by Courtney Eastman
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 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.
If you enter a powerlifting meet you need to ensure your powerlifting gear is approved by the federation in which you compete. Most powerlifting federations have certain rules around the brands you can and cannot wear on the platform, in addition to the specifications and material. Just be sure to check the rules before competing by reading your association’s “approved equipment list”!
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 a powerlifting specific one-ply singlet. They can be acquired fairly cheaply by searching google. A few good options are Titan, SBD, and Inzer. Some of the unisex singlets are cut lower in the front which would likely require you to wear a tee-shirt underneath. In fact, you are required to wear a tee-shirt or a tank top that covers your back under your singlet for all 3 movements (squat, bench press, and deadlift).
I 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.
Make sure to check your federations rulebook about logos, etc., but most single-ply singlets should work for all federations.
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 bodybuilding.com and Amazon. Most federations require a belt no more than 10cm in width and 13mm thick with either a prong or lever buckle. female powerlifter, you will likely be better purchasing a 3-inch vs 4-inch powerlifting belt because you will have a smaller torso than men and the belt shouldn’t feel like it’s digging into your rib cage. 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 are absolutely not required for powerlifting. Many people, including myself, opt to wear them for the 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 strengthwraps.com. 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 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.
Most knee sleeves for powerlifting will either be 5mm or 7mm thick. Top-level powerlifters wear 7mm knee sleeves because of the additional support it provides. As well, powerlifters also like to size down by 1 when buying knee sleeves for competition. This is because extra tight knee sleeves can help you rebound out of the bottom of the squat under heavy loads.
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.
Most lifters will wear heeled shoes for squats, and flat-soled shoes for deadlifts. The heeled shoe in the squat will allow you to have greater hip and ankle mobility to achieve a deeper bottom position. The flat-soled shoe in the deadlift will bring you closer to the floor, which reduces the overall range of motion you need to pull the barbell from start to finish. Popular shoe brands range from Adidas, Nike, Reebok, and Sabo.
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 a 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.
USPA rulebook: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fuspla.org%2Fhome%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F07%2FUSPA-Rulebook-v052713.pdf&ei=1QL0VMTeNJK0ogSH4YGoBw&usg=AFQjCNFM75PydlbYDJR5C16T6UP1v5xduA&sig2=7WXLELUvgbE_PmRZpyR0Gw&bvm=bv.87269000,d.cGU
APA/WPA rulebook: http://www.apa-wpa.com/rules.html