I have a HUGE arsenal of lifting goodies that I haul in and out of the gym every day in a giant martial arts bag (yes, I’m a powerlifter but that was the largest bag that I could find that worked perfectly). It probably weighs about 70+lbs at max capacity.
I’ve used many different brands and types of products throughout my lifting years. Some I’ve liked. Others not so much. People will ask me from time to time what they need or what I think of certain products, so I figured I would do a top 5 of “must haves.” I want to start off by saying, I am not sponsored so this is not to plug any certain brands or products. This is my REAL opinion on what I like and what’s worth spending your money on.
Also, if you are just starting out, I honestly don’t think you need anything besides a gym pass and some motivation. This is more of a list for people who are starting to get a little more serious and may even want to start competing one day down the road.
1) A Belt
This is by far one of the most important things on the list. There are all different kinds out there. This item is a little more pricey, but worth it. Don’t go cheap. If you get a good one from the start, you should be able to use it a really long time.
First of all you do NOT want a tapered or a nylon belt. Get a good leather one. For the most part they all are generally 4″ belts but some will be smaller for women or benching belts. I suggest going with the regular 4″ one.
For sizing around your waist, most websites have you measure and have specifics on how to do that so make sure you measure correctly. They try to use that measurement so it’s centered so you have room to grow or shrink with the belt use over time.
The type of closing style – single/double prong or lever is really personal preference. I’m not a fan of double, because I think it’s harder to get out of and works just as well as the single. Single prong is what I use now. I really love the lever but if you fluctuate in weight a lot they can be a pain to adjust (make sure to have a screwdriver in your bag if you choose this). Although when you are lifting, a lever belt can be a lot easier and faster to put on and off. So really the choice is yours.
Thickness of the belt depends on what you are using it for really. But generally, I wouldn’t go under 6.5mm… really even 8mm. And if you plan on competing ever, go at least 10mm. Mine is 13mm.
When I started powerlifting I got a 10mm Inzer lever belt. I also have a 8mm single prong Best belt that I use more for Crossfit or general lifting that I can wear for more extended periods of time, if need be. Currently, I use a 13mm single prong custom Pioneer belt. This is what I compete in and train in. It’s pretty thick and I didn’t get it until I was a little more experienced with using a belt properly.
I’ve used other brand belts as well. From personal experience I really love the Best and Pioneer belt brands the most. My Best belt was super “worked in” and not stiff at all, which was really nice. Pioneer also was very worked in. It is my absolute favorite, and I would 100% recommend them to anyone. The owner is awesome to work with especially with custom belts like mine!
2) Knee Sleeves
You can find knee sleeves anywhere. I started with a cheaper Tommy Kono TK sleeve for about $30 on Amazon, but they didn’t last long. I ended up getting a couple other more popular ones, but they all tore on me.
I have had my trusty SBD sleeves for a couple years and I am amazed at how well they hold up. They are by far my favorite. They run around $90 a pair but are worth every penny. You can (and I definitely suggest) wash them, because they get a little gross after a few wears lol.
3) Flat Shoes
There’s always a debate between heeled and flat shoes. Personally, I believe for the best “all-around” shoe for powerlifting or even lifting in general, you’re definitely going to want to get a flat shoe that you can use for everything.
If later down the road you realize you like a heel for your squat, then get it then.
Any type of flat sole shoe like Converse “Chucks” work great. My hands-down favorites are the Reebok Crossfit Lite TR or “Power Shoe” though. They have such a nice grip to them and they work great! They don’t have them on the Reebok store for sale anymore but you can still find them floating around for under $80 (sometimes even as low as $30) on Amazon or eBay!
4) Wrist Wraps
A lot of beginner lifters put their wrists in bad bent positioning on squat and bench. If worn properly wrist wraps can definitely help a lot. I suggest having someone knowledgeable show you a good way to wrap it, because it takes some practice to learn to do it right.
The wrist wrap really depends on the type of material you like. Most of the good ones you will have to wrap each time. You won’t be able to keep it on between lifts if they are tight enough.
There are some really good Elite FTS ones. They give great descriptions on their site for the “type” of wrap and usually even recommend if one is more for a beginner or advanced lifter.
The ones I use are called Slingshot Gangsta Wraps. They are super stretchy. I also have a pair of Powerbelly Misdemeanor wraps that I like a lot as well and definitely would recommend. They aren’t quite as stretchy as the Gangsta wraps but they are thicker and softer.
5) Snap Collars
This may seem like a silly one… but if your gym doesn’t already have these, I would suggest just getting a pair. I didn’t buy them until a few years ago but I absolutely LOVE them to secure my weights on the bar. I used to either not use anything or put on 1 of those squeeze metal ones that were a pain in the ass all the time.
I have used the cheaper plastic clip ones. They work okay but when you move heavy weight I notice them sliding off or moving. My favorites now are the Proloc ones that clamp down on the bar. These are really secure and don’t budge even when I deadlift.
Everything I mentioned is because I have used it and liked it. If you have any questions, just ask me! A lot is personal preference, so be sure to do some investigating on your own. Go to stores and try things on, or if you have friends that have items, try them out for yourself!