Powerlifting is one of the most popular strength sports. Powerlifters compete in 3 events to showcase maximum strength, the deadlift, squat and bench press. A typical lifter trains and competes using as many aids as possible, as the sport is lightly regulated in the major leagues. The squat suit is a classic for powerlifters; it is shaped and designed like a weightlifting singlet, but is made up of material which expands and contracts, providing support in particular areas with an aim to improve performance.
There is no academic research to provide substantial data on the effect of the squat suit on squat force, power or velocity, so the researchers at Appalachian State University in North Carolina set up a basic random study to find out.
8 male powerlifters at the elite or professional level took part in the study. They averaged 106kg in bodyweight, and their 1RM squat averaged 200kg. The study was made up of 3 trial sessions, including one session without a squat suit, and two others with the suit. The second and third sessions were made up of several attempts at 80% 1RM, 90% 1RM and 100% 1RM.
Data was collected from a force plate which the lifters squatted on, as well as 2 linear position transducers attached to the barbell. Results showed that when lifters used squat suits they had greater concentric velocity (speed during upward push) at all intensities. Peak eccentric force (down-ward motion) was significantly higher at 100% of 1RM. Finally, peak concentric power was significantly higher at 80% of 1RM with the suits as well.
These results show a significant and clear advantage to squat training and performance with the squat suit. Powerlifters have long embraced this piece of performance enhancing equipment, which finally has some scientific data backing its use. There are many more studies which would be required to determine the full extent of the advantage, for example; at different levels of performance, with non-elite powerlifters, and with non-powerlifters altogether.
Blatnik, Ja, Skinner, JW, Mcbide, JM. 2012. "Effect of Supportive Equipment on Force, Velocity, and Power in the Squat". Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 26(12): 3204-3208.