First off, #rawiseasy does not diminish raw lifting by any means. We started as raw lifters. We still train raw. We even have raw lifters competing this year at Deathwish Barbell. However, in the context of training, technique, and overall difficulty…. then yes, raw is certainly easier and here’s exactly why:
It takes a village...literally - Not that it is impossible to train in gear alone, it's just not entirely recommended as opposed to raw lifting where you can essentially do all of your training alone. This doesn’t mean that there are not raw lifters who train in a crew, it just doesn't happen as often. When it comes to training in gear, go ahead and try seriously training alone. Have fun getting your briefs on or off or being absolutely stuck in them when you are about to pee yourself. Have fun not losing your teeth or any part of your head when using your bench shirt...if you can get into it alone. And most of all, have fun getting yourself in full gear and wrapping and then taking a squat because I doubt you'll be walking it out. Your training partners are your lifeline. They are there to spot you, to adjust and set your shirt, to get you in and out of your gear and onto the next lift, to set your straps, to lace your suit. And so, so, so much more.
It doesn’t take much to lift raw - by this I’m referring to equipment. If you're lifting raw, as long as you have clothes on, you can walk into any gym and train. This is not the case with equipped lifting. Just the other night I wanted to bench with Bill Fritz and next thing I know, I’m packing a hockey bag full of bench shirts, wrist wraps and my ram just to start. That's before even packing clothes or any other essentials. My last meet was my first in gear and I had 2 duffel bags full of just my gear. Whereas in my raw meets, I’ve only ever needed one gym bag for everything (wraps, belt).
The mental edge - Sure it takes a big pair of balls to put your body through any type of competitive training. It takes a special type of psychotic person put on equipment, that if mastered, will allow you to hold super maximal amounts of weight that your body technically SHOULD NOT be able to hold. That’s some food for thought before the fun even starts. Most of the time when I'm getting set up for a lift, I can’t feel my appendages, am hoping I don’t black out, and am saying a prayer that hopefully all the time I spent training has conditioned my body to SURVIVE the lift. This is where you hope your spotters catch you when you black out.
The learning curve - Learning the essential lifts for raw lifting, the squat/bench/deadlift, is a much quicker process then understanding how to do these same three in gear. Better yet, you need to learn these raw first before you can even attempt them in gear. You need that solid foundation to build on. You have to have mastered those lifts first. Once you're in the gear and start playing around with different materials, then you go even further down the rabbit hole of techniques and mastery. There's a reason some of the best raw lifters can't even buy a beer yet but the best equipped lifters are well into their 40s and 50s. This shit takes time.
The competition - To bounce off the previous topic, the competition in multi-ply lifting is much higher than that in raw. In raw lifting, the top lifters are generally 20’s to 30’s at the oldest and hit their peak for a few years and are gone. With multi-ply, generally, the lifters are older due to sheer age and experience are the best lifters. Sure there are great young lifters in gear, but just because you're in gear and young, does not mean you have an edge. The playing field is much more even with gear than raw.
Can we talk about bench shirts for a second? Bench shirts are the hardest thing to learn when it comes to gear (I think). There’s a 75% chance that with every rep, I could be eating the bar. The technique and patience needed for gear is like no other. Even just trying to figure out how to migrate from single ply to multi-ply is a ridiculous learning curve. Now you have to learn all over again (sometimes).
#ladyballs -- Yes, I said lady balls. The women of the multi-ply world are like no other. We kick ass. There aren’t that many of us so we all stick together, we support one another. You have to be some kind of crazy to be willing to squeeze into all this gear and be manhandled to wrap for a lift. It takes some big cohones to do what we do. This isn’t a stab at raw lifting at all, we all have to lift raw sometimes. Imagine wearing a straight jacket and your face itches but you can’t reach it. Yes, that’s what a bench shirt is like. Imagine getting all your gear on (suit, briefs, etc) and having to pee. Too bad, you have to wait and fight through the remainder of your workout because your crew isn’t going to squeeze this sausage back into the casing twice in one night.