Breaking in a New Bench Shirt

This post is definitely a departure from SAPTstrength’s usual fare (and essentially the antithesis to Stevo’s Monday post). Not only are we diving headfirst into powerlifting preparation, but I’m talking about GEARED powerlifting!

For the uninitiated, geared powerlifting involves using very snug fitting “shirts” and “suits” (think the tightest compression shorts or shirts you can possibly imagine and multiply that by 100) to aide in the power lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift.

So, what’s the point of these aides? You can move more weight. Plain and simple. There is a huge cool-factor involved (read: ego-factor).

Up until this past summer, I had ONLY competed in geared events and I freaking loved it!

It is worth noting – and this cannot be UNDERstated – the training for geared powerlifting varies significantly from raw powerlifting. As you’ll see in Sean’s videos below, he has to work to simply get the bar down to his chest. He is literally having to PULL the bar down – hence why back work becomes so critical for the geared bencher. This can be very tough to imagine for someone who has never experienced a shirted bench.

Anyhow, my point here is not to convince you to be pro-gear. What I’d like to do is simply show an excellent progression to help learn the “groove” in a new bench shirt:

Sean starts his first set by touching a 3-board, the next set is to a 2-board, and the third set he is just able to touch his chest. This is a very intelligent way to learn to handle a new shirt. Some people get in them and simply pile on more and more weight until it finally touches their chest. Unfortunately, during this process they may never learn solid, safe, and effective form.

It is worth noting how well Sean is able to stay under control – you see very little, if any, breakdown in form: elbows stays tucked, chest stays up, and he is clearly actively pulling the bar down.

By the way, if you want to go to the true experts in powerlifting, you need to make your way over to and check out their training logs, the Q&A, and articles.