Raw vs Equipped Powerlifting

If you ever talked to someone about powerlifting, you might here the terms “raw” or “equipped”.  To break it down in the simplest of terms, raw lifting is known in some powerlifting federations as lifting with nothing but a belt, or a belt and knee wraps.  Equipped powerlifting allows all different sorts of equipment including, bench shirts, knee/wrist wraps, squat and deadlift suits.  There is a huge debate in the sport on who is actually stronger and what is more impressive, someone who lifts raw or someone who lifts with gear.

The reason for this debate is when you wear equipment, you gain anywhere from 20-30% on your lifts.  I know this for a fact because I can total somewhere around 1900 pounds raw but my total goes up closer to 2300 pounds equipped.  This is where the debate comes in because some people feel the equipment is the reason for the big numbers.  I have lifted in several meets raw, and even more equipped and I can tell you first hand when you’re lifting heavy weights, it’s YOU that’s doing the lifting.

Old school lifters feel wearing equipment is cheating because when powerlifting first started, lifters basically only had belts.  When bench shirts and other equipment finally started showing up it wasn’t like it is today with it being more supportive and actually letting them lift more.  To me this is basically the evolution of any sport, to improve.  I feel wearing equipment not only gives you more support, thus protecting you, but also lets you lift more.  It’s a win/win for me.

With that said, putting on a bench shirt or squat suit doesn’t automatically make you stronger.  Sure, the bench shirt will give you explosion off your chest and a squat suit will shoot you out of the hole, but if you can’t lock out the weight you’re handling than you’re missing the lift.  This means you have to become stronger in order to handle the heavier weight… which is the main goal in powerlifting, strength.

I feel the best of both worlds is to train both ways.  I feel lifting raw increases my equipped lifting, and vice versa.  The last thing I want to do is become dependent on the equipment and let my raw strength become weaker.  This is a fine balance and if you have looked over my different training workout blogs you see there is a good combination of both heavy raw and equipped lifting.  I like the feeling of being able to compete in any type of lifting and not only be competitive, but towards the top.

I hope this sheds a little bit of light on why some people dislike equipped lifting.  Of course it’s nice going to the gym or to a meet with only a belt and lifting, but for the added support and weight, equipped lifting is my choice.