The Two-Ply Shirt

By Willie Albert and Jay Nera

In Powerlifting, Videos

February 04, 2011

Video Article

Join Sevan Matossian at Ironwill Strength and Fitness as he shows us a specialized piece of powerlifting equipment for the bench press: the two-ply shirt.

According to Willie Albert, a competitive powerlifter and coach, two-ply powerlifting is an incredibly extreme sport in which a shirt allows skilled lifters to push 200-300 lb. more than they could in a T-shirt. The key word here is “skilled.”

“I’m not saying that anyone can put on a bench press shirt and do it. It requires a tremendous amount of skill,” Albert says. “It’s a hard, hard skill to bench press in a shirt, but it does aid you.”

The challenge comes in keeping the bar in a very specific line. If the lifter’s forearms start to move out of a position perpendicular to the floor, he can lose the bar forward or backward, which is extremely dangerous with big weight on the bar.

“You have about a one-inch to one-and-a-half-inch spot on that shirt that you can touch,” Albert says.

Jay Nera, another Ironwill coach and a competitive powerlifter himself, demonstrates bench pressing with a shirt and shows how he can actually relax with 405 hovering well above his chest.

5min 22sec

Additional reading: The Holy Trinity of Strength Training by Bill Starr, published May 27, 2009.



19 Comments on “The Two-Ply Shirt”


wrote …

Willie Albert, he of the 10,000lbs in 4:35


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wrote …

that's a nice Piece of equipment to have in the garage gym. :) Incredible what you learn watching this videos.



wrote …

Great video! I am interested to hear if Willie and Jay train similar to Westside or different because they lift raw. Those are some impressive raw numbers! Hope to see more video/info on these guys.


wrote …

so is a piece of equipment like this good for just the top range of motion where most people have that sticking point with heavy lifts. Kinda like doing presses laying on the floor where your elbows cant go down all the way and its mostly tricep work? Just trying to understand how this makes you stronger, nobody really goes into detail how or why this works. Crazy how much weight that holds up. thanks in advance for elaborating


wrote …

that shit is cool:-)


replied to comment from mike davis

I appears it uses the tensile strength of the fabric and the support of your ribcage to assist the weight.

Not seeing how it would carry over from powerlifting, but an impressively simple and a clever tool all the same.


wrote …

Im not trying to knock it or anything, but could someone please explain why someone would use this??
Why do you want to make it easier? Does this translate to a better bench without a shirt?


replied to comment from James Colley

Louie Simmons describes it as football players wearing helmets, you can hit harder with the pads on, just as someone is able to bench heavier in a shirt.

I don't think it's a 2 way street however.


wrote …

I have never used a bench shirt so take this all from the perspective of a bench-shirt lay person.

Equipped powerlifting looks like a different sport than raw powerlifting (I say this with no pejorative spirit). The use of squat suits and bench shirts change what needs to be trained (as compared to raw powerlifting). Taking the example of bench shirts, multiply especially, one must train to handle an unbelievable amount of compressive force (just holding the bar). On top of that, there is much more emphasis on training the muscles responsible for the lockout, as the bench shirt largely assists and powers through the bottom of the motion (which is not to say the bottom of the lift can be ignored). As mentioned in the video, successfully maximizing what you can get out of a shirt is a skill in and of itself. Difficult to master, as are other aspects of weightlifting.

It seems to me that raw powerlifting has better general carryover to other athletic disciplines than geared lifting. I haven't ever read anything from Louie, Wendler, Tate, et al, that would suggest that the use of bench shirts or canvas squat suits betters one's general athletic skill and ability more quickly than increasing one's raw total. This is not to speak badly of geared powerlifting. Geared powerlifting is simply a unique pursuit that makes different and extreme demands of the body.

Guys that successfully compete in multiply federations are unbelievably strong. The gear enables management of weights that would literally destroy lesser humans. Benching with a shirt, squatting with a suit is advisable if your goal is to count yourself in that incredibly strong company. Otherwise, for joe blows like myself who want to play better flag football, using westside (or 5/3/1, or block periodization soup du jour) without the gear seems to work swimmingly.


replied to comment from Jason Ashman

Dude cool Video in the journal and this link is insane. To total 10000 lbs at 180 in 4:35 that is insane. I am going to have to see what I can do. I don't think I can come close and I weigh 340. Awesome.


replied to comment from James Colley

So powerlifting is a sport like many others.. for most its just a hobby, because its fun and we love it. And the way I have fun with it is being able to lift the most amount of weight possible. And I can only do that with gear, that and I like the challenge with lifting in it and the perfect form you must maintain or you wont make the lift. Thats just my personal opinion. Squating in a suit and benching in a shirt are entirely different lifts than doing them raw.. But referring to your question about if it translates over to a bigger bench.. Yes it does. The guys that have the biggest shirted benches in the sport also have the biggest raw benches. Take Shawn Frankl for example, as he noted in the video (briefly).. has benched 875lbs in contest weighing 215.. Which is ridiculous, but he also has a raw bench of close to if not 600lbs raw. Now how many people do you weighing under 220 that can bench that amount of weight raw. Regardless of how much the shirt gives you, you still have to be strong to use it. The gear trains your body to handle heavy weight and move it, so pretty much overloading your body. So if your training with 700lbs in your hands for a couple weeks, and go down to do raw work.. suddenly 400lbs feels real light.

Hope I didnt ramble too much and that this made sense to someone else but me..


wrote …

That was cool. I had never seen anything like that before.


wrote …

This makes geared powerlifting make A LOT more sense than before. I had always wondered about the validity of geared lifts. Now I understand how legit they are. Some may disagree with me, but I know that just because I put on one of those shirts doesn't mean that I would throw super significant weight around. It's like expecting a noobie guitarist to sound amazing just because they have a really expensive guitar. It takes skill to make the most of any tool.

That and I can't imagine how strong someone must be if they could hold 600# in their hands, let alone lock it out.


wrote …

I love the comments on this thread. Great community.

That was so cool. I've got a long way to go.
I won't be wearing a shirt however.


wrote …

Yes, very eye opening for me as well. So with that shirt I guess you can't bench anything under X amount of weight? Or maybe when it gets to a certain point can you pull it down to touch your chest then press it back out? That would be interesting.


replied to comment from Braden Lutz

Hey man, jay and I do not train westside...we do the main lifts(squat,bench, and dead) followed sometimes by 1-3 assistance exercises but we spend the majority of the time simply doing the lifts...we don't do speed days we use no boxes or bands...we do use some chain and some specialty bars but that would be a small % of our training...lots of volume...Jay has a blog



replied to comment from Melisa Chudobiak

Thanks for the info Willie. I will be checking out that blog. Love the raw lifting!


wrote …

Awesome video! Thanks! Can we get more vids and articles from these 2 folks? I find them to be really instructive and interesting. We don't get enough columns on powerlifting in here :)

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