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A powerlifting competition is comprised of three exercises: squats, bench presses and deadlifts. The two types of powerlifting are raw, in which lifters are permitted to wear a weightlifting belt, wrist wraps and knee sleeves, and geared or equipped powerlifting, which permits the use of special powerlifting assistance clothing. In the case of the squat, this means a squat suit.
Squat suits are made from very tight material. When you squat a heavy weight without a suit, you'll find that you have to work hard to stop yourself from descending very quickly, then exert maximum force once you reach the bottom position to push yourself out of the hole. The tightness of a squat suit provides resistance on the way down, then gives you an extra boost at the bottom due to the increased tension. You can squat heavier when wearing a suit, so much so that a suit has the potential to double your best raw lift, according to record-holding powerlifter and ACSM trainer Jared Skinner.
Raw squatting and equipped squatting are two entirely different animals. Equipped squatters adopt a much wider stance than raw lifters, to reduce the range of motion. You also need to sit back a lot more so that your shins remain vertical throughout the movement, advises strength coach and powerlifter Andy Bolton. You'll find your first few sessions using a squat suit extremely challenging and suits are so tight that you may even struggle to squat to proper depth.
In powerlifting competitions, you either have to do the whole meet equipped or unequipped. This means that if you want to squat wearing a suit, you must also compete in the deadlift while wearing a deadlift suit and wear a special bench shirt for bench presses. Equipped lifters compete against equipped and raw compete against raw -- there's no crossover. The International Powerlifting Federation issues an approved list of squat suits for competitions every year.
The decision on whether to squat with a suit or stay raw is entirely up to you. Aim to compete for at least a year before switching to equipped lifting though to give yourself enough time to build a base level of strength. Don't make the switch from raw to geared lifting on your own -- seek assistance from experienced equipped lifters and take your time learning the new technique before venturing into competitions.