Supportive Powerlifting equipment in the 1960s
Iron Man’s ‘Lifting news’ covered Powerlifting in this period and their photos have proved invaluable in looking back on the gear used in the 60s.
As you can see from the photo (right) of lightweight competitors from 1965; tanktops, t‐shirts, narrow weightlifting belts, tight and loose shorts, singlets, work boots, and even loafers were all worn the AAU established uniform rules.
All competitors wore belts but Olympic weightlifting style. Some competitors were photographed in ‘knee wraps’. These knee wraps are what we’d now refer to as ‘ace bandages’ which were thin elastic bandages used to wrap sprained ankles and such.
Powerlifting author Ken Leistner writes that competitions at the 1968 senior nationals had begun to push the envelope with gear.
Athletes like Jerry Jones (right) would sew 2 ace bandages together for extra support, bending the ‘one wrap’ rule. Jones even reportedly place halved tennis balls behind the knee under the bandage for extra support in the squat.
Leistner also writes “it was the ‘fashion’ to take a pair of very tight jeans . . . and cut them very short so they could be worn under a lifting singlet. Some guys wore two or more pair of these, one a size larger than the one beneath it. We also see rubber ‘knee sleeves’ and some competitors even wrapping their elbows in bench press attempts in this year
Tom Overholtzer (right) set a new American record in the squat of 655lbs. However, Overholtzer had wrapped his torso in a combination of bedsheets and Ace bandages underneath his singlet which threw judges into a quandry as the rules did not specifically state that such wraps were illegal at this time.
He was reportedly carried out from the warm up area, unable to walk properly due to the tightness of the gear, terrifying the spotters!
An Iron Man writer writes: "The saddest news coming from this Seniors was the utter disregard for the rules or the spirit of the rules by a few lifters. The use of bandages, torso wraps, and braces, unauthorized lifting apparel to disguise this situation too, is a perversion of the rules that denies the lifter himself, as well as other lifters, the pleasure of an honest victory in a legitimate test of strength"
In November 1972, at the AAU National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, a unanimous vote of the National Weightlifting Committee banned all wraps and supportive devices in powerlifting.
However, the thrill of lifting more weight in supportive gear had already captivated lifters. In the years to follow, the technology of gear took leaps forward and separate federations were formed where Powerlifters could wear various kinds of supportive equipment.