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10 Things to Look For in a Serious Powerlifting Gym

If you’re serious about improving your strength and conditioning, you need to join a powerlifting gym. This classic weightlifting discipline requires focus, technique, and dedication—but it also requires equipment that you won’t find at every gym, especially as you grow in strength and experience.

Once you decide to follow a powerlifting program, your first step is finding a gym with the right equipment and philosophy to fuel your success. Here are 10 unique pieces of equipment that will show you a gym is serious about their lifting culture:

  1. Proper Bars

    The entire sport of powerlifting revolves around the barbell, but not all bars are created equal. Bars have different thicknesses, different levels of flexibility, and different knurling (textured metal that aids your grip), all of which play a part in how your lifts will feel. There are also many different kinds of bars, ranging from standard squat/bench/deadlift bars to hex bars, cambered bars, swiss bars, and more. Great powerlifting gyms will have a wide selection of well cared-for bars, and employees should be able to help you find the best bar for the job.

  2. Chalk

    Sweaty palms? Failing grip strength? Most big box gyms have phased out chalk, and many weightlifters plateau simply because they can’t hold on to the weight their muscles are capable of lifting. A powerlifting gym should have a chalk tray available in the lifting area. If they don’t, its use should still be encouraged.

  3. Adjustable Benches

    The bench press is often mistaken as the simplest core lift, but there’s a TON of technique packed into this classic movement. The starting position of your bar is key to your success on a set or a max attempt, but many gyms only offer fixed height benches that don’t cater to the arm length of individual lifters. High-quality benches should always be adjustable, and should be one of the first things you look for in a new gym.

  4. Competition Plates

    Iron plates are great for most workouts, but the design of a plate can significantly change the feel of a lift. Competition plates, which can be easily identified by their colored design and metric labeling, are thinner and denser than their normal iron counterparts. If you aspire to compete in powerlifting, it’s essential to find a gym that allows you to train with these special plates.

  5. 100 lb. Plates

    Speaking of unusual plates, 100 lb. plates are a true rarity that are only found at truly elite powerlifting gyms. Beyond making bar math a little easier, these plates also change the balance of a bar and have wider contact with the floor, adding a degree of difficulty to lifts that you can’t get from any other plate.

  6. Deadlift Jack

    Once you start pulling big numbers with your deadlift, loading and unloading the bar can feel like half the workout. A deadlift jack suspends the bar off the floor while you load and unload plates without extra friction. Work smarter, not harder, and save your energy for the actual lift.

  7. Reverse Hyperextension Machine

    Powerlifters need strong lower backs, and the safest way to train this sensitive muscle group is with a reverse hyperextension machine. This unique tool utilizes your glutes and lower back muscles without putting unnecessary stress on your spine. You can’t get this movement from any other machine, and strengthening your core will make every lift safer.

  8. Bands & Chains

    Bands and chains are used by lifters to add variable amounts of resistance to lifts, helping them iron out flaws in technique or push certain phases of a lift to a new level of difficulty. Both bands and chains add resistance to the height of a movement, while bands also force a lifter to control their descent. Bands are also incredibly useful for warmups and accessory movements.

  9. GHR

    The glute ham raise is an incredible accessory movement for the posterior chain that strengthens and increases explosiveness in the glutes, hamstrings, and calves, but a quality GHR machine is rare, as most gyms aren’t willing to shell out for a good one. If you can find a gym with one of these, you can be sure they’re serious about setting lifters up for success.

  10. Monolift

    Sure, it looks like a torture device off the set of Game of Thrones, but the monolift is one of the most useful tools for advanced powerlifters. This unique and uncommon device eliminates the need for a walkout on heavy squat attempts or liftoff on bench attempts, making it great for strenuous lifts when you can’t afford to waste any energy.

Needless to say, a great powerlifting gym can be hard to find even in a large city. High-level powerlifting facilities require a strong culture, educated staff, and financially and mentally committed ownership. Luckily, [Hidden Gym] boasts all of the above, in addition to top of the line facilities for a wide variety of other training disciplines. Take an entirely new step in your fitness journey, and get started today!