If you’re a powerlifter struggling with your form, or you’re new to the art of lifting in powerlifting gear, here are some tips you should consider.

First, wear your gear often, and put it on early as you’re warming up. You should even do this in the off-season, which I’ll define as more than ten weeks out from a meet. By doing this, you’ll break your gear in faster, and you’ll also get used to gear pressure under submaximal weights. This will improve your form and keep you from panicking when you’re using loads over 90%, and you’re under pressure.

Take equipped squatting, for example. When you’re not used to this style, bad things can happen. Your form will go to crap, you’ll panic and go way too deep, or you’ll go brain-dead and cut the squat by three inches. Let’s say you’re having depth issues squatting 700 in a Metal Jack squatter. I’d evaluate your form and see if it needs correcting. Once that’s straightened out, I’d have you start ramping your gear up early. This has to become second nature to avoid having any issues.

Here’s an example of what I’d have someone do to help build confidence five weeks from a meet. If you’re struggling with your depth and headed for a big bomb, this should be useful:

LIFTER: 700 pound squatter, cutting his squats 3” high

160 x 8 x 2
250 x 5 x 2

Add Jack briefs

340 x 3

Add Jack squatter – straps down

430 x 2

520 x 1 – 3 sets – straps up (very loose), and loose knee wraps

610 x 1 – 2 sets – full gear (straps by feel, tighter than last set, if possible), snug knee wraps. Knee wraps will NEVER hurt your ability to get depth. They’ll actually help you sit back into the suit and keep your knee joint stable, making you more comfortable and confident in your ability to sit back and “open up.”

650 x 1 – full gear, same as above, but everything gets gradually tighter. By now you should be much more comfortable and getting very close to depth.

700 x 1 with reverse average bands – everything tight like you’d have it in competition. The band will give you confidence, because the lower you go, the more the band will lighten the weight. You will, however, end up having to fight it down even more and practice opening up—forcing your knees out, holding your arch, and sitting back. Next thing you know, you’re 1.5” below depth and shooting up like a rocket.

750 x 1 – same setup, straps and wraps tighter. By now, you’re confident, you understand the process, and you kill this weight. One you can do that, I’ll tell you that this weight is actually 680 at the bottom, so there’s no reason for further depth problems.


One of my elitefts™ teammates, a great lifter in his own right, once asked me why I put on my briefs at 400-500 pounds when I’m squatting. This didn’t make any sense to him. I squatted a world record 1185 pounds at 275, but I was putting on my briefs at 500. I totally understood why he asked, so I explained my philosophy.

When you’re training for an equipped powerlifting meet, you want to be as comfortable and confident as possible with your gear, because that’s how you’re going to be competing. You have to practice the way you play. Now, some lifters can get away from wearing gear in the off-season (while they’re working on their weak points), then get right back to it in pre-contest mode, but if you’re not experienced or totally comfortable in your gear, you should really give this a try. It will help you dial in your gear and your form, and it’ll help you get everything you possible can out of your gear.