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Raw v. Equipped v. Shut Up and Lift
I have wanted to write this article for a long time now, but I didn’t want to write it until I had taken time to sort through all the emotions. What I am about to say is destined to hurt a lot of feelings, but I assure you that is not the intention. My goal is to bring clarity to the strength world, and to hopefully teach all of us try and have some empathy before writing crazy opinions in the future. Today I am addressing powerlifters for the most part, but a lot of it will be relevant to all strength athletes.
In powerlifting, there are multiple divisions. There are people who compete classic raw (with knee wraps), raw (just knee sleeves), completely raw (no belt or wraps), single ply equipment, and multi-ply equipment. There are also people that compete in drug-tested federations, and non-drug tested federations.
I am not here to advocate for any one side. I have actually competed in every division above except the completely raw. I like having a belt for comfort, but that is just my preference. My main goal today is to let all the different sides see into the other worlds for just a moment.
Why do I want to do this? Well mainly it is because everyone likes to criticize the other, and that isn’t doing anything good for the world of strength. My dream is that everyone would stop worrying about what so and so is doing, and worry about your own abilities.
Let me get to the meat of the article. Lately, I have read a lot of negative comments from some pretty influential people in powerlifting. Here are the two main typical comments that I want to address:
1. “I am sick of guys labeling all of their lifts. No one cares that you are 18-years-old, not using knee wraps, and natty AF because we just care how much weight is on the bar.”
2. “People who use equipment are scared to take it off. They know that they would be weak and get destroyed if they competed raw.”
Both of these comments are ridiculous. I will address comment #1 first. Let me explain why people label their posts on social media. Let’s be quite honest with ourselves right now, and admit that a lot of things are relevant when it comes to the amount of weight that someone can put on the bar. By that I mean that a lot of things affect the amount of weight that we can use like:
• Natty (drug fee) or not
• Knee wraps
• Type of belt (skinny or powerlifting)
• Low bar or high bar
• Type of bar being used
• Grip being used
• Stance (sumo or conventional)
I have watched a lot of my equipped friends criticize people for labeling their posts with the points above. I am going to assume that you just didn’t look at why. The simple reason is that they are adding the relevant factors. It is a way of keeping things honest, and it will help their readers understand the differences in weight.
For example, if I put that I squatted 650lb raw at 42-years-old weighing 220lb with knee wraps, I am not giving an excuse for only squatting 650lb. I am just showing relevance to say squatting 625lb raw without knee wraps at 39-years-old weighing 198lb. All of these things are very relevant. If you say they are not, you are lying to yourself.
Look I have been on both sides. I know good and well that knee wraps aid my squat. I know that a squat suit helps me squat more. I know that squatting at 42-years-old is a lot different than squatting at 30-years-old at least for me. I label all of my posts, so that my readers can start to see patterns and learn from my training.
You can bet on the following statement. I am not labeling my training because I am giving an excuse to the amount of weight that I am lifting. At 42-years-old I Snatched 297lb, Clean & Jerked 365lb, Squatted 650lb, Benched 400lb, and Deadlifted 700lb, so I will put that up with anyone. I simply like to show the relevance in squatting with a belt and without a belt. It is the same thing as when I explain a back squat with a pause and without a pause.
A lot of the people making the comments are for sure not thinking it through. I read their posts, and they will label their lifts with “briefs only”, “straps down”, “to a two board”, “loose wraps”, “used a reverse mini-band”, or “old suit”. I get it. You are showing relevance, and I believe that is important for your readers. However, you need to show the same empathy towards the guy who says, “I squatted 450lb high bar at 18-years-old”.
Now before all of you equipped people start hating on me, let me give the other side of this story. When people run their mouths about equipped guys, I just laugh. Here is the truth. If Dave Hoff wanted to compete in a raw competition, in about one year he would dominate that as well. He is about to total 3100lb. Do you really think that he is going to drop off more than 600lb?
I totaled 2414lb. I didn’t really compete raw back in my prime, but I trained raw a lot of the time. I squatted 805lb raw several times in training. I paused 530lb in the bench press raw. I have deadlifted 805lb raw. That would have been a 2140lb total assuming that I completed all of them in competition. That is definitely not a 600lb drop off. I am not saying that Dave would total 2800lb raw, but I am saying that strong is strong.
Guys like Dave Hoff aren’t scared to compete raw. They are just focused on crushing the goals of their current style. If they compete raw, that is time away than could have been spent hitting that 3100lb total. It is just their chosen path. I will say from experience that these guys are the craziest by far. Nothing in my life has crushed my soul like putting 1000lb on my back and squatting it. I can’t imagine putting 1200lb+ on my back. If you don’t respect that, then I question your status as a true strength athlete. Once again you are lying to yourself if you don’t think that 1200lb is an amazing amount of weight.
We are in a sport driven by egos with everyone wanting the crown of the strongest kid on the block. Man who cares? I suggest focusing on killing it your chosen way, and I also suggest trying to empathize with the other champions doing it a different way. That would be much better for the strength world in general.
The next times that you decide to write a negative comment about someone else try putting yourself in his or her shoes. Maybe you will find that it is a little different squatting 500lb high bar without knee wraps at 18-years-old than it is squatting 550lb with knee wraps low bar at 25. Maybe you will admit to yourself that squatting 1150lb in equipment is still ridiculously strong.
I definitely don’t want this article to be looked at as my calling a bunch of people out. I want it to be a bridge into the worlds of lifting weights. If we work together, we can improve this sport at a much quicker pace. Any negative comments that we make on social media are a deterrent for other people who are looking to try it out.
I am not saying that I know everything. I am definitely open for advice on this topic. Please feel free to comment below, and maybe together we can make the world of strength a little better.