In last week’s post I told you that you probably don’t need to worry about buying a bunch of gear right off the bat. A good pair of shoes and a notebook are enough to get you started. But there will come a point where it might really make sense to look at buying some basic equipment. So let’s talk about that.

Wrist wraps, knee sleeves, a belt, and often heeled shoes are the fundamentals for most powerlifters. For the most part, you’ll be able to tell when you need to think about buying any of these things. The weight will be getting heavier, you’ll be feeling more sore, and you may even notice everyone lifting the same weights as you is using equipment.

For knee sleeves and wrist wraps, you can probably pick them up once this happens. Maybe your knees are achy, or you feel a little unstable under the bar when you bench and think wrist wraps could help. It’s important that you don’t rely on equipment to fix these issues though. If your knees hurt, there is a reason. It might be normal wear from squatting, but if there is something deeper going on it won’t be solved by the sleeves. So make sure you are addressing any issues you have and only using your equipment to help you be pain free/more tight during your session.

Also don’t expect an immediate boost to your numbers once you buy wrist wraps or knee sleeves. Lifting is about accumulating reps, and wrist wraps and knee sleeves will help to reduce the cumulative stress to your body. That’s their real benefit (as well as making you feel tighter and more secure during your sets).

Now on to belts and shoes(again). When you are thinking about buying a belt, I strongly recommend holding off until you have spent a fair bit of time practicing bracing and getting familiar with creating intra-abdominal pressure. Using a belt before you actually know how to brace can mean you never really learn, and that will cause major problems in a few years once you are stronger. A belt can easily mask bracing issues early on in your lifting career, but those back and SI joint issues later won’t be fun.

Not everyone needs squat shoes. Their main purpose is to compensate for issues at the ankle. So if your issue is just poor mobility, it might be a good idea to put some work into that before dropping $200 on some shoes. But there are lots of people who will benefit from squat shoes no matter their mobility. If you have longer femurs, or find yourself leaning forward a lot during the squat, heeled shoes could help you. Similarly there are people with very upright squatting positions who struggle with their foot and ankle positioning during the squat. A heeled shoe could help them as well. If you aren’t sure if you should buy squat shoes, try placing some 5lb plates under your heels and doing some bodyweight squats. If you notice a real improvement, it might be worth it!

The thing to remember is that all equipment is optional. Many people have gotten really, really strong without wrist wraps or squat shoes. Never tell yourself that any one piece of equipment is going to make a massive difference: keep lifting, keep working, because that time and effort is the only thing that will actually get you as strong as you want to be.

- Nigel, Kizen Coach

Who is Nigel?

Nigel is a coach who has been competing in powerlifting since 2012 and started directing meets in 2017. Nigel began working as a personal trainer in 2013, was a part of the Ascendant Athletics team with Omar and Silent Mike from 2015-2016, and has managed the group coaching for Kizen Training since 2017. Through this work and coaching private clients, Nigel has worked with many lifters of all skill levels and from diverse athletic backgrounds. His best lifts in competition are a 661lb/300kg squat in sleeves, a 451lb/205kg bench, and a 639lb/295kg deadlift.

Instagram: @captain.planet

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