Written by Sarah Strong
In powerlifting, a powerlifter can be described as either raw or equipped. “Raw” refers to lifting with little to no supportive equipment. “Equipped” lifting refers to using single-ply or multi-ply suits to support the lifter. The suits are made from a highly tensile fabric that allows the lifter to move more weight, approximately 115% more than their max. This capability to lift heavier loads is what draws many athletes to equipped lifting, including powerlifter Danielle Munoz.
Danielle has been powerlifting for about two years, and although she started with raw lifting, she says she absolutely loves lifting equipped. She began powerlifting raw and did two meets like that, then did one meet as a classic raw lifter with wraps. Shortly after that classic raw meet, she decided she wanted to switch to equipped: “My coach Robert Lee trains geared. After watching him do it for so long during our training sessions, it started to interest me. Especially being able to add more weight just from wearing the suit—the adrenaline of having tons of weight on your back is awesome.”
Learning to lift in a single-ply or multi-ply suit takes coaching from an experienced geared lifter, says Danielle. She currently lifts single-ply, and she will next compete at the 2019, Mr. Olympia. She is considering switching to multi-ply after the Olympia but has not made the decision yet. Single-ply suits use a single layer of the special fabric to assist the lifter. Multi-ply suits use two or more layers of this fabric.
“I love everything about equipped. Knowing I can lift more weight, it’s almost like a security blanket. Also, I love that geared transfers over to your raw weight because after doing my second geared meet I noticed a pretty decent difference in my lifts and form,” Danielle commented. She said the only thing she disliked about equipped lifting is the numerous popped blood vessels she gets in her face from squats. Popping blood vessels results from the tremendous effort exerted in these maximum attempt lifts, and while unsightly, are normally not dangerous. The suits for geared lifting are very tight and constricting, which contributes to the pressure put on a lifter’s body.
If you are interested in trying equipped lifting, take Danielle’s advice and find an experienced coach and a gym that has other equipped lifters. Getting in and out of the suit requires help, and learning to lift with proper form in the suits can be difficult. This is not a style of lifting that a new lifter should experiment with on their own.
For most of her training, Danielle lifts raw. She only gets to use her suit about once a week. This training style, she says, requires a lot of patience: “You can’t be scared to get in the suit and under a lot of weight. You have to just do it or the slightest wrong movement can throw off your entire lift. It is definitely an amazing experience and has helped with my raw lifts and my form. It’s definitely something you have to be serious about.”
Her patience pays off, though. Danielle recently set records for juniors 20-23 82.5KG in all three lifts and total for the state of California also for women’s open for the USPA. And with some big meets coming up, she is certainly a lifter to watch. And not only is she a record-breaking lifter, but she is also a mom of two young children.