Gear up

If you're just starting out with lifting properly, you might find yourself somewhat confused about the gear you need for lifting properly. And I don't blame you on that front. What with the explosive growth of CrossFit over the last few years, the number of BS fitness products out there on the market has grown in direct proportion to the number of people out there who just don't know what the hell they're doing.

The Didact, in the zone- do not disturb
Fortunately, the Didact is here to help you cut through the nonsense. You're welcome.

The great thing about powerlifting is that you can get everything you need to lift for like $200, tops, and it'll last for years. You don't need gloves, lifting bands, straps, branded pants, massage balls, or any of that other crap. You just need these five things:
  1. A comfortable cotton shirt. None of this ClimaCool, wick-away, high-tech polyplastic fibre nonsense. Just get a simple shirt that is neither tight nor loose.
  2. A comfortable pair of sweatpants, also preferably cotton. Again, no need for any silly excessive branding. Just wear something that stretches well, breathes, and absorbs sweat. That's all. No need to buy $120-a-pop branded crap.
  3. Decent footwear. It really doesn't matter much what you wear on your feet for squats and deadlifts, as long as you get a good planted feel from whatever you're wearing. The best way to get that feeling is to get shoes that keep the soles of your feet as close to the ground as possible. This means either flat soles or shoes that follow the natural contours of your feet. In practical terms, this gives you four options: Converse sneakers, wrestling shoes, Vibram Five Fingers, or going barefoot. Wrestling shoes cost maybe $65 for a decent pair, if that; I use them for martial arts training, but they're quite useful for powerlifting too. I use Five Fingers in my gym- I love those things- and they cost $90 a pair for the simple black ones. And I have lifted barefoot; if your gym allows it, I'd strongly recommend you do this, since you'll feel completely planted and secure.
  4. Lifter's chalk. You need chalk to help you grip properly at heavier weights for deadlifts and bench presses. If your gym doesn't like chalk dust flying everywhere, consider buying yourself an eco-ball. They're cheap, and they last at least 18 months. Each. They'll also help you strengthen your grip on deadlifts like nothing else on Earth. Don't bother with lifting straps until and unless you've reached the limits of your grip while maintaining good form.
  5. A REAL weightlifter's belt. I will readily admit that this was my biggest screwup for the last two years. I used to use Harbinger and Valeo belts, which are wide at the back and narrow in the front. Then I saw Elgintensity's video on the subject last week and I realised that I was making a huge mistake. A proper lifter's belt is uniformly wide and much thicker than those bodybuilder belts that those Captain Upper Body bro types wear in the gym, while working frantically through their Imaginary Lat Syndrome. I used a true lifter's belt this evening in the gym for the first time, and I can tell you right now- it makes a huge difference. The boost to your strength and confidence is tremendous once you realise that suddenly you can squat 315lbs (or more) for reps, down to depth, with good form, because your belt is giving you the pressure and push that you need. I dumped my old belt today and I'm never looking back.
You choose
Learning how to lift properly, and getting jacked- or at least getting strong and healthy- doesn't require you to spend ridiculous amounts of money on useless gear. Just stick to the basics, chain yourself to the squat rack (and please do us all a favour and shoot any jackass doing curls in it), master the basic lifts- squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, and barbells rows- and then call me in a year. I promise you'll be fine.


  1. Belts are over rated.

  2. I'm howling with laughter over that first pic.

  3. uh, 3rd actually. The uterus pic. Good find, and good overall advice.

    I don't know about belts, though. I think if you're lifting with appropriate form and not attempting weight for which you're not ready, you shouldn't need one at all, I've always felt they were a false-confidence thing, but YMMV. They don't appear to hurt when used properly, so I suppose it's a matter of preference.

    1. Belts are very useful when you reach heavier weights, but the biggest mistake that everyone makes about a lifter's belt is in thinking that they are for back support. You can destroy your back just as easily without a belt as you can with one. (Speaking from experience there.)

      All a belt does is give your abdomen something to push against when you need the support. It doesn't do anything to compensate for bad form.


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