When designing a training cycle in preparation for a meet, there are a number of variables to account for: lift percentages, technical proficiency, sequencing of the main movements, bodyweight management, accessory exercises, recovery, peaking, etc. Add multi-ply gear to the mix and the number of variables increases dramatically. For today's Table Talk, Dave answers a question about one of the most challenging aspects of multi-ply powerlifting: the gear.

"How would you recommend geared lifters add equipment as they move into a meet? Is there a schedule you like for adding additional gear? At what point in time should they be in full gear?"

Before getting to the specific question, Dave first points out that the things that make a multi-ply lifter successful can also apply to raw lifters. He runs through four things that raw lifters and should learn from multi-ply competitors:

1. Take time getting set up with the weight.

When you're in multi-ply gear, you have to get everything extremely tight and locked in before starting a lift. If you're a raw lifter, this practice should still be in place. If a multi-ply lifter tries to unrack a squat or bench, and they're loose in any way whatsoever, they're fucked. Raw lifters should treat it the same way. Train your walkout and your setup to be as tight as you possibly can.

2. Let the weight ground you.

Once you take the weight out for a squat or bench, hold it for a few moments and let everything settle. The weight will help you get grounded and get tighter. It will only take one or two seconds to fully settle, but it will greatly increase the probability of making the lift.

3. Base your training on realistic percentage goals.

For multi-ply lifters, percentages change with every piece of gear you put on. Take the squat, for instance. There will be different maxes for each of the following:

  • Raw
  • Briefs
  • Briefs and suit with straps down
  • Briefs and suit with straps up
  • Briefs, suit with straps up, and knee wraps

You have to account for this throughout the course of a training cycle. For raw lifters, the same thing can be true even without all of the gear. Is there a difference between your squat with or without a belt? What about knee sleeves? Knee wraps? Outside of equipment, there are also differences between a competition max and a training max. Just because you squatted a certain weight at your last meet two months ago does not mean that you can squat it today. Keep these things in mind when doing percentage-based training.

4. Know when it's time to mentally lock into a lift.

If it's your work set, the set starts when you hit the chalk bowl. This is the point that your focus starts to increase and you get your mind in the right place. A person who has been around powerlifting for as many years as Dave can tell if a lifter is going to make or miss a lift just by their behavior before approaching the bar. Don't wait until you unrack the bar because the lift starts long before then.

When to Add Gear

The optimal method and timing for adding gear as a lifter gets close to a meet is going to change depending on what type of gear is being used (single-ply vs. multi-ply) and how tight the lifter plans to wear the gear. In any instance, for the squat Dave doesn't like to have a multi-ply lifter in full gear for more than one session in a training cycle. For multi-ply lifters, full gear means briefs, suit with straps up, and wraps. There should be an incremental increase in gear, only reaching full gear the week before the meet. The last three training weeks should look like this:

  • Three Weeks Out: Full gear, straps up
  • Two Weeks Out: Full gear, straps up
  • One Week Out: Full gear, straps up, knee wraps

For single-ply, wraps can be added earlier in the cycle and full gear can be used more frequently.

For the bench press, training days in the bench shirt can happen earlier in the training cycle and should be separated by weeks out of the shirt. Shirted training in back-to-back weeks tends to beat up multi-ply lifters and should be avoided if possible. If you need to be in gear more often to learn how to use it, Dave shares a few things you can do to avoid becoming too beat up. For instance, you can do heavy raw work before putting on a bench shirt. Because you will be fatigued once you add the shirt, you'll be able to use a lighter weight to learn the groove. The same is true for adding briefs after raw squat work.

The art of multi-ply is that you have to be strong enough to even use the gear, and also do so in a way that doesn't beat the shit out of you. It is very much an individual thing that requires a lifter learn to balance the increased demands of training and recovery.

If you're raw, Dave says you should take note of how equipped lifters add gear as they get closer to the meet. There is a sequence to how and when specific items are introduced. Even though raw lifters don't have the same equipment, they do still get a carryover from belts and knee sleeves or wraps, so you shouldn't start week one with everything that you will use on meet day. Develop the strength outside of these things and introduce them as you get closer to competition.

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