Geared Powerlifting is very entertaining to watch, WPC / WPO 2006 PL meet feat. Andy Bolton and a rant on RAW Lifting

Posted on 05 Sep 2015 22:25


What is this blog post about?

The entertainment value of Geared vs. RAW Powerlifting, the 2006 WPC / WPO meet featuring Andy Bolton's legendary 1,003 pound Deadlift and my thoughts on Daniel Dalenberg's rant about RAW lifting.

Who am I?

I love lifting heavy-ish weights. I am a maximal strength trainee. I want to preface my post by saying that I am not a powerlifter. I do not compete. The only lift I religiously practice and absolutely love performing is the deadlift. I am definitely not a powerlifter. However, I am a big fan of the sport and I recently came across two perspectives on the sport that got me thinking about geared versus RAW powerlifting.


Daniel Dalenberg recently published an article on Power Rack Strength titled IRAWNY. This, coupled with my Facebook friend Benhard's post got me thinking about the never-ending and inconclusive RAW vs. Geared Powerlifting debate.

Similar to most topics, this debate is multi-faceted. As most of you know, because this debate has been brought up countless times, this isn't really a debate because there is no one conclusion. There's no proof that geared lifting causes more injuries, there's no proof that RAW lifting has bare minimum injury proofing assistance allowed - none of that is going to legitimize or discredit one of the two types of lifting. To add to this there are lifters who plan their training around competing in RAW, in single ply and in multi-ply competitions year-round. So it is safe to say that at the end of the day people will lift the way that makes them happy. So, I am going to stop using the term "debate" and just list three aspects about RAW and Geared lifting that I find interesting:

  1. The actual training
  2. The entertainment value of watching these competitions
  3. Who is stronger: geared lifters or RAW lifters?

The Actual Training of RAW and Geared Lifters

I don't want to get into the nuts and bolts of powerlifting routines, programs and peaking schedules because that will open up a whole can of worms. Not all RAW lifters train the same nor are they all in agreement about training methods and this applies to geared lifters as well. Therefore, the training differences in terms of percentages, etc is not relevant to the debate.

What should be addressed is a point that Daniel has brought up in his article: just how "raw" is raw powerlifting? You end up wearing everything your federation allows that you can get your hands on to get the best numbers in the competition. Despite what the politically correct speakers might voice: powerlifting is a sport and there is a great degree of competition. Yes, lifters are trying to best their own numbers each meet but they also want to bring home the best prizes. The ideology of going as raw as possible does not exceed the desire to lift the most amount of weight and Daniel explicitly states this in his article:

"I lift in the raw division but wear every piece of allowable gear in that class. I do that in an effort to lift more weight."

Therefore, as a lifter, whether you are training RAW or training geared there are some inalienable truths attached to your training and your attitude:

  • You want to lift the most amount of weight you can
  • You want to beat your competition
  • You train hard regardless of whether you are raw or geared: putting time and effort into your training is not negotiable based on how you choose to compete

This leads me to my second point

The entertainment value of watching these competitions

Lifters want to lift the most amount of weight. The audience wants to watch the most amount of weight being lifted. Geared lifting just takes raw powerlifting to another level. So geared lifting will almost always have more weight being moved around. Therefore, from an entertainment standpoint, geared lifting trumps its raw counterpart.

My friend on Facebook, Benhard Thompson posted this status update on the 5th of September 2015:

"WPO was the coolest powerliting to watch. I know I'm in the minority here, but watching raw powerlifting bores the piss out of me."

He followed that with the video of the 2006 WPC / WPO Powerlifting meet featuring Andy Bolton's 1003 pound Deadlift World Record:

I cannot deny it: that video was really fun to watch. As a spectator of Powerlifting, I will say that Geared Powerlifting is a LOT of fun to watch. As an audience member there is a certain entertainment value added to it and I agree with Benhard's views on the matter completely. This brings me to my last point:

Who is stronger: geared lifters or RAW lifters?

This is almost always what the debate boils down to. Which one of these lifters is stronger? If you want to know how much the suits and gear help increase the lifters' strength, you will be told by the forum elite that Squat and Bench suits can supposedly add 300 to 500 pounds to your max. The deadlift suit is the least beneficial and can add somewhere around the ballpark of 50 pounds to your max. If you venture into the various types of geared lifting - from single ply to multi-ply, you will be increasing the complexities. At the same time, a lot of lifters will tell you that using gear is more than just maximal strength work. You have to aim to use the gear to the max - really milk it for what it is worth. So technique is a different part of the equation because you are not only handling the most amount of weight you are capable of but you are also trying to stretch the abilities of the suit to aid you in the lifting process. In addition to this explanation, you will also be told that as you train using gear you will also boost your RAW total because they are mutually beneficial to each other. So which is it, then? Who is the strongest?

Here's what I think: it is like comparing apples to oranges. Does anybody compare squash players to tennis players? Nobody does that. Nobody compares long distance runners to sprinters. Nobody compares the skills of baseball and cricket batsmen. It just wouldn't make sense to do so because each sport is drastically different. In that same line of thought, raw lifting and geared lifting are two completely different sports and there is no basis for comparison. Compare (if you must) raw lifting to raw lifting and geared lifting to geared lifting just like you would in any other sport.


Daniel has summarized his thoughts on this debate in the most apt manner.

At the end of the day, everything that we are doing on the platform is about lifting bigger weights and clawing our way closer to the top. Equipped powerlifting is just the next level of extreme, taking all the wraps, belts, big weight cuts and equipment of the raw divisions and adding another layer of supportive equipment.

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