10/20/Life for Equipped Lifting

Equipped lifting for 10/20/Life

10/20/life is a strength training program which can be used many different ways and for different purposes.

The way it is designed is for you to make this program your own, whatever your goals may be. I leave room for interpretation and customizability for you to achieve your chosen goal. The last thing I wanted to do was make a one-size-fits-all product that was only for those that chose equipment or only for those that chose to lift raw.

I certainly didn’t want to spend too much time talking about a subject some people don’t care to read about or learn about, which is geared lifting. That’s not a knock on geared lifting, as it’s my division of choice and has always been since I started. My goal is to teach people how to train themselves and didn’t want it convoluted with a bunch of gear talk and get away from the purpose of 10/20/Life, which is to get you strong.

Powerlifting is strength training. Whether you chose to lift equipped or raw, it doesn’t matter. One thing is certain, equipped lifting adds variables to your training that is more complex to overcome, but with that challenge brings another element of competition and safety as well. I’m not saying it is without risks, but as far as shoulders, pecs, hips, and knees are concerned, equipped lifting will allow you a better chance to stay in one piece, in my opinion. Having said all that; I’m going to help you with setting up your cycle and how to go about it.


I strongly suggest that you work in only briefs or at most your squat suit with the straps down. When you want to add in gear is a personal choice and it is up to you when you feel best adding it into your cycle. With the variables that I’ve spoken about, you have to give yourself adequate time to break in your gear, dial it in to fit properly, and make sure you are ready to start training in it.

If your gear is new, you don’t want to jump into pre-contest mode (10 weeks out). If you are not experienced in gear, trying to learn it in 10 weeks is going to be a hard lesson to learn. Even if you are well versed in the fine art of wearing supportive equipment, it can take upward of 5 weeks to break in a bench shirt or suit properly.

With that being said, the offseason is the time to get your ass accustomed to wearing it. I suggest starting at 15-20 weeks out. This is the time to make decisions as to what gear to use, and the time to break it in, adjust it and get used to it. There will be an adjustment period, especially if it’s true to fit and tight. The longer that you are in the gear, the more chance you have for your joints to get beat down (yes I said earlier it can help you stay in one piece, but powerlifting of any type isn’t without aches and pains). I suggest that you go with 15 weeks if it’s possible, but if you’re new to geared lifting, then shift that time to 20 weeks.

As I said earlier, you want to start with briefs, or squat suit with the straps down, and run for it the duration of the offseason time that you have for the squat and the deadlift. Make sure to work down in depth with squats slowly and take your time breaking in your gear. The deadlift won’t be as hard to learn the gear as the squat, but adjustments are definitely needed.

For the bench shirt, start with higher boards and slowly work down. Start with a 3, or 4, board and take your time cementing your form before you work down. You want to finish your offseason training by working down to a 2 board. Your assistance will be raw; don’t think because you are putting on gear you can just neglect raw work, that is a misconception and a mistake. I advise you to keep your work lighter and learn the groove in the offseason and refer to the offseason chart for reps and the RPE chart as a guide to regulate your weight.

No gear on deload weeks. Take this time to recover, If you make the mistake of going full bore through the offseason, neglecting the deload week (or wearing gear through it) and then shifting right in to the 10 week pre-contest cycle, you will be beaten up and your performance will suffer.


Once you approach the final 10 training weeks that lead up to your meet, you must have all gear ready to go so that you can peak properly. At this point in your training, you should only be worried about fine-tuning your form, and gear, as you’re handing much heavier loads than the offseason.
You will be working this cycle based on your equipped percentages(not raw)!
If you do not have a previous equipped max, consider adding about 15% or so to your raw max. This is just an educated guess, as everyone is different.

I suggest you start the pre-contest phase with straps down on both the squat and the dead, but after the first week or two, do your listed working sets with your full gear on, just like you will do at your meet.
I don’t necessarily believe it’s a must to be able to hit proper squat depth right away in the first week or two of this cycle, but by five weeks out you should be very close to depth. By the end of this cycle, you should be in full competition squat form. As always, video your lifts, analyze your form and be honest with yourself.

For the bench, you should start with a 3 board for the first couple of weeks, then transition down to 2 board and 1 board as the weeks go on. Most of your bench shirt work should be with a 1, or 2, board, and working down to touching full range every other week or so, as you progress to the meet.

Again, this all depends on experience and how training is going for you.
For deload, during pre-contest, gear is optional. With the clients that I work with one-on-one, I usually have them stay in gear unless they are beat up. Stay in the 50-60% range and dial in your form; this is no different than a pre-contest deload with the exception of the gear being an option.

If you feel you need more work in the gear, put the straps down on the squat and deadlift, use a 2-3 board for bench pressing and keep the loads in the proper range for the deload week.

Be smart about your training. If you’re feeling really beat up, then back off and go raw for the deload week. Going into a meet feeling like your body got run over by a train isn’t any way to have optimal performance at your meet. Deload weeks are there for a reason.

Recap and Brief Overview

• Start earlier than necessary in offseason just “in case”, allow 15-20 total weeks (5-10 offseason)
• For offseason work, straps down or briefs for squat and dead, bench high boards for the duration of the cycle
• If you’re new to gear, consider working down to a box for offseason squats to get the ‘feel’ for the pressure of wearing briefs and a squat suit
• Stay within the rep ranges and RPE for offseason work
• Once pre-contest starts, work off the percentages listed. If you don’t have an equipped max, then add approximately 15% to your raw “max”
• Start with suit straps down on squat and dead, and higher boards (2-3) for the first couple of weeks
• After the first couple of weeks, put your suit straps up and lower the boards down
• Video your lifts and don’t freak out if you can’t hit depth immediately, but you should be close (within 5 weeks or so) and competition ready by the time of the meet
• Make sure to hit depth on squat and “touch” your chest for bench in your training before the meet – especially if you’re new to gear.


In a perfect world your blocks would look like this:
10-week offseason would consist of 5 weeks completely raw.
The final 5 weeks in briefs for the squat and dead.
3 board or so in the shirt until it’s time to start pre-contest for the final 10 weeks of equipped work to get you ready for your test day, or meet day.

*NOTE for Your CUSTOM Assistance work: Core work (think the Mcgill big 3) is all the more important with the overloads that equipped lifting brings to the table. Hammer this! As always, observe your weak points and plug and play with the weak point chart, and develop your own custom assistance work according to YOUR needs. General mainstay assistance work for equipped lifting: board press, floor press, pause squat, Goodmorning, block/rack pull etc. You get the idea. As always, your assistance work is done RAW.

I do understand that this cannot always happen, especially for those who are new to gear, those who want to have a life outside of lifting with travel and other life situations.

A lot of this is simply trial and error; I’ve learned what works best for me and my clients.

There is not just one concrete method to go about wearing gear and using it. With 10/20/Life I am simply giving you the tools to blaze your own path, whether it’s just to be the strongest gym rat at your facility, become stronger for personal reasons or to be the strongest equipped or raw lifter on the planet.

10/20/Life is applicable to all. This is proven to work from the stud raw lifter in his early 20’s who is already very strong, to an experienced equipped lifter in his early 30’s and even 60-year-old grandmothers who want to lift for years to come.

Use this guide, and make it your own.

The following two tabs change content below.
Avatar photo

Brian Carroll

Owner and Founder at PowerRackStrength.com
Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Contact Brian Carroll

Schedule A Consult Below

Take 25% OFF
Your first purchase
Subscribe Now!