March 22, 2021

What Do Weightlifters Wear?

With the boom of Olympic Weightlifting on YouTube and Instagram, you may have seen lifters wearing many different items of clothing and Weightlifting accessories. But what and why do they wear them?

Olympic Weightlifters wear a Weightlifting singlet and Weightlifting shoes as part of their competition uniform. Additionally, but not compulsory, Weightlifters will wear a Weightlifting belt, knee sleeves, and wrist wraps for extra protection and stability.

But this isn’t everything a lifter can and may want to wear. So what else can a Weightlifter wear and why do they wear Weightlifting singlets?

What Do Weightlifters Wear?

Weightlifters when competing will wear a Weightlifting singlet and Weightlifting shoes. All of the extra accessories are optional and depend on the personal preference of the lifter.

Other than the usual gear, Weightlifters may also wear anything on their head. This can be a hat or even a tiara if you are that way inclined. However, anything that is worn on the head while lifting is considered part of the head.

That means if the barbell touches the accessory worn on your head during the lift, you will be red-lighted for a no lift. So, lifter beware!

Further, Weightlifters may wear long socks to protect their shins from scraping or to provide a more slippery surface for the bar to run-up. As long as these socks don’t cover the knees, they are fair game.

These are competition rules. In training, however, anything goes and you can wear what you like. Generally, most Weightlifters will wear some form of compression pants as it allows the barbell to slide up the legs with no friction.

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Why Do Weightlifters Wear Singlets?

The Weightlifting singlet, known as the costume by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), is a compulsory piece of clothing that must be worn during competition. The rules state “A T-shirt and shorts cannot be worn instead of a costume.” This is the reason Weightlifters wear Weightlifting singlets.

Importantly, it must be one piece and not a separate top and bottom. Further, it must not have a collar or cover the elbows or knees. It can also be any color.

Most Weightlifting singlets fit tight to the body like a compression garment. However, it does not have to. So, if you have a hand-me-down singlet or are on the skinnier side, a costume that fits loose is okay.

When buying a singlet for Weightlifting, they will already meet these requirements when buying from reputable brands such as Nike and Adidas.

What Do You Wear Under A Weightlifting Singlet?

Males will generally wear compression shorts under the singlet to hide and keep their junk out of the way when lifting. Never free ball in your Weightlifting singlet as some singlets can be partially see-through and you may find a nasty surprise when the barbell passes the hip.

You may notice some male lifters will wear a T-shirt under their Weightlifting singlet when they start clean & jerks. Lifters will do this to prevent the barbell from slipping from their shoulders when catching the clean.

This is allowed as long as the T-shirt has no collar and doesn’t cover the elbows. A high neck is allowed.

Shorts can be worn under or over the Weightlifting singlet as mentioned above. However, they must be tight-fitting.

Females will sometimes wear a unitard under their Weightlifting singlet. This can be either a one or two-piece. The main requirement is it must cover the full-body, it must be tight-fitting, and it can be of any color.

For example, if you are wearing a long sleeve compression shirt, you also must have long compression pants. This unitard is allowed to cover the elbows and knees but it must not have any patterns or design.

Further, you must be able to see the Weightlifting singlet so it’s important that the unitard is worn under the singlet.

Can I Wear A Custom Weightlifting Singlet?

According to the IWF rules, a Weightlifting singlet can be decorated or marked with your:

  • Name
  • Nickname
  • Club Name
  • Member Federation
  • National Emblem

It can also be of any color so your Weightlifting singlet can be customized to your liking.

Do Singlets Help You Lift More?

Weightlifting singlets are not designed to help you lift more. It is Powerlifting that designs squat, bench, and deadlift suits for equipped Powerlifting that help athletes lift more weight in these three lifts.

These Powerlifting suits are like loaded springs. They are so tight that as the barbell is lowered, the suit is stretched taking away some of the stress placed on the muscles. Once the upwards phase is initiated, all of this elastic, spring-like energy from the suit is used to reverse the downward motion to complete the lift.

Weightlifting singlets are made of light, stretchy polyester and spandex not providing the same help as a Powerlifting suit. And no, a Powerlifting suit is not allowed in Weightlifting competition.

Summary Box

  • Weightlifters must wear a Weightlifting singlet and shoes during competition. Other accessories such as belts, knee sleeves, and wrist wraps are optional.
  • Clothing can be worn under a Weightlifting singlet but it must be full-body for females and it must not cover the elbows or knees for males.
  • Weightlifting singlets do not help you lift more weight like a Powerlifting suit does.

James de Lacey

About the author

James is a professional strength & conditioning coach having worked around the world with professional and elite rugby and rugby league teams. He is also an accomplished Weightlifter having competed at the National level. Further, he is a published academic researcher in the field of Sport & Exercise Science.

Mona de Lacey


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