Before we can get into if knee sleeves are allowed in raw powerlifting, perhaps we should talk about the difference between Raw and Equipped powerlifting.
That will make it easier to see what and why knee sleeves aren’t allowed in some federations.
Since the beginning of time powerlifting has been all about who can lift the most weight, right? Lifting this weight falls into one of 3 divisions:
Then each of these 3 divisions gets divided up into:
Of course, since the inception of powerlifting, athletes have been using and exploring different equipment to help them with better results.
No different than athletes playing on grass and turf use cleats to keep from slipping around, powerlifters like to use equipment specific to the sport for better support, safety, and results.
Check out the Nordic Lifting Sleeve Review on this page.
Common equipment for Raw Powerlifting
- Special shoes
- Knee Wraps
- Knee Sleeves
- Wrist Wraps
- Body Suits
Like everything competitive, though, the equipment itself is ever-evolving, ever looking for better results both to sell the “tools of the trade”, and to up the edge of the people using them.
As just about every piece of powerlifting equipment has evolved in an effort to lift more weight, the Federations have divided powerlifting competition into two groups:
Raw vs Equipped Weight Lifting
The reason for the division of Raw vs. Equipped has come about due to people arguing the fact that equipment will allow more weight to be lifted. That is more weight can be lifted by the same person with the extra equipment than he/she could without it.
In fact research indicates that using powerlifting equipment might help the lifters lift 115% more — than without it.
And some people can take that advantage much farther.
Check out this article about Equipped Powerlifting by Shane Martin to get a glimpse at how in-depth using equipment goes.
Are Knee Sleeves Considered Raw?
Raw powerlifting means lifting and competing with little or no additional equipment. Generally, the only approved equipment in raw meets are approved:
- Lifting Belts
- Wrist Wraps
- Knee Sleeves
Knee Sleeves in Raw Powerlifting
Most all rule books for raw powerlifting include the use of neoprene knee sleeves!
- USA Powerlifting Raw/Unequipped Standards : Single-ply neoprene knee sleeves without attaching and/or tightening mechanisms like Velcro, clips, or straps
- IPF Rules for CLASSIC (raw/unequipped) Lifting : Sleeves, being cylinders of neoprene, may be worn only on the knees by the lifter in the performance of any lift in competition; sleeves cannot be worn or used on any part of the body other than the knees. (scroll to the bottom of the PDF to read a detailed overview of knee sleeves use by IPF Raw lifting.
- APPROVED EQUIPMENT LIST (USPA Rulebook) : All Knee Sleeves except the Yellow Jacket are approved for the RAW division. The Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeves are approved for Classic RAW, Single Ply and Multi-Ply
In general, knee sleeves are going to be used in Raw Lifting as long as they are no longer than 30cm and more than 7mm thick.
They won’t be able to touch the singlet and most of the time you are going to find a list of allowed sleeves.
The Purpose of Knee Sleeves For Powerlifting
But when it comes to powerlifting, most lifters are wearing them a couple of sizes too small in order to increase the amount of weight lifted, even in Raw events.
It’s definitely possible to see an overall increase in squats of from 5-25 pounds.
So, the answer to the question is Yes, Knee Sleeves are usually allowed in raw powerlifting.