In the Raw versus Multi-ply debate little is certain. The debates usually trickle down to name calling and generic tag lines such as “if you can’t lift it raw you can’t lift it” or “if it’s so easy put on a shirt and do it.”
However, there is one area where empirical evidence can shed some light. Everyone knows about the explosion of Raw lifting which for the most part has been almost an overnight occurrence. In just a few short years participation in events has skyrocketed, competition has gotten better at the top, and major international events host raw lifters. Whether this increase in popularity has come at the cost of multi-ply lifting, or independent of, we cannot say. However, we will argue that while raw powerlifting has exploded in the last decade, multi-ply lifting has not, and has even backtracked.
Below is a graph showing the average totals across weight classes from 2007 to now (165-SHW) for both Raw without the use of knee wraps (reason being Powerliftingwatch did not separate wrapped from unwrapped until 2013), and Multi-ply lifting. The totals are calculated using Powerliftingwatch.com’s top 50 rankings from each year when available. If less than 50 participants were included in either the Raw or Multi-ply ranking for a specific year we defaulted to that number for both divisions. As you can see while Raw lifters have continually pushed the average up, Multi-ply lifters have moved in the opposite direction. In the last 8 years the average total of the top 50 across all weight classes included in the study went up by 237 pounds for raw lifters, and decreased by a similar amount in multi-ply.