Squatting Raw vs. Fake Raw

By: Danny Vega

In June of 2014, I decided I would ditch my wraps and get stronger in just sleeves. It was an opportunity to strengthen my quads and develop some strength out of the hole, as I have always been a hip/glute dominant squatter. After almost a year and two meets of competing in sleeves, it became apparent that my left knee wouldn’t hold up if I kept at this, so I decided to go back in wraps.

[wa-wps]

Here are some considerations when looking at squatting raw vs. fake raw.

Age/Training Age

If you are a young athlete (i.e. under 21), practice on getting as strong as possible in the least gear possible. There are a few obvious reasons for this. First of all, you are just learning how to squat. There is no need to add wraps to that learning curve. Second of all, it is unlikely that you will be pushing that much weight that wraps would even be necessary. You are building your base of strength, and unless you are a genetic freak (99% of us aren’t) you won’t need the wraps. As a novice lifter, you most likely won’t be training at above 75% if you are smart, and a good rule of thumb for wraps is to only put them on at or above 75%. Lastly, wraps definitely give support and may add some pounds to your squat, but you shouldn’t use them as a crutch.

Injuries

If you have dealt with knee pain or prior injuries, or your knees are way older than you are due to your background (I think of myself having played on turf in college and people like Scott Paltos who played football/strongman/crossfit/powerlifting), the harsh reality may be that wraps are a way to stay in the game. I know that once I get above a certain weight, I’m putting on my wraps. I want longevity in this sport and with an ACL reconstruction and other issues, my knees are my weakest link. Jonathan Byrd has the 600 rule. Anything above 600 for him means wraps.

Check Your Ego

You know I couldn’t go without mentioning this one. Most sports are full of people with huge egos, and powerlifters can be the worst in this regard. With YouTube and Instagram, all of a sudden people’s training sessions are more important than the actual day of competition.

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I am all for taking video of your lifts, but not when it affects your weight selection and causes you to be really stupid in training. So you’ll see some guys doing 15 reps in wraps or throwing on their wraps in their off season right after a meet to put more weight on the bar. It’s just not smart, and it shows on meet day when your beat down and don’t hit what you hit in training.

There are people who may never have to put on wraps because their knees can take a beating and always recover. Good for them. Others may need wraps after a while. They are two separate divisions, so do what is best for you. Someone I am coaching recently told me he wanted to see how strong he can get in just sleeves. I told him to go for it. You never know how much that could help your wrapped squat until you do a few cycles in sleeves and see what happens.

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Danny Vega

Danny Vega is a 220lb raw powerlifter with meet bests of 640 squat in wraps (610 raw), 400 bench, and 700 deadlift. A native of Miami, Florida, Vega received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 2004, where he was a member of the football team and a three-time Dean’s List recipient. Vega earned his masters of science in human performance from the University of Florida, where he worked with the national championship men’s basketball team along with women’s basketball, tennis, and golf programs. He then went on to become the Strength & Conditioning coordinator for VCU basketball. The Rams were 2007 conference champions and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
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