Are you really "Raw" or does it just describe your lifting conditions?

Whenever people start getting competitive about lifting stuff, the "yeah but's" come out.

"Yeah, but they're on steroids"
"Yeah, but they don't have to work for a living"
"Yeah, but they're built to lift/genetically gifted"
"Yeah, but they don't have to walk out their squats/break parallel"
"Yeah, but they wear those squat suits and bench shirts"
"Yeah, but they were using weight belts and knee sleeves"

Usually if a person is throwing out a "yeah but" it's because that person is really just a bit butt hurt that someone else is lifting more.  Rather than accept and appreciate a feat of strength for what it is, the "yeah butters" feel like they need to validate their own achievements by knocking down someone else's.

With the growth in popularity of "raw" or "classic" lifting, there's a new, rabid group of "yeah butters" that seem to believe in an ideology that somehow places "raw" lifting as superior to any other form.  You've seen them on internet forums, they're the ones that are more than proud to proclaim they lift without belts, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, sometimes even chalk.

They evangelize the benefits of lifting weights with only the God given sinews and bones they were born with.  To them, the purity of the lifting experience precludes actually doing some things necessary to get stronger.  They are happily content to insufficiently work their posterior chain because their grip endurance fails long before their hamstrings, glutes, or spinal erectors--all because they refuse to use chalk or wrist straps.  That is perfectly fine if they are content to exercise for the sake of exercise or if, by chance, their competitive arena tests grip endurance instead of 1 RM.  However, this mis-guided ideology pervades those who also seek to test themselves in powerlifting competition.

Powerlifting or olympic weightlifting competitions are beautifully objective.  Either you succeed in lifting the weight according to the rules or you don't.  There are no style points given for form or for how spartan your training regime is.  Nor is there any quarter given if you choose to ignore resources available to you that are proven to add pounds to your total.  This is where the "yeah buts" come in.  The "yeah butters" rationalize their performance with any number of "yeah buts".  Save it.  No one wants to hear it.

Here's the thing.  Raw lifting is more convenient, far less expensive, and it's an easily understood context by which to compare lifts.  It's not more difficult, it's not the "truest measure of strength", nor does it require more skill than powerlifting using bench shirts, squat suits, and deadlift suits.  Geared single-ply powerlifting is unbelievably difficult and requires a determination and willingness to hurt above and beyond anything that a raw powerlifting routine would ever demand.  Multi-ply geared powerlifting pretty much requires one to sell their soul to the Devil.  It's that hard.

Most of us that have experience in gear circled back to raw lifting for one reason.  To get away from the gear.  I've heard and read things from ignorant lifters that have only ever lifted raw that astound me.  Things like, "the gear lifts the weight for you" or "I want to know that when I lift, it's me lifting the weight not my clothing."   Really?  Really?

If anyone making such statements had ever lifted in gear, they would instantly know that the gear wants to kill you.  The squat suit wants to cut off your legs and blow your head up.  The bench shirt either wants to dump the bar on your face or belly when it's not trying to break your ribs or cut your arms off from the armpits.  The deadlift suit just plain fights you and won't let you get down to the bar and when it does, if you're male, tries to trade a successful lift in return for a lifetime as a eunuch.  The lifters that stick with the gear and learn the intricacies of using it effectively are true adrenaline junkies.  The fine line between a successful lift with bone snapping weights and a 911 call is slim at the top levels.  Each successful lift is like surviving a rush by a rabid grizzly bear.

But back to raw, there isn't even a standard for "raw".  I guess that's where the ideologues come in. There's raw with belt and knee wraps, raw with belt and knee sleeves, raw with belt only, and then there are those, the Opus Dei of raw that lift with nothing but shoes and clothes.  The strange thing is, for all their adherence to not wanting to use anything that could possibly augment their God given ability, they are often the same people asking on internet forums about legal supplements or the best type of whey protein or creatine.

I'm not sure why they don't see the disconnect.  What is the difference between using a belt or knee sleeves and supplementing with whey protein, casein, Jack3d, or whatever else they're suckered into buying by the eternally slick supplement marketing companies?  Sure, no human has yet been born with a 13mm thick 4" wide weight belt attached to their midsection but at the same time, there is no food on earth except maybe egg whites that you can buy that mimics the zero-fat, nearly zero carbohydrate, protein density of highly processed whey protein.  As for creatine, there is no way to get a similar amount of dietary creatine without also ingesting large quantities of protein and fat. If you really wanted to "keep it real" wouldn't you also want to eat food instead of processed astro-foods?

I'm not immune to throwing out a "yeah but" myself but I've come to realize that none of what I do identifies me so I have no desire to validate myself or discredit any one else's strength enterprises.  For those that will trumpet that they are "raw",  hopefully they don't wear "raw" like a badge of honor or worse a quasi-religion (see Crossfit, "paleo", or barefoot runners) but just as a description (and not a precise one at that) of the conditions under which they test their strength.





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