Advice for the Gear Novice/Beginner

TAGS: squat briefs, Joshua McMillan, deadlift briefs, Josh Hachat, squat suit, Brian Carroll, bench shirt, metal, gear, matt rhodes, bench, deadlift, squat

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and you’re ready to invest in Metal gear for the first time.

Well, that’s a pretty big plunge and it’s not always easy.

There’s an abundance of options and you certainly don’t want to start this journey by tripping and falling.

The solution?

Heeding the advice that follows from EFS sponsored lifters Brian Carroll, Joshua McMillan and Matt Rhodes.

All three are strong, all three are experienced in gear and all three know more than you do about it.

Carroll said a lot depends on each individual’s goals, but he would have a gear novice start in looser, single-ply equipment.

“They should have good technique in and out of the shirt and suits,” Carroll said. “They should be aware that it takes time to feel comfortable and even more time to master.”

If you’re in this for the long haul, it’s best to start correctly to set you up for success down the road.

McMillan and Rhodes took the time to answer some questions directed toward the gear beginner or novice, touching on a number of important and informative points.

So, be wise — read below and follow their instructions.


Question: What Metal gear would you recommend for someone who has never used any before?

Joshua McMillan: I have had my training partners that have never used gear before start with the IPF line of Metal Gear.  It allows them to work with gear, but it isn't as hard to work with as the Pro line.  The single-ply is also great to start with.

When they master that and their raw lifts come up, start switching into some Pro line Metal Gear.

Matt Rhodes: I've always believed practice how you play. If you want to wear multi-ply gear, get the best you can get. If your ultimate goal is to get an Ace Bench Shirt, get one.

The only thing is, make sure it's loose.  Get a size bigger than you need. This will allow you to wear it and touch and lift weights that you are comfortable handling, while also learning how the shirt will change your groove.

As you get more proficient, you can move into a tighter shirt. I think the biggest mistake people make is getting the tightest gear out there. They never really learn how to maximize their loose gear before they get in their tighter stuff.

So, I recommend using the gear that you want to use. Just make sure it’s loose and you can learn to work it.

Q: What should the beginner be looking for when looking to buy gear? What pointers would you give to steer them in the right direction?

Joshua McMillan: I believe this depends on where their raw lifts are. If the beginner were benching 225 pounds at a bodyweight of 200 pounds, I would keep him/her clear of gear for a while.

With a bench shirt, you want something that is easy to touch in (most likely single-ply) and is forgiving. The last thing you want to do as a beginner is get in a stiff shirt with not the most locked-in geared bench technique and try to touch.


Matt Rhodes: I think this goes along with the above question.  When you want to buy, I would look for gear that will last.  Unless you have disposable income, buy the best you can and plan to be in it for a while. I've been in the same briefs for 4 years.

I find no reason to get new ones because I still feel they work. That being said, I do have a new pair that I plan on breaking in as I prep for my next meet.

Q: Should a beginner jump in with a bench shirt, and squat and deadlift suits, or just start with one and eventually work up to more?


Joshua McMillan: In my opinion, if they are going to jump in one, they might as well jump into them all.  But, before you jump into a squat suit, I would start with squat briefs, and the same with the deadlift. Start with briefs first, and then jump into the suits.


Matt Rhodes: If they buy loose gear, I think they can give it a shot all at once. I would recommend spending one week in the squat gear, one in the bench shirt, one in the deadlift gear and then repeat.  Basically, if you're brand new to gear, focus on one piece per week. Understand that it will take some time, so be patient.

If you're having trouble learning it, then I would perfect one before I move onto the next. It could get frustrating, so, again, be patient. It's a learned skill, much like pass blocking or swinging a golf club, so you can't just do it and expect to be good.  It's a learned skill, so you have to practice.

Q: What should someone expect the first time they put on the gear?


Joshua McMillan: They can expect gear to be uncomfortable, and it should be tight. For squatting, they will have a hard time getting down. For benching, they will have a hard time getting the bar down to their chest. For the deadlift, they will have a hard time getting down to grab the bar — that’s if their gear fits and it’s tight enough.

Matt Rhodes: You'll hate lifting. Your numbers will go down and you'll question why you're in gear. But buy it loose and it won't give you as much trouble.

There will also be joint pain.  As you start handling more and more weight, your joints will take a beating.  Make sure to stay on top of that as your training continues.

Ice every time you use your gear. When it gets to the point where it hurts, you've gone too far and will need to back off.

It's a learning process, but try to enjoy it. In time, you will succeed if you put in the time.

Q: What would you say is the best way — or some of the best ways — to work into the gear and feel more confident in using it?


Joshua McMillan: I would start in briefs and get used to briefs before jumping into a suit. Then, once you are comfortable in briefs, just wear the suit without briefs. What has helped the guys I work with is using the box to squat off and taking it lower to the ground each week to break the gear in. It also gives them something to shoot for when descending.

Bench: With bench shirts, this can take some time. I would start off with only using boards.

First week: No lower than three boards.

Second week: Work three boards down to two boards.

Go from there on how it feels. This will loosen up the shirt, get the lifter used to how it feels and also will help stretch out the shirt seams so it doesn't blow out.

Deadlift: I would pull in briefs to start, switch over to a deadlift suit with straps down for a couple weeks and then straps up after that. This is the easiest suit to get used to.

Matt Rhodes: Again, use loose gear for reps.

I like triples for most beginners. This allows you to handle heavy weights, but not maximal, so your confidence should be good. I would work triples until every rep looks identical.

If each rep touches in a different place or you sit back on one squat but sit down on another, there is no sense in going heavier.  All you will do is solidify bad form. Practice makes perfect and every rep should be identical. You should be able to tell when you're off.

If you get up and a training partner tells you that you were all over the place and you couldn't tell, you need to lose the ego and keep it light until you're perfect.

Learn it now so you don't get hurt and have to break bad habits.

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