Strongman Gear 101: Everything You Need for Your Strongman Competition

TAGS: Rehband Warm Pants, Rehband RX Knee Sleeves, Super Heavy Elbow Sleeves, 13mm P2 Lever Belt, Constrictor Wrist Wraps, Maverick Wrist Wraps, Metal 2-Ply Lifting Straps, Figure 8 Wrist Straps, Strongman Gear 101, Strongman competition, matt mills, straps

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When I first got into strongman, the only gear I had was from powerlifting: an old pair of Chucks, a cheap Velcro belt, and a pair of wrist wraps. As I kept competing my collection of gear increased to the point that I can say I have tried just about every piece of lifting gear there is. As an athlete and a coach, I get asked a lot of questions on what to wear for certain events, and despite what some people think, it can make a big difference.


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I’ve seen many people miss lifts because they brought the wrong lifting gear. This may sound silly, but the wrong kind of belt on a log clean and press, for example, can make all the difference. Years ago I was discussing the sport of strongman with fellow elitefts athlete Vincent Dizenzo, and he was joking about strongman and how we “wrap ourselves up like mummies.” This is 100% accurate, and I have always said if it is allowed then you should be using it. You compete to win and to do your absolute best. I’m definitely not letting another competitor have an advantage over me just because they have a deadlift suit and I don’t.

Belt

A good belt is the absolute most important tool you can have. I’ve seen belts pop off people mid-lift, causing injuries and missed reps. Don’t get a cheap one. Buy quality the first time rather than have to buy multiple times. The 13mm P2 Lever Belt is the absolute best. I’ve had mine for years and it has never let me down. Easy on, and for those of you who have gotten stuck in a belt before, it’s just as easy off. I also love to use this belt for medleys. For example, if you have a yoke to a sandbag carry, you can have the belt on tight for the yoke, undo the lever, and pick up and run with the sandbag with no breathing issues from the belt being too tight.

For those of you that prefer a prong belt, the 13mm P2 Power Belt is perfect. I prefer this belt when doing a log clean and press or a continental clean with an axle. Check with the rules of your competition, as they all can vary, but if it’s allowed I will use my belt on the clean every time. For those of you that have a big “power belly,” you may not need to use a belt to clean the implements. The leaner you, are the more important using the belt becomes. Add the TK Waistband and you will have the most protection for your back. When it comes to strongman you will need it.

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Wrist Wraps

Pressing is possibly the most important event in strongman because there is always a pressing event — and many times two. The right kind of wrist wraps are extremely important. You do not want anything soft or with only a little support. The most common mistake I see is people getting wrist wraps that are way too short. I recommend for women the 60-centimeter wraps, and for guys the 80-centimeter wraps. You want to be able to wrap your wrist around a few times to cover a lot of area. The reason for this is not only wrist support, but also to be able to go a little further down the forearm to protect your wrist from the edge of the log. For those of you that have gotten some nice bruises from the log, you know what I mean. Get some longer wrist wraps, and not only will you stop bruising, but the clean will be much easier. I prefer to one-motion the log on the first rep, and I push my forearms pretty hard into the edge of the log as it’s coming up. Whether the event is a one-rep max or repetitions will determine how firm of a wrist wrap you will want. Similar to powerlifting, if it’s a max press then go with a firmer wrap like the Constrictor Wrist Wraps. For a high-rep event where you don’t want to lose feeling in your hands right away, my personal favorite is the Maverick Wrist Wraps.

Straps

Most deadlifts in strongman will allow straps and are absolutely necessary to have — and not some cheap pair you bought at the local sporting goods store. I guarantee you a cheap pair will rip on you at the absolute worst time, like in the middle of a competition (which, if you have competed for a while, you have seen this happen). The Metal 2-Ply Lifting Straps are the ones you need. They are well made, durable, and will not let you down in the middle of a competition. For those of you that have issues using straps, the Figure 8 Wrist Straps are for you. These are also ideal for using an axle; once you are locked in you will not let go. Figure 8 straps are also what I recommend for competitions when you have to strap in under a time constraint. They are the fastest to get into, and the experienced competitor knows every second counts.

Elbow Sleeves

I can’t stress this enough when it comes to strongman: you want to use all the tools at your exposure. Elbow sleeves can really help give you some pop out of your press, and also save you some wear and tear on your elbows. Again, there will be a difference in what you want to wear depending on the event. For a repetition press go with the Heavy Elbow Sleeves. They are tight enough to give you a good pop, but not too tight that your hands go numb. For a one-rep max event, the Super Heavy Elbow Sleeves are what you need. Just make sure you get the right size that are not too tight. I’ve actually had issues cleaning an axle from having the elbows sleeves too tight.

Knee Sleeves

The difference with knee sleeves, as opposed to elbow sleeves, is that you will need to move a lot more and will not want something too restrictive. The last thing you want is a hamstring cramp from having too tight of knee sleeves on when sprinting to the next keg. A good pair of neoprene knee sleeves are great to keep the joints warm and allow you to move. The Rehband RX Knee Sleeves do a great job of keeping you warm and mobile. Squatting isn’t as common in strongman, but you will definitely want to use a pair of knee wraps, and you have plenty to choose from here at elitefts.

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Shoes

Shoes are probably where I have the biggest collection. I’ve tried out nearly every shoe there is, hoping to get some kind of an advantage. What I wear depends on the event. For pressing events I prefer to be in a lifter or “squat shoe.” Some people may not need the heel raise, but I’m able to stay more upright when I dip to use my legs. I like the stability in the heel as well, whereas in flats I sometimes get off balance at lockout. I also like to use lifters for events like stones and power stairs. The reason for this is that it makes you just a little taller, and when having to load something over a bar, three quarters of an inch can make a big difference (insert "that’s what she said" joke). The same reason applies to power stairs; nothing is more frustrating than being so close but not having the height to get it over.

For heavy moving events like the yoke and farmers walk, I have recently been using hiking shoes. The support is great and I’m still able to move fast with a heavy load on my back or hands. Do not wear cushy running shoes for a heavy yoke because you will be extremely unstable trying to move. Simple running shoes are fine for when you have a medley where you have to run back and forth.

When it comes to the deadlift you can usually lift barefoot or in socks, which is what I would recommend. However, if you have to wear shoes I absolutely love the Metal Powerlifting Shoes. They are flat, provide good heel support, and give a great grip on the floor.

Finally, when you have a truck pull you definitely need a good pair of rock climbing shoes. My first strongman competition was pulling a fire truck, which was a lot of fun but I had no grip. Any other kind of shoe will leave your feet sliding all over the place. Rock climbing shoes are very uncomfortable but an absolute must if you have this event in your next competition. Be careful with sizing, as they tend to run very small. Trying them on first is best rather than buying online.

I’m also going to include an honorable mention for the Rehband Warm Pants. I basically wear these all day of a competition just to keep the hips warm. These are also great for stones, as your shorts won’t restrict when loading a heavy stone with a lot of tacky. With that, this list covers you literally from top to bottom with everything you should need for the sport of strongman. If there's anything else you like to use or you would like to add to this list, drop it in a comment.

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