Would The Greats Of Yesterday Have Worn Today's Gear?

At Go Heavy, Ron Fernando offers his historical perspective regarding whether powerlifters from previous eras would have used the gear available today had it been available to them.

Is Fernando correct? What arguments can be made that suggest those lifters wouldn't have used today's gear?

Let me tell you from a veteran's point of view how some of us see things today. Back " in the day" we didn't have the Internet, Elite Fitness, Metal, Titan, Inzer or anyone else to improve our lifting. We had things like Walgreen's, Sally's Beauty Shoppe( Ill explain this one in a moment) and the local Levi's shop. Truth be know, in 1977, every lifter out there wanted to improve his total by any means possible. For some that meant a trip to your friendly doctor for a prescription ( yes, very legal then) Others simply experimented with the uniform of the day( singlet, knee and wrist wraps plus belt) to make said accouterments tighter and more supportive. Still others did both. Now as far as the equipment, some of us would buy Levi 501's (with the button fly), cut them off- and wear a pair or two under under singlet in training and at the meet ( if we thought we could get away with it. )The jean shorts added maybe 20-40 lbs at the most but it was worth it. Others had a singlet manufactured by a local seamstress not to look like the normal wrestler's singlet with a lot of open spaces but one that covered as much of the body as the rules would allow but made about five sizes too tight. If you could get in and it didn't blow- you have yourself an ancient version of an early squat suit. Wraps were a joke- Ace bandages ere flimsy and unreliable, and could only hold so much tension, so some of us would go to Sally's Beauty Shoppe ( in Tucson) on the east side and buy the elastic that you used on curtains in large rolls. We then cut it to the required length and voila! A real knee wrap! Point of all of this is that equipment and the desire to use equipment to better improvement in lifting has always been around since the "Bedsheet Nationals" in 1968 where folks literally wrapped themselves like the proverbial mummy with real bedsheets under their gear. Do you think that if we all had access to a Double Ply Velcro attached suit we wouldn't have used it? Hell yes ,we would have and with glee! So, any sour grapes coming from guys of the 70's and 80's should be taken with a grain of salt- ie a wee spot of jealousy. I would love to turn the clock back to when I was 28 and at my peak and throw on a double ply suit- but I cant- I can only speculate. That doesn't make the lifts of yesteryear any better or worse, nor does equipment cheapen any of the lifts of today. Two different eras. Think about this- how fast would Jesse Owens run the 100 meters in a $200 pair of sprint shoes on a all weather surface AND using modern training? Who knows? His records though long broken still deserve a tremendous amount of respect and glory- just as the guys and gals who put up some big numbers in powerlifting sans gear ( or sans real gear as we know it) deserve the same sort of respect. The equipment guys deserve to make a living and yes- get rich if the can. This is the American way. I cannot tell you how many times they have come to the aid of lifters that I have coached and trained for equipment and yes even hard cash to help with travel expenses. So Dr. Judd, please leave them alone- we all know that if you had the gear back when you did your 603 squat at 132 you would have used them. All of us would have. It's not a moral issue but a fact of life.The only thing if any that veteran lifters like myself object to of the modern era is not the equipment but but some of the sorry excuses for lifts being passed by the head cheerleader- er.. head judge - mile high squats- unlocked benches- etc, and that these shitty lifts ( again irrespective of equipment) wind up on the cover of a magazine. To use the Track and Field Analogy again it would be like some guy using a new type of shoe claims a shocking world record in the 100- only he runs 90 meters!

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" i fear no man nor do i have any limits "
charles "big daddy" bailey

that is the most honest statment i have heard or read on this subject. well said i think i'll save this one.

Exactly. All the old guys whining about equipment is crazy. Any competitive athlete will look for any legal advantage. If you don't, then you just aren't competitive enough.

Back in the day (i like that saying) i can remember them even using skin divers wet suites and leaning back against a wall while hitching the bar up their legs deadlifting let alone 501's !

No excuses! Just lift it!

From one old guy to another Ron; that is so true! Thanks for the honesty. I remember Joe Hood squatting in real tight jeans getting ready for a meet back then. We thought he'd lost his mind when he said he got about 20 extra pounds out of them. Then when the Denims suits and shirts came out I thought; Looks like Joe was pretty smart!

I'd say most of them would've done it in a heartbeat. Likewise, I'd imagine quite a few of them wished that they could've gotten their hands on today's training methods as well. Would there have been more 1000+lb. squats or 800-900lb. benches 15-20 years ago if given today's advancements? How many of them would ditch progressive overload for Westside or Metal Militia?? This is a good question that would make for some interesting debates.

There will be a point down the road when todays numbers are broken as well. People will look back, its called moderization. It's in everything not just sports. Hybrid cars for example, Henry Ford wouldn't complain that someone advanced the automobile, or assembly line.
Advance/modernize or get left behind its part of life.

I know i'm going to get the attention of raw lifters with that statement. But I'm not putting down raw lifters just making a point.

www.myspace.com/squat_angel

As a lifter who also started in the mid-70s, I have to agree that if the gear of today were available then, I certainly would have used it. Although I must have been pretty naive about the bedsheet wraps, etc as I was just 17 at the time and my only source of PL news was Muscular Development magazine.

But here's my case in point. I believe it was my second Collegiate Nationals in 1977. There was a vendor who was selling the supersuits. I bought one the morning that I was going to lift and used it then and there.

So yes, I agree, if it was available and it was touted to increase your lift, we of yesteryear, certainly would have used it.

thank god for honesty. thanks for your contribution ron!

small is a state of mind

Look...Today's gear is a joke. All these multi ply feds are a joke too. It isn't a question about old timers using the equipment...It is why would you wear it period? The lifters are not stronger by any means! The same flops that were on roids using single ply gear maybe benching 380 are now in multi ply gear still on roids benching 600+. They ruined the squat by the mono lift and that hardly anyone squats deep anymore in these flop feds. The Bench is a joke. This push your gut up as high as you can...no bend in the elbow...4 inch stroke belly bench is retarded. Proof in the old puddin is that the deadlift hasn't received any help. 750 deadlift is still a big deal. Which it was 20 years ago. Now guys are benching more than they dead! Ya right! Thanks to the old multiply gear they are. Not in a million years would I ever imagined anyone bombing out of a meet for not getting 700 to their chest! That is retarded....Ya a guy might bench 700...The lifter is 400 the other 300 is the shirt! You shold be proud of DAT! Da dee duh!

Bitterness and honesty all in one thread. This is why I come to powerliftingwatch.com!

I love this post because I, too, remember how we were all looking for that little extra edge. I think one of the main reasons the bench shirts had to "butch up" was that a lot of us were blowing out the old blast shirts trying to fit into the tightest ones possible. I used to be able to get mine on really super tight....Which usually meant they would blow out as the fabric couldn't handle the strain. I've got a 35% pec rupture on the right side to attest to what happens when a shirt blows out with a big weight. When the multi-ply and denim stuff came out, I thanked God that I wouldn't have to end up wearing barbells again!

My squat always sucked due to repeated groin injuries, but slap on some predator briefs, and I can hang with the big guys. Had any or all of this stuff been around in the early 80's, I'd have used it, no question.

Friends Don't Let Friends Squat High

Sports advancements???

look at it like this:

100 meter

then 10 secs

now 9.7 secs

there is what sports advancements are!

To hell with all this shit, lift raw and get stronger

to hell with competition...you compete just as well raw and drug free.

And yeah they probably would have.

Anonymous wrote:
Look...Today's gear is a joke. All these multi ply feds are a joke too. It isn't a question about old timers using the equipment...It is why would you wear it period? The lifters are not stronger by any means! The same flops that were on roids using single ply gear maybe benching 380 are now in multi ply gear still on roids benching 600+. They ruined the squat by the mono lift and that hardly anyone squats deep anymore in these flop feds. The Bench is a joke. This push your gut up as high as you can...no bend in the elbow...4 inch stroke belly bench is retarded. Proof in the old puddin is that the deadlift hasn't received any help. 750 deadlift is still a big deal. Which it was 20 years ago. Now guys are benching more than they dead! Ya right! Thanks to the old multiply gear they are. Not in a million years would I ever imagined anyone bombing out of a meet for not getting 700 to their chest! That is retarded....Ya a guy might bench 700...The lifter is 400 the other 300 is the shirt! You shold be proud of DAT! Da dee duh!

Don't like Multi-ply gear and monolifts? Then don't lift in the "Flop Feds"(As you so lovingly refered to them) that use them.

Besides, there ain't much left of the dead horse you're trying to beat.

Michael Taylor wrote:
Friends Don't Let Friends Squat High

Sports advancements???

look at it like this:

100 meter

then 10 secs

now 9.7 secs

there is what sports advancements are!

To hell with all this shit, lift raw and get stronger

to hell with competition...you compete just as well raw and drug free.

And yeah they probably would have.

Great point! All we have done is advance our gear while gear manufactures make a better living. If powerlifting is about making a human being stronger then we have lost our way. Are we evolving or is out technology? An “American Defense Company” has developed a super suit for our ground forces though it is still not in production. It has the ability to house one soldier and provide him with exceptional strength. It is bullet/shrapnel proof, weighs a couple of hundred pounds, and can lift a few hundred pounds for hours. It can even pause to allow the operator to get out so it can continue with simple lifting tasks solo. I am pretty sure that this is where powerlifting is headed unless we keep sight of what we can do without the gear, as well as, in the gear. Our best training methods are still re-hashed soviet methods or brilliant ideas from long dead intellectuals of our field. I think I would be more impressed if everyone were lifting gearless and taking experimental drugs / genetic manipulation. At least we would be evolving instead of our gear.

I am sure the old timers would have been excited about using anything legal to increase their total, especially if their competitors had access to it. My question is this. Imagine that everyone lifted raw today and then suddenly someone came up with the bench shirts and squat suits we have today. Would they be accepted? I believe no, they are only accepted because they started out as almost nothing and have progressed over the years.

Why aren't elbow wraps legal in the multi-ply feds?

Anonymous hit the nail on the head. I saw no number over twenty lbs. regarding old timers using cut off jeans, whatever. That sure is different from three to four hd lbs. And these guys claim greater strength, yeah, uh huh. I think many lifters, those with pride, would not have jumped on the bandwagon knowing that a piece of cloth was moving thirty five to fifty percent for them. I think it would have seemed very odd and not indicative of what the sport is meant to be about, actual strength. I dont see the point of saying you can drive a Ferrari, when in fact you are only prepared for a civic.You would die trying to crank up the Ferrari (lifting the same weight without equipment as you do with it). Its highly misleading and false.I understand it is a way for many people to get around actually getting that strong, and they bitch every time someone asks questions like these. Hey, sorry you cant move the raw numbers the former champs in your weight class did for sets. Sucks I guess.But y ou can always get five friends to help you into equipment and claim to be 200lbs. stronger than men whose jocks you could never even carry, yet you choose to disrespect them, acting like you are a superior lifter. HAH. I have never heard someone say, oh I bench 800, but only 400 without my shirt, never going to happen, though that would be the truth. So the same person is given credit for an all time greatest bench, without himself actually moving all that weight without a TON of assistance. Guys cant touch with 900 in the bench, WTF? It really is a joke.Evolution? yes, if you are THAT reliant on your gear, then it serves you to believe that.Keep lieing to yourself, its ok, really. Its really just a circus side show, and that is how people look at it. They see it for what it is. And the sport cries that it wants credibility? Please.

The greats of yesterday would have done what the greats of today do, which is to use whatever they can within the rules to lift as much as possible. Would anyone suggest otherwise? Even in raw lifting today, there are raging debates over whether kneewraps are permissible, or knee sleeves, and if knee sleeves are permitted then what they can be made of. The point is, competitors are competitors, and competitors want to win, and want to lift as much as they can within the rules.

That being said, if today's bench shirts or squat suits were available in the 1970's, would they have remained legal? I think it's very possible that they wouldn't. After all, as was pointed out, elbow wraps are not legal, that being one of the few constants of the sport. One of the reasons that the highly supportive gear remained legal is that they evolved gradually with improvements. If the first blast shirt gave 200 lbs of help, there would probably be much fewer feds that allowed bench shirts today.

Tim Henriques wrote:
I am sure the old timers would have been excited about using anything legal to increase their total, especially if their competitors had access to it. My question is this. Imagine that everyone lifted raw today and then suddenly someone came up with the bench shirts and squat suits we have today. Would they be accepted? I believe no, they are only accepted because they started out as almost nothing and have progressed over the years.

Why aren't elbow wraps legal in the multi-ply feds?

they aren't allowed because they put you at extreme risk for pec tears

I too remember the good old days, and the invent of the Inzer blast shirt and the first 720 bench. I remember Ken Lain and Ted Arcedia trading the bench record every three months. Those were great days, but I really think we could have the same excitement if people would stop bitching and complaining.

Powerlifting has always been about moving the most weight possible, Bill "peanuts" West and the guys used tennis balls taped to the back of their knees, and the other guys used bed sheets, rubber cord and anything else, so nothing has changed, except the complaining.

George

The gear aint the problem, the rules are...

Sticking to the rules would help would any of the gear issues

but then some of Arcidi's old records were done touch n go...

i thought the original intent of gear was to protest the lifters. kinda like the under armour of today. i lift raw(don't crucify me) but thats my choice. steroids are a choice. bench shirst are a choice. the federation you lift in as a choice. i'm just not sure where the equipment manufacturer's are going to stop. a 300 bencher hitting 550, snapped forearms, and all this other ridiculous stuff going on is getting out of hand. just my opinion, don't kill the messenger...

Part of the question here is this:

Are we trying to legitimize the sport? Are we trying to gain a bigger audience? More popular participation? Because if we are, then the gear hurts the sport. People aren't dumb. Its obvious to all when the suit is doing most of the work. Personally, I'd like to see another push for PL to become olympic. But it cannot happen with gear. The public won't accept it. They will realize that the gear is getting better, and the people are not getting stronger. Or at least, the gear is getting better faster than the people are.

Now, if we decide we don't give a f*** what anyone thinks, that this is the dark side, most people don't get it, and never will... then who cares? What it means though is that you cannot compare lifters. You just cannot in any way compare a 600lb raw, drug tested squatter with a 1000lb triple-ply canvas wearing, untested squatter. They aren't competing in the same sport. That doesn't mean that they can't talk about some things... but the difference is not small. Its soccer and rugby.

Except maybe in the deadlift.... seems to be a hell of an equalizer....