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Powerlifting Gear Profile

by Gary F. Zeolla

Crain's Muscle World has been sponsoring me in my powerlifting. So Ricky Dale Crain asked me to send him a “profile” focusing on my experiences with his company’s gear. Below is that profile.


Way back in 1981 I was the Untied States Powerlifting Federation (USPF) National Collegiate Champion at 114s. Then in 1982 I was runner-up at National Collegiate’s at 123s. But shortly thereafter, I had to stop powerlifting for health reasons. I then spent the next 20 years dealing with one health problem after another.

But I overcame these problems sufficiently to start lifting weights again in July of 2002. At that time, I was just trying to regain the strength, flexibility, and bodyweight I had lost due to my health problems. But over the next several months my lifting went surprising well, and by the winter of 2002-2003 I was back to handling some rather heavy weights. So I started thinking about competing again and began looking for a contest to enter. I decided on the International Powerlifting Association (IPA) Iron House Classic, April 12, 2003. And with plans on entering this contest, I had to decide what equipment to use.

I dug out the old gear I had left from college that had been stowed away in my parent’s attic. The gear included a power belt, several squat suits (called “supersuits” in those days), knee wraps (“superwraps”), wrist wraps, a couple of singlets, and even some chalk. So I originally planned on just using that gear for what would be my first contest in over 21 years.

But as I looked at the gear, I was leery about using it. With it sitting in the attic all those years, I was afraid the suit might blow on me. And after all of those years, I was sure there had been advances in gear technology. Moreover, bench shirts were just coming out when I had stopped powerlifting, so I had never even tried one, and I was interested in doing so. And in college I had just used an older squat suit for deadlifting. So I also wanted to try one of the newer deadlift specific suits.

After looking around, I decided to order new gear from Crain’s Muscle World. I remembered Ricky Dale Crain’s name from my college lifting days. And we had “met” on the Weightlifting Discussion Board I had been participating in. I ordered CMW’s Genesis Power Suit, Power Shirt, Deadlift Suit, Power Wraps, a power belt, a singlet, and even some new chalk. In college all of my gear had been blue since I had gone to Penn State. But now I ordered all red or red and black gear.

As soon as I got the gear, I must say, I could tell the difference between it and what I had used in college! And when I used it, I could really feel the difference. The squat suit and wraps just sprang me up from the bottom. So this gave me the confidence that I could really sink my squats without worrying about getting buried. One thing though, the wraps were a bit slippery, so I was having a hard time holding onto them. But I quickly figured out that if I chalked one side of them, I could hold onto them without problems. And with doing so, I could really wrap them on tight.

The DL suit helped to pull me up and back, just like I was hoping. Even the belt was so much more supportive than my old belt. The bench shirt would take some getting used to, but the new red and black color scheme looked really good.

With using this gear, my first contest went great! I competed at 114s in the amateur, open and masters (40-44) divisions. I went 9/9 with 27 white lights! I also broke six IPA world records: all four master’s records and the open deadlift and total records. My lifts were: 305 - 195 - 350 - 850.

My next context was IPA Worlds August 8, 2003. Competing in the same weight class and divisions, I went 8/9 and broke all six of my own records, plus one additional one, the open squat record. My lifts were: 335 - 200 - 365 - 900. My only miss was my third bench attempt with 205.

For both of these contests I had used CMWs single-ply squat suit and bench shirt, along with 2.0-meter wraps. I had only gotten singly-ply gear initially since, with not having competed in 21 years, I didn’t think I was ready for the double-ply gear the IPA allows. And I hadn’t even realized the IPA allowed 2.5-meter wraps. But since I was doing so well, I figured it was time to move up to the best gear my federation allowed for my next contest, IPA Nationals, November 14, 2003.

I contacted Ricky about a possible sponsorship for the new gear. And he graciously agreed to supply it for me. So he sent me CMWs’ double-ply squat suit, Double Xtreme Power Shirt, and 2.5 meter wraps. And again, I must say that as soon as I got the gear I could tell the difference between it and the single-ply gear I already had. The suit and shirt were so much heavier. And the extra meter on the wraps would enable me to get another “cross” over my knees with my “criss-cross” method of wrapping. So this would be a big plus as well.

A couple of problems though, CMW didn’t have my sizes in stock, so there had been a delay in getting the gear. As a result, I only had one workout for each lift to try out the new gear. So I didn’t have much of a chance to get used to it. I also had one of my health problems flare up the night before the contest, so I wasn’t able to get any sleep.

As a result, I had my worst contest performance to date. I only went 5/9, getting only my openers on squats and benches. But deadlifts saved the day. A “second-wind” had kicked in as I was warming up for them, and I ended up going 3/3. And even with the problems, I still broke my squat, deadlift and total records, going: 365 - 195 - 380 - 940.

At this point, I decided to take somewhat of a break from competing. The IPA had moved its World Championships up from usually being in August to July 9, 2004. So I decided to skip the Iron House Classic this year and wait until Worlds. I figured this would give me a chance to get my lifts up and to practice more with the new gear.

I used the gear once a month up until the contest. The squat suit had fit just right from the start. It was very tight and took two guys’ help to get it on and off, but that is how suits are supposed to fit! But it was the bench shirt that was giving me problems. My first shirt had been a size 36, but Ricky had sent me a size 30 for the Double Xtreme! And with it being so tight, I was really having problems breathing. As such, I wasn’t really getting much out of it.

Since the IPA allows open-back shirts, I sent the shirt back to CMW and had them alter it in this manner. And this made a world of difference! I could now breath with no problems. But most of all, the first time I used it, I could tell how much better it would be. Later, I had some Velcro put on the shirt, just at the bottom, in the belt area. This would help to hold the shirt down and even seemed to aid the lift as well.

At IPA Worlds, I had a great day. I went 7/9, broke all seven of my IPA records, and even totaled an IPA “Pro” (Elite) total. My lifts were: 405 - 210 - 410 - 1025. So I had added 175 pounds to my total in the 15 months since my first contest, including 100 pounds on squats alone!

I had tried 220 on my third bench attempt, but missed it about 3” from lockout. What this tells me is I really need to focus on the top part of the lift in my training. And with doing so, I am sure I will be able to get even more out of the bench shirt. The key will be to really focus on training for the shirt.

My other missed attempt was my second DL attempt. I had tried 410 on this attempt, but I had barely budged it. But I got really psyched up and got it on my final attempt in what was the hardest and slowest pull of my life!

One point to note though, when I had put my DL suit on, it went on easily, too easily. It was obviously too loose. It had fit much tighter the last time I used it in training. A few days after the contest, I called CMW to see if it would be okay for me to put the suit in the dryer after I washed it to try to shrink it some. And I was told that I was supposed to be putting it in the dryer. The same went for my squat suit and bench shirt.

I had always hung dried my suits and shirts out of fear they would shrink too much if I put them in the dryer. But I was told they would only shrink back to their new states. After drying them in the dryer, I tried the gear on, and it all definitely fit tighter than at the contest. In fact, I got to thinking that if my shirt had been that tight at the contest, maybe it would have given me the momentum to push the bar to lockout on my third attempt. And maybe that third DL attempt wouldn’t have been so difficult. But I’ll remember that DL as long as I live. So it all worked out.

I am now preparing for my next contest, IPA Nationals, November 19, 2004. Since I totaled “Pro” at my last contest, I will now have to enter the IPA’s professional division. But this will give me a whole new set of records to go after. And now that I got my gear and training figured out, I am looking forward to continuing increases in my lifts and total.

I will close by thanking Ricky and Crain's Muscle World for the gear. It has really been a great aid to my competition performance. I would also like to invite the reader to visit my Web site: Fitness for One and All. It is dedicated to helping people to attain their health, fitness, and performance goals, and it includes, of course, a section on powerlifting.

The above article was posted on this site August 24, 2004.

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