Are Knee Sleeves Allowed In Raw Powerlifting?

Knee sleeves are a common piece of equipment used by powerlifters to provide support and stability to their knees during heavy lifting. However, when it comes to raw powerlifting competitions, the rules regarding the use of knee sleeves can be a bit confusing.

Some lifters assume that knee sleeves are not allowed in raw powerlifting, while others believe that they are permitted. In this post, we will explore the topic of knee sleeves in raw powerlifting and provide a clear answer to the question of whether or not they are allowed.

Are Knee Sleeves Allowed In Raw Powerlifting

Common equipment for Raw Powerlifting

  • Special shoes
  • Belts
  • 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:

  • Equipped
  • Raw

What is the Difference Between Raw and Equipped Powerlifting?

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 rules means lifting and competing with little or no additional equipment. Generally, the only approved equipment in raw meets are approved:

  • Singlets
  • Lifting Belts
  • Wrist Wraps
  • Knee Sleeves
  • Chalk

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 ok for raw powerlifting rules and used 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

First of all, knee sleeves will keep your knee joints warm and flexible keeping injury and soreness to a minimum.

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.

Check out this post about powerlifting knee sleeves vs wraps for squats. Knee Wraps vs Knee Sleeves for Squatting

? It could be possible to see an overall increase in squats of from 5-25 pounds?

USPA Raw Divisions

USPA actually has two raw divisions, Raw and Classic Raw. The only difference is that the classic division allows knee wraps in their competitions. Here’s the USPA Technical Rules.

Let’s 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.

Raw powerlifting and equipped powerlifting are two different styles of powerlifting that differ in terms of the equipment used during competition.

Raw powerlifting involves lifting with little to no additional equipment such as weightlifting belts, knee wraps, bench press shirts, and other supportive gear.

In contrast, equipped powerlifting allows athletes to use supportive equipment during competition to lift more weight.

While equipped athletes can lift significantly more than their raw counterparts, equipped lifting is more demanding both physically and technically.

Raw lifting allows lifters to develop their own strength and power without relying on equipment, which can lead to greater gains in strength and power over time.

Since the beginning of time powerlifting has been all about who can lift the most weight, right?

This weight lifting falls into one of 3 divisions:

  • Squats
    • Squats in powerlifting refer to the competitive lift where the lifter must squat down with the barbell on their back, reach a depth where their hip joint is below their knee joint, and then stand back up with the weight.
  • Deadlifts
    • Deadlifts are a competitive lift where the lifter must lift a loaded barbell off the ground to a standing position with their hips and knees fully extended, and then return the weight to the ground under control.
  • Benchpress
    • Bench press refers to the competitive lift where the lifter lies on a bench and lifts a loaded barbell off a rack, lowers it to their chest, and then presses it back up to full arm extension.

Then each of these 3 divisions gets divided up into:

  • Age
  • Bodyweight
  • Sex

Of course, since the inception of powerlifting,  athletes have been using and exploring different equipment to help them with better results. Especially the best knee sleeves for weightlifting.

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 better results.


So, the answer to the question is Yes, Knee Sleeves are allowed in raw powerlifting — usually.

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