WSBB Blog: Raw to Geared

WSBB Education
Thu Apr 08, 2021

Tags: Powerlifting, Basics, Accommodation

Time to Read: 3min

It is no secret that for the past decade there has been a shift from geared powerlifting to raw powerlifting. However, we are beginning to see raw powerlifters utilize powerlifting gear in their training, and a few have even begun competing in both disciplines. Here at Westside Barbell, we have been in the geared powerlifting game for a long time, and the raw powerlifting game even longer. Many do not realize, Louie Simmons began his powerlifting career as one of the top raw lifters under 200lbs in the country. Below, we will offer some advice to help you transition from raw powerlifting to geared powerlifting with success.

Find Your Form

One of the biggest obstacles a raw powerlifter will have to overcome when beginning their geared powerlifting career is how to move in the gear. Considering the fact that the most restrictive gear a raw powerlifter uses is a set of wrist or knee wraps, most will have specific movement patterns when it comes to each of the three lifts. When lifting in gear, you not only have to find the position where you are strongest, you have to move with the groove of the gear as well. This takes some time to learn because unlike raw powerlifting, gear powerlifting requires a greater level of precision.

As a raw lifter, all you have to worry about is moving the weight within competition regulation to complete a successful lift. When lifting geared a whole new set of issues arise. If your gear is too tight that day, you will feel out of the groove and miss lifts. If you have your straps too tight or too loose you will miss lifts. Considering you are working with weights well above your natural level of strength, when you get out of the groove in any way it means game over in geared lifting.

So, first thing to do, get in your gear and find what stance and form work best for you to be able to successfully complete a lift. Doing this is simple, gradually load the bar until you are able to properly use the gear. Then, gradually work up in weight until you are able to complete a full range of motion rep in your gear. Once you find that weight, keep it on the bar, and hit sets of three to five reps with the lighter weight focusing on using the gear properly.

Adjust Your Programming

Programming wise, there are many similarities in the way a raw and geared lifter will train. However, when the goal is being as strong as possible in gear, adjustments need to be made. When training the squat raw powerlifters typically train full range of motion squats regularly.

Our geared lifters will usually take one full range of motion squat in full gear per month, with the rest of the squatting being done to a box using only squat briefs. We also include raw squatting, usually once per month for a main exercise, and frequently in our accessory training. When it comes to the bench press we train raw more often.

Usually, we bench to a max in a shirt once per month, with the rest of the month’s bench training being performed raw. If a lifter is new to the bench shirt we may have them bench in it more frequently, but the fact remains raw bench press work is a necessity to your geared bench press training. A common four week rotation for ME lower work would be a deadlift using a suit or briefs, followed by a squat in full gear, then a good morning, ending the month with a box squat in briefs.

For the bench it would be a bit different; first week would be a close grip triple, next week would be an max incline bench, the third week would be a heavy shirted bench with the heaviest weight you can touch your chest with, ending the month with a max effort overhead press. As you can see, powerlifting gear is used more frequently in our lower work and less frequently in our upper work.

What It Takes

Being successful in geared powerlifting requires consistency and repetition. You have to put in the time it takes to create the strength and coordination required to properly control the gear. This can be a frustrating and annoying thing to do, considering you will fail a good amount of attempts your first few months.

Especially if you are coming from a background of high level raw lifting success, the ego check that powerlifting gear provides can be difficult to deal with. As long as you can accept that you will experience failure at the beginning, you can become a successful geared lifter. Invest time in perfecting movement, accept advice from those more experienced than you, learn your gear, and keep showing up to train.