Last Saturday I drove almost 3 hours up to Nottingham to have a trial equipped powerlifting session with Charlie Shotton-Gale and her coach Karl.
In brief, equipped powerlifting involves wearing special suits, shirts and wraps (depending on the lift) which are forbidden in unequipped (or ‘classic’) powerlifting. In the British Powerlifting federation the suits, shirts and wraps are still regulated and should be ‘single ply’ (that is, formed from one layer of material).
I had a go with a squat suit & wraps, and a bench shirt. There are also deadlift suits but they don’t give you a huge advantage over lifting unequipped.
First up was the squat suit. These things are REALLY hard to get on and are super tight and relatively stiff – but as it was my first time, the one I wore was relatively (I stress relatively) loose and soft. It still took a lot of effort to get it on – equipped powerlifting is NOT something you do alone, and you need to be comfortable letting people manhandle you! Once I had the briefs part of the suit on, Karl lifted me up by the shoulder straps and basically shook me into it.
I did a few lighter squats just in the briefs part of the suit (straps down), then put my belt on and did a few heavier squats. Then we put the straps up, Karl wrapped my knees, and I squatted 100kg+.
The wraps are basically long bandages you have tightly wrapped around your knee. The ones I used were soft and Karl wrapped them loosely…but again, in equipped powerlifting ‘loose’ & ‘soft’ are relative! My eyes were watering as Karl wrapped my knees and the last two revolutions made me gasp. Ouch!
Here’s a video of me squatting 120kg for 2 in the suit & wraps. As you can see I’m not hitting depth – apparently it’s unusual to hit depth the first time you squat equipped, as the suit & wraps are basically preventing you from going all the way down. The upside is that you feel REALLY safe and secure in the equipment and you get a huge bounce up at the bottom!
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Went up to @realworldfitness in Nottingham today to try out equipped powerlifting with @charliesgale. Had a bash at equipped squats and bench. I couldn't hit depth in the squat suit (but then when can I ever hit depth?!) and I couldn't touch in the shirt but it was super fun. Here is me quarter-squatting 120kg in full kit (my best unequipped is only 97.5). Turns out in equipped squatting you're MEANT to lean forward a lot, like I do (incorrectly in unequipped) so maybe equipped is my future?! 🤣 Still, even if I don't pursue it, it was great to learn about equipped lifting. Anything to make me a more well-rounded person-involved-in-powerlifting (I'm never going to be a great lifter so I'm trying to stay involved in the sport in other ways!) #powerlifting #equipped #squat #kneewraps #squatsuit #titan
I think that equipped squatting suits me because you’re meant to really lean forward and push your hips back, which is my natural squatting style. I struggle to stay upright when squatting unequipped.
Anyway, you can see how tight the suit & wraps are in the video, and also how unbelievably painful the whole endeavour is! But it’s oddly addictive – everything up to actually doing the lift is pretty horrible, but once you’re doing the lift it’s like YEAH THIS IS AMAZING!
Next up I tried a bench shirt. again, the shirt is tight and stiff and you need help putting it on. When you’re wearing the shirt you have to really pull the bar towards you and fight against the shirt. So inevitably, I ended up not being able to touch (i.e. touch the bar to my chest). Again apparently this is common for new equipped lifters. I have to admit I didn’t enjoy wearing the shirt as much as I enjoyed the squat suit. I was able to press 80kg (without touching) but 85kg proved too much.
Overall I REALLY enjoyed the trial and would definitely try it again. Equipped lifting requires a lot of investment and a good team & coach around you, so I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll pursue myself (the coach at BGWLC doesn’t coach equipped). But it was super fun to try!
So much for giving up on powerlifting though! Although equipped powerlifting is a very very different beast to unequipped, so much that it almost feels like a different sport.