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Ready to get started powerlifting? Here’s a guide to everything you need! From weights to shoes to chalk, it’s covered.

Preparing Your Home Gym

If you have a suitable gym nearby that contains good powerlifting equipment rather than just a bunch of machines, you’re all set. But if there is no sort of gym, you’ll have to build your own in your garage.

You’ll want to outfit your home gym as follows:

  • Rubber floor mat
  • Olympic barbell with plates
  • Bench
  • Power Cage or Squat Rack

Rubber floor mat – Specialty fitness mats are very expensive – about $100 + shipping for a small section (so you’ll need two.)

To me, horse stall mats are the best choice. They are super tough (they handle giant horses walking on them) and a great value – about $35 for a 6×8′ mat at Tractor Supply Company. Get two for $70 and you’ll have plenty of space to work on.

Avoid the softer, interlocking mat sets sold at department stores. Sure, they’re cheap, but they’re not meant for any serious training. They are on the slippery side, will compress under your weight, rip easily, and they won’t protect your floor if you happen to drop a weight.

Olympic barbell with plates – This is the heart of your gym right here. Start with a good Olympic barbell that is 7′ long, 2″ diameter, and 45lb. Troy and York are good, proven brands.

For weight plates, you can start with just a 200-300lb set of plates, but if you’re a bigger dude (200+lb) or pretty strong already, get 400-500lb.

Bench – A good, solid bench will run you $100-300. Make sure you get a real Olympic bench made to fit a 7′ bar.

Benches do seem rather expensive for what they are, but you’re trusting it to hold a heavy weight above your head without fail, so keep that in mind!

Power Cage or Squat Rack – This is an absolute necessity for squatting. It’s the only way you’ll be able to get the loaded bar on your shoulders!

A basic squat rack, which merely holds the bar in the air for you, will run you $150-200. A power cage will start around $250-300 (with plenty of them costing $1000 and up,) but is more versatile. The cage provides the safety factor of letting you escape the bar if you can’t get the weight back up from the bottom of a squat.

If you lift at home by yourself, a power cage is essential.

Tip: If you get a power cage, you can buy a bench without a built-in rack since you can use it inside the power cage (making use of the cage’s rack and safety features.)

Powerlifting Shoes and Clothing

To get started, you don’t need anything special. You can literally start training in athletic shorts, t-shirt, and bare feet. But a few particular items will improve your comfort and help you lift heavier.

Shoes – Specialty lifting shoes are available; generally they’re made to help you squat. True powerlifting shoes run about $200 for a nice pair.

The best alternative (arguably the best shoe, period) is the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star. The flat, stiff sole is a good base for all three exercises, and they sit low to the ground. The tough canvas sides hold together while you’re pushing outward for a good squat. Priced around $25-45, these are a good quality, very affordable option.

For deadlifting, where a thick sole means you have to pull the bar further, some people choose deadlift slippers for that little extra advantage. They’re super thin, so it’s like being barefoot (except no one has to look at your feet.) Only $9.

Socks – Any socks will do, but it’s a good idea to have some tall socks to protect your shins during deadlifts. You don’t want to get cuts and scrapes. Knee-high, slippery socks would be best, but any tall socks will do.

There is such a thing as “deadlift socks” for around $10, but it’s just as good to check out conventional socks. American Apparel sells some pretty cheap knee-high socks.

Singlet – This is what you would wear during competition. It looks just like a wrestling singlet, but is cut specifically for powerlifting. Singlets cost about $40.

Accessories and Miscellaneous Items

Here are some other items that you will enjoy having around.

Belt – A 4″ powerlifting belt is the popular choice. Expect a decent belt to cost $50-100.

Chalk – Chalk is used to get a better grip on the bar – vital for deadlifting. A bag is only about $3.

A second option is to try Liquid Grip for where chalk isn’t allowed (since it’s messy.) A little bottle is about $8.

Baby powder – This is to lubricate your quads so the bar slides better during the deadlift. I bet you can find a large container for $1.

Smelling salts – These are used to get psyched up before a lift. $6 will get you a little container that lasts a long time.


If you have any questions on equipment, please ask them below in the comments.

Photo Credit: J Griffin

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