadlifts.
While you may apply baby powder to your body (avoid the hands) and attire (excluding the wraps), it’s not allowed anywhere near the competition platform or barbell.
Good old Johnson’s baby powder is my personal choice since it quickly takes up moisture. It’s also pretty affordable and lasts for a long time.
Finally, you’re allowed to use ammonia in powerlifting meets. However, you must not use it in front of the audience.
Lifters hit (or sniff) ammonia before doing big lifts to “get in the zone” as this chemical substance promotes alertness. The best option here is Nose Tork which is concentrated liquid ammonia that’s much more convenient to use than ammonia caps.
If you don’t use ammonia already, you don’t need it to compete in powerlifting. I’d say less than half of lifters use it, and most only use it for a 3rd attempt lift.
There you have it, a list of competition gear for powerlifting meets. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, all the products listed are legal and approved by the IPF, so you should be able to use them without a worry.