Christmas 2018 is coming up on us soon. Before you know it, eating, drinking and being merry -- and of course, spending money on presents for your closest friends and loved ones.
So what better time than now to talk about the best gifts for powerlifters.
Of course, this powerlifter gift list is just as applicable for birthdays, graduations, other holidays or just because.
Whatever the occasion, this post will help you find the perfect gift for your powerlifting friend, family member or significant other.
Powerlifters tend to have extreme personalities and particular tastes, making them difficult to shop for -- but you probably already knew that...
...Luckily, I'm here to give several suggestions so you can find the perfect gift for the powerlifter in your life.
- 1. A7 Bar Grip™ Shirts
- 2. Knee Sleeves
- 3. Wrist Wraps
- 4. Knee Wraps
- 5. Multi-Purpose Wraps
- 6. Donnie Thompson's Formal Bowtie by Spud Inc.
- 7. Lifting Shoes
- 8. Weightlifting Belt
- 9. Fractional Plates
- 10. Sling Shot
- 11. Bands
- 12. Lifting Chalk
- 13. Smelling Salts
- 14. Fat Gripz
- 15. CoC Grippers
- 16. Dead wedge
- 17. Deadlift Socks
- 18. A High Quality Powerlifting Barbell
- 19. Singlet
- 20. BEAST Sensor
- 21. Voucher for a Massage Session
- 22. Online Coaching from a Respected Strength Coach or Powerlifter
1. A7 Bar Grip™ Shirts
An A7 Bar Grip shirt is the best piece of gymwear you can buy. Why? Because it's more than just a shirt. It's a highly useful gym accessory.
This shirt has durable and very sticky grips built in to the back of the shirt. It's actually made from the same stuff as football wide receiver gloves.
This simple, yet innovative design solves 2 very annoying issues that every powerlifter is familiar with:
- Prevents the bar from sliding down your back on squats. This is most useful on low bar squats, but is also helpful on high bar squats, as shown in my photo below.
- Stops your back from slipping during bench press. This is an issue when you're sweating and/or if the bench backrest cover is made from a slick fabric.
Previously, the most common way of dealing with these issues was to use chalk. However, this shirt is superior to chalk in the following ways:
- It is much more effective. Chalk will only prevent some extent of slipping and sliding, especially if you're sweating buckets.
- It's more convenient. You put the shirt on and that's it. With chalk, you have to continuously reapply it, sometimes as often as every set.
- Chalk is messy. This shirt is not. This means you and the bench or squat rack area won't look like the aftermath
- Many gyms don't allow chalk. Lots of gyms don't let their members use chalk at all. While this sucks, it's understandable--they know it leaves one hell of a mess.
The most recent version of A7's Bar Grip line was originally called the Bar Grip "Full" because the grips fully covered the upper back, shoulders and traps. However, since all Bar Grip shirts now have this full coverage, they dropped the "Full" part of the name -- and now they're back to just being called "Bar Grip" shirts.
You can check out my detailed A7 Bar Grip review here, which is focused on this new and improved version with full coverage.
The previous version was the Bar Grip 3.0. I've done two reviews on different styles of the 3.0, in which I gave high praise:
As great as the 3.0 was (and still is -- I use both frequently), the new, full coverage version Bar Grip is better. And noticeably so. Here are the biggest improvements of the new Bar Grip vs. the Bar Grip 3.0:
- Thicker, stronger and stickier grips. As mentioned above, the new stuff is made from the same grippy material on wide receiver gloves for football.
- Better Coverage! As I already mentioned above, the full coverage is the biggest upgrade from the 3.0 by far. The grips now cover the entire upper back. This includes: a wider surface area (all of the lats/shoulders from the left seam to right seam) and more height (all the way up to the collar/neck). The additional neck coverage makes high bar squats much easier compared to the 3.0.
- Better moisture wicking and improved comfort. The new fabric is a 95% cotton / 5% lycra blend. The 3.0 was a 60% cotton / 40% polyester blend. The new blend is superior for wicking away sweat and giving a softer feel. Plus, from what I've observed, it holds its shape a bit better by returning to normal faster after being stretched/bunched up from wearing a belt.
- Deeper Grips = Better Durability. Not only are the grips thicker, but they're actually embedded deeper, within the fabric (versus being adhered atop the fabric). This means the new Bar Grip shirts will be able to take more abuse and last even longer than the Bar Grip 3.0 shirts.
The shirts have an athletic fit, which means that they're tapered and fit closer to the body. For men, this means wider at the chest and narrower at the waist. For women, this means wider at the chest, narrower at the waist, and wider at the hips.
The shirts are true to size. If you need specifics, look at the sizing chart below for men's and women's sizes:
Another great thing about these shirts is that they're very affordable. They range from about $32 - $35 depending on the design...
2. Knee Sleeves
Knee sleeves are a great tool for keeping the knee joints warm, preventing knee pain or injury, and giving them a bit of extra support during squats.
I own and can personally vouch for the 7mm Rehband knee sleeves.
If you get the Rehbands, get one size smaller than what's recommended in the sizing table, below.
SBD Knee Sleeves are another great option. If you're buying the SBDs for someone who trains like a powerlifter, but doesn't actually compete, get the "tight fit" size shown in the table below. If it's a gift for a powerlifter who competes seriously, consider going one size lower than the "tight fit" size in the table below.
The extra tightness allows the lifter to "pop" out of the bottom of the movement, which can increase the max squat by ~20 lbs.
When I originally wrote this article in late 2014, I hadn't used the SBD sleeves. However, I ended purchasing them a few months later. As expected, they're awesome. It can be a pain in the ass to pull them on, but the extra tightness is worth it.
3. Wrist Wraps
Wrist wraps are a great tool for enhancing wrist support on heavy bench press or overhead press exercises.
They stop the wrist from bending back too far, which could otherwise lead to wrist pain or injury.
Wrist wraps can also prevent every lifter's worst nightmare of dropping the bar because their wrists collapse (which needless to say could be fatal on bench press).
These make a perfect gift for any lifter who's at least an intermediate. Beginners should build up basic wrist/forearm strength on pressing movements before having any need for these - the only exception is to help them work around a minor wrist injury or pain).
For someone who's new to using wrist wraps with an intermediate to advanced level of strength on bench press or overhead press, the Inzer Iron Z Wrist Wraps are the way to go.
For guys who have an advanced to elite bench press, the Titan THP Powerlifting Wrist Wraps are an excellent option:
For sizing, I'd recommend the 24 inch option, for whichever wrap you end up getting. That's long enough length to give plenty of support for most guys without having lots of excess material.
And it's short enough that it's legal in all federations (though most feds allow 1 meter).
Unless the powerlifter you're buying these for has very large wrists and/or an elite bench press, he probably doesn't need 36 inches.
4. Knee Wraps
Knee wraps can be an excellent gift for some powerlifters. I only recommend buying knee wraps for someone who competes in a federation that allows knee wrapping.
Many experts believe there are few if any benefits to knee wrapping for powerlifters who compete raw, or without knee wraps. This is likely because knee wraps cause a subtle deviation in the groove/bar path of the squat motion compared squatting without wraps. This effectively makes it a slightly different exercise, meaning that strength gains from wrapped squatting do not necessarily carryover to strength gains on unwrapped squatting.
Note: Others will argue they still have some carry-over benefit for increasing non-wrapped squat strength, even if they do change the groove.
All that being said, most people will agree that knee wraps can be useful for just about anyone who needs to train around minor knee injuries.
If you decide knee wraps are a good gift idea, then the Inzer Iron-Z knee wraps are a solid choice for someone new to wrapping, since they are less rigid and provide more bounce:
Whereas, the Titan Signature Series Gold knee wraps are great for elite level squat strength who need a stiffer wrap that helps more with slowing the descent:
In terms of wrap length, buy either the 2.0m or 2.5m. Most raw lifting feds allow a max length of 2.5m.
I'd go with a 2.5m for most people, because even if they don't need the extra 0.5m, having it doesn't hurt.
Note: I'd only recommend the 2.0m unless the person you're buying them for is:
- on the smaller side (i.e. relatively skinny thighs and calves)
- competing in one of the few feds that doesn't allow 2.5m
- specifically requesting the 2.0m length
5. Multi-Purpose Wraps
What if you don't know whether to buy knee wraps or wrist wraps for the powerlifter in your life?
Then why not buy one product that can be used for both purposes. And that product is the Sling Shot Gangsta Wraps.
Be sure to get the 36 inch version so they can be used for both wrist wraps and knee wraps. There's a 20 inch version, which is fine for wrist wrapping, but too short for knee wrapping.
Note: The 36-inch Gangsta wraps can suffice as a good training tool for both knee and wrist wraps. And it would meet competition legal standards for wrist wrap length. However, if a competition allows knee wraps, they might not be a good choice for knee wraps, despite being a competition legal length; they're shorter than is optimal for getting the most out of the squat. Generally, wraps that are at least 2.0 meters long maximize squat strength.
6. Donnie Thompson's Formal Bowtie by Spud Inc.
Well, I think I have found this year's (2018) Christmas gift to myself! -- The Donnie Thompson's Formal Bowtie by Spud Inc.
Powerlifters, and strength athletes in general, are notorious for hunched posture where the shoulders are rolled forward.
The cause of this is an overemphasis on pressing and internal rotation movements (e.g. bench press, shoulder press) compared to pulling and external rotation movements (e.g. rows, chin ups, face pulls). These factors are often amplified by poor postural habits throughout the day, encouraged by the modern lifestyle (i.e. hunching at computer, phone, video games, sitting in general)...
...The solution? Fix your posture! But that's way too hard on your own. Really. You need to force yoursef to fix it. And that's where the Donnie Thompson's Formal Bowtie comes into play.
It pulls your shoulders back into the proper place, stretching the tight pec and shoulder muscles and encouraging proper mid-back activation and shoulder blade position.
The Formal Bowtie is designed to be worn for warm-ups, mobility drills, and during heavy lifts, too. It'll keep your shoulders and upper torso in proper position for everything from squats to bench to biceps curls...
...And you can use throughout the day, too. There is actually a Casual Bowtie, which is softer and less forceful, which is marketed for longer-term wear throughout the day. However, from what I've read, many people prefer the stronger pulling force and firmer feel of the Formal Bowtie for multi-hour use throughout the day. Also, some have said the Casual Bowtie expands somewhat after using it for a while, making it somewhat less effective.
The way I see it, most people will be happy with the Donnie Thompson's Formal Bowtie for use both in and out of the gym.
As far as sizing goes, follow the chart on the product page -- I've also included it below:
As you can see, It goes by weight only. It's pretty accurate for most guys within a few inches of average height. If you're normal-ish height and are on the border between sizes, it's recommended to size up. Really tall guys may want to size down, and really short guys may want to size up. Guys with very wide shoulders (even for a lifter) should size up, and guys with particularly narrow shoulders should size down.
For more information, just take a look at this video featuring Donnie Thompson himself:
7. Lifting Shoes
There are two basic kinds of shoes powerlifters wear: Shoes with a raised heel and shoes with a flat heel. Both should have dense soles to provide stability.
I'll go over the basics of both types of shoes, below. But if you want to read more about lifting footwear, see my weight lifting shoe guide.
7A. Raised Heel Shoes (Olympic Lifting Shoes)
Any powerlifter would be ecstatic to get a pair of Olympic lifting shoes as a gift.
I use and recommend Adidas Adipower shoes. They'll fit best on people with narrow to normal width feet.
However, if you're buying Olympic shoes as a gift for a powerlifter with wide feet, get the Nike Romaleos 2. They're just as good as the Adipowers.
7B. Flat Heeled Shoes
Olympic lifting shoes are a luxury. But a quality pair of flat, hard-soled shoes are a necessity. As I discuss my deadlifting shoe guide, any serious lifter needs flat heeled shoes to do deadlifts.
But flat heeled shoes are good for more than just deadlifting. They're extremely versatile. They're great, if not ideal, for just about every other lift you can think of, too (except of course Olympic lift variations, and possibly squats if the lifter's ankle mobility sucks).
Even if the powerlifter you're shopping for already has a pair of flat heeled shoes, he could always use another. Trust me! These things get beat up from hours of heavy lifting in the gym, and need to be replaced frequently if worn all the time.
I personally have
3 pairs 5 pairs of flat soled shoes plus the Oly shoes.
The photo below shows me in my newest, and without a doubt my favorite, pair. I absolutely love these things! They're the SABO Deadlift Shoes. Don't get thrown off by the "Deadlift" in the name. These flat soled shoes are the best performing powerlifting shoe I've ever worn:
- The grip is excellent.
- The inclusion of both a metatarsal strap AND an ankle strap give the ability to adjust for the exact amount of foot snugness and ankle support desired.
- It has a very minimal sole (5mm) that puts you super low to the floor. This is ideal for deadlifts because it minimizes the range of motion. At the same time, the sole is substantial enough to protect the bottom of the foot and provide some arch support, which are desirable attributes for other lifts.
- It has a wide footprint that gives you a broad, stable base.
- The construction is sturdy.
- They look badass!
- And because of everything above, they're easily worth the price.
- Want to know more? Read my in-depth review of the SABO Deadlift Shoes.
The photo below shows me in another pair of flat-soled shoes that I got recently. These are really more like slippers than shoes. Specifically, they're the A7 Soul Go Deadlift Slippers. Unlike the SABO deadlift shoes above, these slippers don't make for a great all-around powerlifting shoe. They're really best if used just for deadlifts. And for that purpose, they're great.
Finally, the photo below shows the rest of my flat shoes, which I've had for a 3+ years now. They are all Chuck Taylor High Tops, which are the classic powerlifting shoe. You can't go wrong with these for weight training. While not the "optimal" option, they're still pretty damn good and definitely versatile. And as bonus, they can be worn outside the gym, too.
One final quick gift recommendation -- If you're shopping for someone who likes to run or do any other form of cardio, the New Balance MX20v3 shoes are a better choice.
8. Weightlifting Belt
Every serious powerlifter needs a weightlifting belt.
If the powerlifting you're buying a gift for doesn't have a belt yet, or if he only has a cheap quality one, then this is the best item you could get them.
The belt should have the following characteristics: leather, 4-inches wide, single-prong or lever, 10mm to 13mm thickness. I recommend 10mm if you're not sure which one to get.
In terms of which one to get, if you really want to wow your gift recipient, get the A7 / Pioneer Lever Belt. It's sold by A7 with their branding, and is IPF-approved because of that. However, it's made by Pioneer, who is world-renowned for their extremely high-quality USA-made lifting belts:
Another classic, tried and tested option is the Inzer Forever Lever Belt. It is similarly high quality with a brand name that means something. Like the A7 belt, it too is IPF-approved:
If you're buying a belt for someone who already has a quality leather belt, get them a nylon deadlift belt instead. Unlike leather belts, a deadlift belt does not dig into the hips or ribs during deadlifts. It has some flex to it, which allows for better mobility and no pain.
9. Fractional Plates
Give the gift of more efficient strength progression with fractional plates.
Fractional plates are most useful for advanced to elite level powerlifters who have to fight for every pound added to the bar for a given lift.
A normal weight set allows a minimum increment of 5 lbs, which can be too big of jump to make for a given lift. Accordingly, progress is slowed.
However, the fractional plates are great because they allow you to add weight in 0.5 lb increments, up to 5 lbs.
10. Sling Shot
If only you could give the gift of a new bench press PR...
...Well, the Sling Shot may be the closest thing to that.
This training accessory is a great gift idea for powerlifters of any experience level who want to improve their bench press strength and technique.
Beginners and intermediates can use the Sling Shot to learn proper arm and shoulder positioning on bench press.
More advanced lifters can use it to bench more frequently without irritating the shoulders. They can also use it to improve their lockout strength, train explosiveness and improve tightness at the bottom of the range of motion.
A set of durable, looped resistance bands can help take a powerlifter to the next level:
They can be used to add elastic resistance to all the big lifts, which trains lockout strength and explosiveness.
They are just as useful as tools for mobility work and rehab/prehab exercises. There are plenty of other creative uses for bands, but I won't get into those today.
12. Lifting Chalk
Lifting chalk is a foolproof gift idea. No powerlifter can have too much of it.
It dries up sweat and prevents the bar from slipping from your grip or off your back. This allows a lifter to use heavier weight for more reps.
As a gift, chalk has the benefit of being very inexpensive, making it a smart choice if you're on a budget. The standard for lifting chalk is magnesium carbonate in block powder form (pictured below):
However, if you're buying this for a lifter who trains in a gym that doesn't allow chalk, then I recommend buying liquid chalk.
You can read my review of the best liquid chalk for lifting to learn more about the different liquid alternatives to powder chalk and find out which brand to buy.
If you don't have time to read the full article, then I'll just tell you that my top recommendation is Dry Hands liquid chalk:
13. Smelling Salts
Smelling salts are an ammonia based chemical compound used to excite the central nervous system and make you hyper-alert immediately upon inhalation.
They've been used forever in sports, being most popular in football, hockey, boxing and strength sports, including of course powerlifting.
Here's how they work: You take a whiff right before a big set (e.g. PR attempt or near max attempt in training, or at a meet). Then it immediately kicks you in the ass, giving you a big and immediate boost of energy and sense of focus.
It's safe to use, but it's not something to overuse or rely on. When it is used, it makes a major different. Countless lifters' PRs have been made with the assistance of smelling salts.
I recommend Nose Tork smelling salts. It comes in a bottle. All you do is open it, sniff, close it, then go!
Even though it's in a bottle, it lasts a long time, as long as it's stored properly. This means ensuring the lid is closed tightly and keeping it upright in a cooler/room temp environment. Many suggest putting it in a zip-lock bag, too.
Having it in a bottle is also much more convenient and cheaper than having the smelling salt packets that you break open to activate.
14. Fat Gripz
Some guys will buy expensive specialty barbells called "fat bars" or "thick bars" which have a larger diameter that makes it harder to hold onto.
They're highly effective pieces of equipment training grip strength and building up the forearms.
But, as mentioned, they're expensive...
...Fat gripz do the same thing at a fraction of the cost.
You just pop them on a regular barbell or dumbbell and they instantly replicate the fat bar handle thickness.
This is a very popular training accessory, which gets overwhelmingly positive reviews.
I don't own a pair myself, but I have used them before and they fatigued the hell out of my forearms and left me with a Popeye-esque forearm pump.
15. CoC Grippers
There's no such thing as having too much grip strength. It helps you lift more weight on every exercise (via central nervous system activation).
And of course, a strong grip prevents the bar from slipping during deadlifts - something no powerlifter wants to happen.
The Captains of Crush hand grippers are arguably the best grip trainer on the market.
I own a few of these and know first hand that they can quickly become an addicting challenge, with the result being stronger hands and forearms.
There are 11 different CoC gripper strengths available.
If you don't want to break the bank to buy all of them, I recommend getting the Trainer, No. 1, No. 1.5 and No. 2. These allow the trainee to progress smoothly and efficiently over time. But it will still keep them occupied for months before they can easily close the No. 2.
16. Dead wedge
The Dead Wedge is a cheap, yet effective tool that makes it easier to load on and off the bar for deadlifts.
See my article on deadlift jack alternatives for other products that help do the same thing (including some free solutions).
17. Deadlift Socks
Deadlift socks prevent the bar from scraping against the shins when the bar is pulled off the floor. I've had the MOXY brand of deadlift socks, and they've lasted years:
Don't like this style? See more colors and designs here »
Deadlift socks are a thoughtful gift to give anyone who deadlifts, especially if they do it in shorts.
And if they compete, they'll definitely need a pair, since deadlift socks are required in all powerlifting federations for sanitary reasons.
18. A High Quality Powerlifting Barbell
If you're shopping for a powerlifter who trains in a home gym and uses one of those low quality barbells that often come with a cheap Olympic weight set, he needs an upgrade.
Most experienced lifters and home gym enthusiasts would agree that if there's one piece of equipment to NOT go cheap on, it's the barbell.
Why? For starters, if a lifter is strong enough and the barbell is crappy enough, it may eventually snap in half while in use. It's not a common occurrence, but it's a very dangerous risk to take!
Even if it doesn't snap, the sleeves may come apart. Or it may bend in the middle. Or the knurling (which was likely minimal to begin with) will fade to the point that it's almost unusable. Or whatever--My point is that it will become less and less effective over time.
Moreover, a good barbell will make training exceedingly more productive AND safe. The difference is night and day.
That is why the #1 best gift for a powerlifter is a good power bar. I personally own and strongly recommend the Vulcan Absolute Power Bar:
It's a super high quality power bar for a reasonable price that will last a lifetime.
Here's a few of the most noteworthy features and specs:
- 221k PSI tensile strength, which is stronger than the vast majority of power bars on the market. You'd pay at least a couple hundred bucks extra if you wanted anything stronger (to be sure, nobody really "needs" anything stronger because 221k is extremely strong).
- Aggressive knurling on left side and right side - gives incredible grip!
- 4" center knurling is less aggressive and left/right side knurling, so it doesn't kill your traps during squats. But it's still coarse enough to keep the bar from sliding on your back, regardless of if you're squatting high bar or low bar.
- 29mm shaft diameter
- Black oxide shaft finish with dense chrome sleeves
- IPF marks
- Lifetime warranty that protects you against bending or breaking
Any lifter who's serious about getting strong will absolutely love this bar! And by extension, they'll you love you even more for giving it to them as a gift ;-P
A singlet is a great gift idea for any competitive powerlifter, since they are required to compete in every federation.
Many local IPF/IPF-affiliated meets won't care if you wear a singlet with a logo that's not IPF approved. However, I think it's a good idea to get one from a brand that is IPF-approved just to be safe; even more so if you're buying one for someone going to regionals or nationals...
...With that being the case, I recommend the IPF approved singlet from A7. Not only is it competition approved, but it's breathable, odor resistance, comfortable, won't ride up and provides the right amount of compression during lifts. Plus, it has a clean and sleek look to it:
20. BEAST Sensor
The Beast Sensor is one of the few fitness wearables that is made specifically for powerlifters, or any lifter serious about strength training for that matter.
This gym tracker system involves the actual sensor device and an app that it wireless communicates with in real-time.
The Beast Sensor can be attached to the bar magnetically, or the lifters body via the wrist strap or the optional body vest. The device uses accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses to measure bar or body speed and count reps.
The bar/body speed metric is the crucial aspect of this Beast Sensor--it's what the system is designed around.
More specifically, the Beast Sensor allows the lifter to use a different and arguably superior programming strategy. This programming strategy is known as velocity based training, or VBT for short.
I recommend reading my practical guide to velocity based training to learn the basics of VBT and how to put it into practice at the gym with a VBT device like the Beast.
Basically, the Beast measures the average velocity of each set. It compares this average velocity against the ideal range for whichever training mode is being using (i.e. velocity, hypertrophy, max strength, power).
- If the lifter is lifting faster than than the ideal range, the app tells the lifter to reduce the weight.
- If lifter performs the set slower than the ideal range, the app recommends a lighter.
- If it's within the ideal range, then the same weight should be used.
In other words, the Beast enables lifters to get real-time, objective and accurate feedback, so that they use the optimal weight for each set. Thus, lifters are able to progress faster and are less likely to be injured from pushing their limits.
I actually wrote a very in-depth review of the Beast Sensor if you're interested in learning more about it.
If you choose this awesome gift idea, then be sure to use my discount code BEASTAKB5 for 5% off your order.
21. Voucher for a Massage Session
I don't know of any powerlifter who doesn't get tight, knotted-up muscles from all the heavy lifting they do.
A session (or two, or three) of deep tissue massage is guaranteed to make any powerlifter feel great and move better.
Be sure to buy the voucher from a reputable, qualified massage therapist, preferably someone experienced in treating athletes.
22. Online Coaching from a Respected Strength Coach or Powerlifter
This is probably the most creative gift you can buy for a dedicated powerlifter.
There are plenty of very knowledgeable strength coaches, and even some professional powerlifters, who offer online training.
Note that there are plenty of people out there who offer online training, but many actually just give out cookie cutter programs and are inattentive to their clients.
I did a bit of research to find people who generally have a solid coaching reputation and/or are knowledgeable and well-known powerlifters.
Note: This is just a starting point. I recommend doing further and more in-depth research before making the decision to purchase someone's services.