Basic Raw Powerlifting Equipment for Women (and everyone)

by Courtney Eastman


Courtney Eastman - PLANTBUILT.COM

Courtney Eastman – PLANTBUILT.COM

I’ve noticed a lot of questions online from people, particularly women, who want to try their first powerlifting meet but don’t know which equipment is vegan or what exactly they they will need for meet day. There have been a couple other blog posts outlining what to expect on meet day so I won’t go into that but I will give a quick intro into the types of equipment that are required/optional for raw powerlifting meets. 


For info on first meets:



The first thing that you will absolutely need is a powerlifting singlet. This is probably everyone’s least favorite part at first! You’ll get used to it pretty quickly. If you are competing raw, which you probably are if it is your first meet you will need either a powerlifting specific one-ply powerlifting singlet or a wrestling singlet. They can be acquired fairly cheaply by searching google. Asics makes a women’s specific singlet that is fairly inexpensive and has good coverage in the front. Some of the unisex singlets are cut lower in the front which would likely require your to wear a tee-shirt underneath. You are required to wear a tee-shirt or a tank top which covers your back under your singlet for the squat and bench press but it is optional for the deadlift.


I also really like the classic Inzer singlet even though it is unisex. Be sure to read the size chart and select something that corresponds to your body weight and not the normal size that you wear.


There are also some awesome novelty singlets like giant cat faces available on google and Amazon. Make sure to check your federations rulebook about logos, etc., but most single-ply singlets should work for all federations.



Powerlifting Belt:

While a powerlifting belt is not a required part of the powerlifting uniform most people choose to wear them. Depending on your federation finding a vegan belt can be difficult.. In some federations you can get away with wearing nylon belts like the Harbinger or the Spud Inc ones available on and Amazon.  Most federations require a belt no more than 10cm in width and 13mm thick with either a prong or lever buckle. No velcro allowed. Normally these belts are always leather but Strength Shop makes both vegan buckle and lever belts. They should be legal for all federations. Be sure to double check with your federation.


While I didn’t have a issue with the sizing on strength shop belts, I have heard from other lifters that they run a little small so if you are in the middle of the sizing chart, you might want to consider sizing up. You also might want to consider ordering your belt ahead of time so you can begin breaking it in. They can be a little stiff if you are not used to “leather” like belts.


Knee length socks are required in the deadlift. They should be taller than the calf but not go over the knee. I normally get mine from American Apparel so I can color coordinate with my singlet but there are also a ton of cute novelty ones available. One of my teammates always competes in socks that say VEGAN on the side and she gets lots of compliments and comments from other lifters about them.


Wrist Wraps:

Wrist wraps are absolutely not required for powerlifting. Many people, including myself opt to wear them for bench and the squat. If you are competing in the raw category, they will need to be single-ply and not exceed  “1 m in length and 8 cm in width (USPA Rule Book, 11).”. Do double check your rule book but the 1m in length and 8cm in length stipulation seems pretty standard based on the rule books that I have looked at.


Straps are not allowed in any sanctioned  powerlifting meets regardless of gear category


I wear some plain wrist wraps from Nothing fancy is required. I’ve been considering buying a pair of  Mark Bell’s slingshot wrist wraps. I haven’t tried them yet but I would recommend lots of his other products so I am sure the wraps are also great if you want to spend a little bit more.


Knee Sleeves:

Knee Sleeves are another optional piece of equipment if you are interested in competing in raw powerlifting. If you are just starting out, I wouldn’t worry about them too much. However, if you have been lifting awhile it doesn’t hurt to try them out. I purchased the slingshot knee sleeves recently and I really enjoy how warm they keep my joints. The general rule with knee sleeves is that they should be made out of a single material like neoprene and cannot exceed 7mm in thickness and 30cm in length. There are tons of options but it seems that the most popular sleeves are the SBD’s, the Rehbands, and the newer Slingshot sleeves.


You are definitely going to want to follow the size charts on these and pay attention to the general fit versus the competition fit. A competition fit will be tighter and thus harder to get onto your knees but could have a little bit of strength carryover to your squat. I would recommend watching youtube videos and reading reviews online to get a good feel of what sleeve will be best for you. Again, completely optional but a legal piece of equipment for raw meets.



Shoes are required for meets. You can choose if you prefer something flat soled like converse or lifting shoes. Deadlift slippers are also allowed. To the best of my knowledge, toe shoes like Vibrams are never allowed. Shoes with cleats are also not allowed. If you have questions about your specific meet, it is always best to consult your rule book and even email the meet director.



I just wanted to make a quick note about underwear. The APA/WPA makes a note that bras are allowed as long as they don’t contain underwire/support. I’ve worn lululemon sports bras with cups and haven’t had a problem thus far. If you anticipate any sort of a problem, I would contact your meet director. I don’t see a rule about women’s bras in the USPA rulebook. Underwear is allowed (obviously) but it shouldn’t be supportive. An example of this would be compression bicycle shorts. Those would not be legal but regular cotton underwear or sports underwear would be. I would also recommend not going sans underwear as the fabric of lots of the singlets can be see-through under lights. This can be found out the hard way but I saved you the trouble!


That’s the basics! Powerlifting can be expensive sport especially if you consider getting into geared powerlifting in the future. However, the only things that you are absolutely required to wear are your singlet, knee socks and shoes. I would strongly recommend a powerlifting belt but the rest of the gear is optional. I hope this answers some of your basic questions. All of the gear that I mentioned is just stuff that I have personally tried or know about. This is just a starting point and there are plenty of other options out there. Although preparing for meet day can seem daunting at first, it becomes second nature after your first meet. Just go for it, you will be glad that you did. Also, always bring cookies. Trust me.

What's in my gym bag



USPA rulebook:,d.cGU


APA/WPA rulebook:

Courtney Eastman - PLANTBUILT.COM

Courtney Eastman – PLANTBUILT.COM

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