Strength training dominated my life from 1990 to 2006. Like most of you, I started lifting in high school and fell in love with the iron. Over the course of my career, I competed in powerlifting and strongman, co-founded a gym, gained 125 pounds of bodyweight, met a ton of great people, and enjoyed the journey of strength acquisition. Life happens to all of us, and my passion for strength training began to wane in 2007. Once you have it in your blood, however, it never really goes away, and a couple years ago, I found myself itching to get back in the game. I had dreams of competing again, setting new all-time PRs, returning to the top of my game! The only issue is I’m in my 40s now. I’ve finally got the money to buy all the toys, but do I really need them? Let’s take a closer look at the things I wanted versus the things I actually needed.

Wanted: elitefts Deluxe Monolift

Seriously, who doesn’t love the monolift? It’s the single greatest piece of engineering the sport of powerlifting has ever seen. I wanted a monolift. I needed a monolift. No doubt I’d be back to squatting over 800 within a year. I would be doing circa-max and strength speed work and would need some way to safely utilize 600 pounds of band tension. So what if I didn’t have anyone to actually run the mono or spot for that matter? I have the space and the means to buy one. If I could just hide it from my wife, I could actually pull this off. I could put a tarp over it and only use it at midnight. If she ever asked I would just say I was storing my friend’s four extra refrigerators for a while right in the middle of the garage. She would never suspect anything.

Needed: elitefts Garage Line 3x3 Power Rack

In reality, all I need is a power rack. The elitefts Garage Line 3x3 Power Rack would be perfect for my needs. It’s 80 percent cheaper than a monolift with 1,000 percent more usability. It’s something that doesn’t require another person to operate it. What about the band tension, you say? Turns out 150 pounds of bands is just about right at my current strength level, so I’m probably not going to need 600 pounds anytime soon, but until I do...

Wanted: elitefts Signature Competition Olympic Bench with Safeties, Foot Lever, and Logo Panels

That is a mouthful of a name for a bench. It reminds me of Ralphie asking for his “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle.”  If you don’t know who Ralphie is, we may have a problem.

This bench is awesome if you are running meets or have a gym where a lot of big groups bench together. The custom logo option is a nice touch, too. I had dreams of getting some clever logo together for my garage gym about how hardcore and badass it is. All I could come up with was “three spots left,” but that doesn’t sound hardcore, and besides, it’s already taken.

Needed: elitefts Garage Line Dumbbell 0-90 Bench

What I really need is a good, solid FID bench for my garage gym power rack. Something like, oh, I don’t know, the elitefts Garage Line Dumbbell 0-90 bench? This thing is built like a tank. Like the power rack, it is way cheaper than the comp bench and offers much more versatility.  

Wanted: Mastodon Squat Bar

Since I would soon be back squatting over 800, and since I was undoubtedly going to have at least 600 pounds in band tension on the bar in my new monolift, I needed a squat bar. I think it is against all federation rules to even consider using something other than a squat bar in a monolift. I couldn’t have the weights whipping on me. I needed 18 inches of knurling so the bar wouldn’t slide off my shoulders. Plus, how would I ever know if I was centered under the bar without that clever mark right in the middle? I simply couldn’t squat without the Mastodon Squat Bar. My comeback would be incomplete.

Needed: Texas Power Bar

Once again, reality set in, and I realized that a Texas Power Bar would be more than enough for everything I need to do. It’s not pretty, it’s not 8 feet long, it doesn’t have multiple-angled grips or a yoke, but it sure gets the job done. God bless Texas.

Wanted: Metal Canvas Squat Suit

When I left the sport in ’06, Canvas was moderately popular. I believe Ernie was still selling his version at that time, Inzer was fairly new to the market with the Leviathan, and Ginny Phillips was making a nearly bulletproof canvas suit that a lot of top lifters liked. Poly was still enjoying popularity in the squat suit market though, especially the Metal poly suits, and it seemed like most of the top lifters were using them. Fast-forward to today, and I can’t remember the last time I saw someone wear anything other than canvas. Either that or raw.  What is raw anyway? You’re raw, but you wear a belt and knee sleeves or wraps to lift more? How does that make any sense? Some gear is OK, but some aren’t? Anyway, back to the subject at hand. If I were going to squat big weights and maybe take a run at squatting a grand in my new monolift with my new Mastodon squat bar, I would need a canvas suit. The Metal suit looks like it’ll do just fine. I’ll get it to fit perfectly with all the custom adjustments, and because it’s canvas, it will automatically add at least 600 pounds to my squat. The monolift will add another 600 pounds, so I figure I’ll be giving Hoff a run for his money at my next meet.

Needed: Metal Jack Briefs, STrong Elbow and Knee Sleeves, and Gangsta Wraps

Turns out you don’t just jump back into powerlifting and regain all the strength of your youth in a couple of months. You know what else? Your joints tend to hurt more, too. I would be much better off purchasing some Metal Jack Briefs and some STrong Elbow and Knee Sleeves from some dude named Smelly. Not sure that’s the best nickname for a guy in the business of selling sleeves, but it works for him. I might even pick up some Gangsta Wraps cause that’s how I roll.

At the end of the day, all the equipment I’ve mentioned has its place. Monolifts, custom benches, and specialty bars are great for commercial facilities. If you have the space and the means, they are great at home, too. You may realize that you can get by with a lot less and still achieve the same results all while saving some space in the garage. Your quest just to regain that old strength might take a bit longer than planned as well, but it’s all part of the journey.

Now get back to lifting while I try to figure out where to put a belt squat machine.

Garrett Harper affiliates himself with his best competition total: 2,050 at 308.