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Powerlifting is becoming increasingly popular with women both recreationally and competitively, but it can be difficult to know what equipment is worth the money and which brands to buy. Which items are must-haves, and which are optional?
The must-have powerlifting equipment for women are:
- Knee Sleeves
- Wrist Wraps
- Squat Shoes
- Deadlift Shoes
- Deadlift Socks
It can be confusing to know what equipment we need because of the number of products that exist, and the fact that most products that exist are designed for men.
In this article, I’ll discuss the purpose for each powerlifting item, why you would need them, and which product I believe is designed the best for women.
Recreational VS Competitive Gear: What’s The Difference?
The difference between gear that is appropriate for recreational lifters or competitors is whether it is approved for use in competition.
If a certain item or brand is not approved by the organization within which we plan to compete, it cannot be worn during the meet. This is important to know before purchasing equipment because if it is not approved and we plan to compete, it may not be worth the money.
Another important point is that even though a particular brand may be approved, it may only apply to some of that brand’s items.
This is because the owner of the brand must pay a fee to have the item approved for competition use, so a brand may be selective about which products they choose to get approved.
In addition, some equipment is denied approval because of the material it is made with, the logo it contains, and/or it would give lifters more support than is appropriate for the raw division of lifting.
To verify that the products we are interested in are approved in our federation, we should consult their approved list. We also wrote two articles that detail the approved list for two of the most popular powerlifting federations:
Rest assured, everything that’s listed in this article is approved for competition.
However, if we do not plan to compete in powerlifting and we train the powerlifts recreationally, it is of less concern whether a product is approved or not. In which case, we would purchase items based on personal preference and product quality.
If you have no idea where to start with picking a powerlifting federation then read my other article on USAPL vs USPA: What Are The Differences?
9 Must-Have Items For Women In Powerlifting
A belt is an important piece of equipment for powerlifters because it helps us create full body tension to protect the spine, make the weight feel lighter, and to lift heavier weights while decreasing the risk of injury.
The most popular belt for women is the Inzer Forever Belt (click for today’s price), because it comes in many different colors, is very durable, and is approved for competition use. I recommend the 10mm version of this belt, with a single prong attachment. For most women, the 13mm version is unnecessary.
The prong belt is ideal for women because it makes life easier when our weight fluctuates and/or we want to wear our belt at different levels of tightness for each lift. This is because it is easier to adjust a prong-style belt by just inserting the prong into the corresponding hole that gives us our desired level of tightness (as we would a regular belt for pants).
On the other hand, the lever belt which functions more like a latch is harder to adjust. It is more difficult because we must remove the hardware from the belt and reinstall it where we want it, each time we want to change the level of tightness. While many women do wear lever belts, it can be annoying if we are someone who experiences bloating or weight fluctuations.
The downside to the Inzer belt is that it is 4” wide, so if we are someone who has a relatively short torso, it may be too wide and dig into the ribs and hips when we are in the bottom of a squat or setting up for the deadlift.
Instead, most female powerlifters will prefer the Rogue 3” Ohio Belt (click for today’s price). This belt is 3” instead of 4” wide which can decrease discomfort and bruising of the hips and ribs that can occur if the belt is too wide for our torso. Although, it unfortunately does not come in any other colors or have a lever option.
Both of these belt recommendations are 10mm thick instead of the 13mm version because it is easier to break in for a more custom fit, it is more comfortable in the bottom of the squat and deadlift, and it comes at a better cost while still providing adequate support.
Other belt resources for women to check out:
- 10 Best Women’s Powerlifting Belts
- 10mm vs 13mm: How To Choose The Right Belt For You
- 3 or 4 Inch Powerlifting Belt: Which Is Best?
- Lever vs Prong Belt: Which Is Best?
A singlet is required for those who want to compete in powerlifting and must be sized appropriately so that the judges can see our hip crease in the squat, and ensuring our butt stays in contact with the bench in the bench press.
Until recently, there were no singlets specifically made for women and therefore they had a longer torso, a straight build that did not accommodate our waists or hips, and had a tight band around the legs that squeezed the thighs. They are sized according to a lifter’s weight class but the features of many singlets were mainly designed with men in mind.
However, the Virus Women’s Singlets changed the game for women in barbell sports by introducing an amazing singlet designed specifically for women. This singlet solves many of the issues that women were having with singlets that were designed for men.
They shortened the torso of the singlet so that the straps sit comfortably around the shoulders, since women are typically shorter than men at the same weight class. They tapered the waist of the women’s singlet which complements the waist and hips of lifters, and included contouring to make the singlet more flattering.
Most importantly, they widened the leg openings of the singlet and incorporated a hem that is not elastic, which accommodates larger thighs without the hem digging in.
This singlet has made it possible to move more comfortably, which allows us to focus on lifting heavier weights and not a poorly fitting singlet. However, the Virus singlet is not approved for use in national or international level competitions.
According to the USAPL (the most popular powerlifting federation in the USA), the virus singlets are approved at local, state, and regional level, but unfortunately not for national or international level events at this time.
Check out my complete review of the Virus Singlet.
If we are competing at this level of competition, then I would recommend the Titan Triumph Singlet which is made of high quality fabric that is completely squat-proof (not see-through). The downside to this singlet is that it is designed for men, so it may not be as flattering as the women’s singlets but overall it is excellent quality.
3. Knee Sleeves
Knee sleeves are a must-have for powerlifters because they keep the knees warm during training sessions, they can help us rebound out of the bottom of a squat, and provide support for the knee when we are in deep knee flexion.
If we’re looking for knee sleeves that are going to give the most support and that we can wear in competition, I recommend the STrong Knee Sleeves (click for today’s pricing).
They are 7mm thick which means that the material is thick enough to provide the most support and give more assistance out of the bottom of the squat and to keep the knee stable.
It is important to mention that because they are designed for competition-use and they are not particularly comfortable and can dig-in if worn for longer time periods.
If we’re looking for something that is more comfortable but still keeps the knees warm and provides stability for the knees, I suggest buying from Unbroken Designs(click for today’s price).
These knee sleeves are designed specifically for women, have more fun colors and designs, and are still 7mm thick which is perfect for squats and other lower body movements. However, if you’re planning to compete, ensure that the pattern you choose is approved for competition.
Other knee sleeve resources to check out:
- Best 5 Knee Sleeves For Powerlifting
- STrong Knee Sleeve Review: Pros, Cons, Are They Worth It?
- Should You Wear Knee Sleeves When Deadlifting?
4. Wrist Wraps
Wrist wraps are a must-have for powerlifting because they help to support the wrist joint when squatting and bench pressing, make weights feel lighter in our hands, and can increase grip strength for the deadlift.
Wrist wraps that are ideal for women are those that are between 16-20 inches long, the reason for this is because anything longer will have to be wrapped around the wrist more times which increases the amount of bulk on the wrist.
The 16-20 inch wraps are the perfect length for us to adjust the tightness of our wraps (which is difficult when the wraps are too short), while still getting enough fabric to create rigidity and support.
I recommend the Slingshot Gangsta Wraps because they provide support but also have enough flexibility to provide wiggle room, so that we don’t feel as if we are in a cast and can’t move at all. The material is more comfortable around the wrist and wraps nicely without the layers sliding out of place, even when it is not wrapped as tightly.
They are great for those who not only want to wear wrist wraps for support in the powerlifts, but also for accessory work like dumbbell bench or shoulder press as they are flexible enough that we can wear them without feeling like we’re losing circulation.
The color pallet is pretty minimal but there aren’t many brands (especially competition-approved brands) that have unique patterns or designs for wrist wraps.
Other wrist wrap resources to check out:
- Gangsta Wraps vs SBD Wraps: Which Is Better
- 20 vs 36 Inch Wraps: Which Size Is Best For You?
- 8 Best Wrist Wraps For Powerlifting
- 5 Wrist Wraps Benefits (And, Do They Help You Lift More?)
- How To Use Wrist Wraps (13 Tips Everyone Should Know)
5. Squat Shoes
Choosing the right shoes for squats is important for lifters to succeed by creating a stable base to transfer force through the legs, and to provide additional mobility at the ankle to squat to better depths.
I recommend the Adidas Powerlift (click for today’s price) because it comes in a variety of colors at a reasonable price, and has the perfect heel height for the majority of lifters. The 0.6 inch heel height will assist with ankle mobility, but isn’t so crazy that we feel as if we are being pitched too far forward – which is ideal for those who have good ankle mobility to begin with.
I also appreciate that the shoe has a more solid sole which allows for more spreading of the toes to provide a stable base for the squat. However, if we have narrower feet this shoe may feel too roomy.
Instead, we could consider the Reebok Legacy Lifter (click for today’s price) as it is built to accommodate narrow and wide feet by incorporating 2 different straps that can be adjusted to our preferences and ensure a snug fit.
This shoe is also a great option for those who struggle with ankle mobility because it has a higher heel elevation of 0.86 inches, which can help us get our knee further forward in the squat. This is especially helpful for those who have mobility restrictions at the ankle that prevent them from letting the knees travel forward to achieve an optimal position in the bottom of a squat.
However, these additional benefits come with an additional price, which may make the shoe less appealing to some.
Other squat shoe resources to check out:
6. Deadlift Shoes
Deadlift shoes are an important tool for powerlifters to have a stable base at the feet to transfer force from the legs into the ground. They should provide enough grip that the feet don’t slip, especially for those who pull sumo-style, and have a flat sole to avoid further distance the barbell has to travel.
The Sabo Deadlift shoe (click for today’s price) meets all the criteria required for a quality deadlift shoe for women because it is thin enough that it allows us to be as close to ground as possible to avoid further increases in range of motion for the deadlift, while still offering enough support for the feet and the ankles.
These shoes have two different straps (one over the midfoot, and one for the ankle) that can help increase support and also create a more individualized fit regardless of if we have wider or narrower feet.
The straps make this shoe the perfect shoe for women who pull sumo because the wider foot position of the sumo deadlift requires more stability of the feet when applying pressure to “spread the floor” to create tension through the legs to break the bar off the floor. The downside to these shoes is the limited colors that they come in.
If we pull with the conventional-style deadlift rather than sumo, we don’t need the foot and ankle straps and we may enjoy a deadlift slipper such as the Lifting Large Deadlift Slippers (click for today’s price) because of the closeness to the ground and the flat construction of the slippers, we are better able to exert force into the ground with a stable base of contact.
Another added bonus is that deadlift slippers are more budget-friendly, and come in a variety of fun colors and styles to suit our preferences.
Other deadlifting shoe resources to check out:
- Best Shoes For Deadlifts: Buying Guide & Reviews
- Sabo Deadlift Shoe Review: Is It The Best Deadlift Shoe?
- Can You Deadlift In Squat Shoes? (No, Here Are 5 Reasons)
7. Deadlift Socks
Deadlift socks are a must-have for powerlifters to protect the shins from scrapping and tearing that can occur from dragging the knurling of the bar up the shin. This is extremely important when sharing a bar with other lifters, as we would in a competition setting.
Deadlift socks must be long enough to cover the shin, which is the most susceptible area for bleeding from contact with the bar. A good pair of deadlift socks is a pair that are the right length, are resistant to tearing, but are scratchy enough that we don’t feel restricted in the calf area.
Because socks are usually sized based on our foot size, we need to ensure that the sock also fits the calf area. Nobody wants to wear a sock that pushes the fabric to its limit and restricts blood flow.
One of the best fitting socks I’ve found that fits the foot and also the calves are the Women’s Moxy Socks. These socks are great for protecting the shins because they are designed specifically for deadlift and have specialized paneling on the front of the socks that prevents the bar from scrapping the legs.
The fabric of these socks is thick but also breathable, which makes them more resistant to pilling and developing holes – which is a major downfall of regular high-knee socks when they are worn for deadlifts.
A T-Shirt is an item that is necessary for lifters who want to compete, because it must be worn underneath the singlet for the squat, bench, and deadlift. It should be a shirt with a round collar, and be free of pockets, zippers, stretchy material and unapproved logos.
The best shirts to wear under a singlet are t-shirts that are form fitting and are not too long. The reason for this is that if there is too much material it will be bulky under the singlet and make it harder to tuck in seamlessly around the hips. In addition, we should aim to have sleeves that cover the shoulders but are more fitted, because it will prevent bulk at the arms and traps when the singlet is on.
While there are some approved brands that make competition shirts, it is more budget friendly to buy generic shirts such as the Hanes Fitted Shirt, which comes in multiple colors and is tapered at the waist to reduce bulk.
During a competition we want to have underwear that is unrestricting, not the boxer or boy cut style, is comfortable, and lays seamlessly against the singlet.
In competition underwear with legs is not permitted because it may give extra support, but any other cut is allowed – so we should choose the style that we are most comfortable with because we don’t want to be distracted by underwear because we are uncomfortable, we want to be able to focus on our performance.
For underwear that is seamless, stretchy, and comfortable I suggest the Women’s Under Armour Underwear which comes in multiple cuts and colors at an affordable price.
If you’re thinking about competing for the first time, check out our article on How Strong You Need To Be At Your First Powerlifting Meet.
Optional Powerlifting Equipment
The most commonly used powerlifting equipment for women that is optional are:
- Mouth Guards
- Baby Powder
Mouth guards are used by some powerlifters who tend to clench their jaw or teeth while lifting to maintain mouth and dental health when lifting maximal or near-maximal loads.
The mouth guard that is designed for people who lift weights is the New Age Mouth Guard (click for today’s price), which is easy to mold to our teeth and lasts longer than the average mouth guard on the market.
To check out our full guide on mouth guard options for powerlifters, check out our article on the Best 5 Mouth Guards.
Powerlifters sniff ammonia during maximal attempts to stimulate the nervous system and trigger the release of adrenaline, which results in more alertness and focus – which can improve performance.
The most commonly used smelling-salt for powerlifters is Zone Smelling Salts (click for today’s price), because it is budget-friendly and maintains its potency for many uses by simply adding 1 tbsp of water and shaking to activate before intended use.
For a more in-depth explanation of the benefits of ammonia for powerlifters, check out our article on 4 Reasons Why Powerlfiters Sniff Ammonia.
Chalk is beneficial for powerlifters because it helps secure our grip on the barbell by reducing moisture from the hands. It is also commonly applied to lifter’s backs to help prevent the bar from slipping down the back.
Most powerlifters rely on chalk to lift heavier weights, especially in the deadlift. When we are warming-up to heavier weights, we will get warmer and our hands may become sweaty from the exertion, this is when chalk can come in handy and prevent us from losing grip.
Chalk is also beneficial to help us grip the bar when we are using a low-quality bar. A good quality women’s bar for powerlifting will have a more rough surface, which is referred to as the bars knurling, that can help us maintain grip.
When a bar is of lower quality it may be smooth instead which can make gripping the bar harder, so having chalk to increase our grip strength on the bar can be very beneficial.
A good quality chalk that we can rely on in training or at competitions to help us maintain grip or keep the bar in place on our back is the Spri Chalk Block (click for today’s price).
Lifters sometimes use baby powder on their legs to reduce friction of the bar against the legs in the deadlift. When we are pulling at maximal weights, we want to reduce the odds of the hands or bar getting stuck on the thighs – making the lift harder than necessary.
Most competitive powerlifters will dig out Johnson’s Baby Powder (click for today’s price) for their deadlifts because they want to lift the most weight possible and so it makes sense to control as much as we can control, to avoid missing the lift on something other than strength.
It is important to mention that if we plan to baby powder at a competition, we should put it on away from the platform and avoid getting it on our feet as we don’t want our feet to be slippery when we’re deadlifting. Oftentimes, a meet will have a designated baby powder area but when in doubt we can ask the meet director.
Baby powder can be used by recreational lifters as well, but it will create quite a bit of mess so it’s best to check with the gym staff before covering the gym in baby powder and to clean up after ourselves if it does get out of hand.
While we can lift successfully without any additional equipment, especially at recreational levels, if we want to achieve a certain level of lifting in the sport, we want to have every advantage we can to lift the most weight possible.
About The Author
Amanda Parker has a passion for competing and coaching in both powerlifting and weightlifting. She uses her knowledge from her Kinesiology Degree, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition certification to coach athletes and lifestyle clients for performance in training and nutrition. Connect with her on Instagram.