What is a Monolift | And why might you need one

December 03, 2021 5 min read

What is a Monolift in Powerlifting?

A Monolift is a large apparatus with the core function of removing the ‘walk out’ in a squat.  If using a regular power rack, once you’ve unracked the weight you need to step away from the rack in order to complete your squat.  By using a monolift, the hooks are lifted away once the weight is unracked meaning stepping away to be able to squat is not necessary. 

They have a somewhat controversial reputation in that some people believe by using a monolift is considered cheating.  However, they do have their place in powerlifting environments and are sometimes favoured by equipped lifters (those wearing single or multi-ply suits) as opposed to raw lifters. 

WHO USES A MONOLIFT?

Monolifts are not common machines to find in a gym and those that do offer them tend to be frequented by competitive powerlifters.  The main users of a monolift will be powerlifters who compete in a federation that allow the use of them and those that are training in groups that wish to eliminate the squat walk out.  In almost all circumstances, monolifts are used when the athlete is squatting a significant amount of weight. 

HOW TO USE A MONOLIFT

The weight on a monolift can be added either before or after the machine has been set up correctly for the user. 

All monolifts will be made with a hydraulic ram.  The ram carries the entire weight load and is used to set up the machine so the bar catchers sit at the correct height for the lifter.  By pumping the ram handle will adjust the height of the catchers. 

One important thing to note is to use a monolift that has a pin loading mechanism.  Not all monolifts have this.  The pin loading mechanism does two things.  Firstly, it is numbered and offers micro adjustments in terms of the bar catchers height.  The second, and most important, feature about the loading mechanism is that if the hydraulic ram fails then the weight is transferred from the ram to the loading mechanism. 

A monolift that does not have a pin loading mechanism means the lifter has no way of knowing the correct height set up and therefore it cannot be used in competitions.  If the ram were to fail on a monolift with no loading mechanism then the weight could collapse and result in the entire machine tipping over rendering it extremely dangerous. 

IS A MONOLIFT SAFER THAN WALKING A SQUAT OUT

One of the major benefits of the monolift is that it is much safer than walking out a squat.  However, most lifters tend to get used to the walk out in a squat as they simply don’t have access to one in their gym.  Not only are they safer but using one you’ll expend much less energy which can be reserved for the actual squat. 

Walking out a squat when equipped is made much more tricky due to knee sleeves and powerlifting suits being incredibly and therefore limiting movement. 

You can set up perfectly for a squat but with a bad walkout that work would be undone and could result in a failed lift. 

Whilst the monolift is much safer than a squat walk out, for competitive lifters whether you choose to walk out or use a monolift will only really matter depending on which federation you are competing in.  It’s pretty pointless to perfect your squat with a monolift when you compete with a federation that will not allow their use so this is definitely something to consider before you decide to use one or not.    

WHAT IS A MONOLIFT ATTACHMENT

There’s no denying that a monolift is a beast of machine that takes up a lot of space and they are generally pretty expensive. 

However, a good alternative is by upgrading your regular power rack with a monolift attachment. 

A monolift attachment is essentially a pair of hooks that can be used a variety of different power racks.  Simply hook them on either side of your power rack, ensure the correct height is selected for your squat set up.  When you place the barbell on the bar catchers the weight of the bar will ensure the hooks remain down.  As soon as the bar is unracked the catchers pivot up and out of the way allowing you to squat without having to step away.

Another item used with the monolift are monolift straps.  These are simply a pair of straps that hook over the top of the monolift on either side. Their purpose is to catch the barbell if the lifter fails the squat.   However, it’s worth noting that when using monolift straps it’s imperative to ensure the monolift is bolted to the floor.  Failure to do so could mean that the force when dropping a loaded barbell onto the straps results in tipping of the machine. 

WHO INVENTED THE MONOLIFT

The monolift is a relatively new invention and was first introduced to competitive powerlifting in 1992 after it was invented and brought to market by Ray Madden.

MONOLIFT ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

As explained one of the key benefits of a monolift is that by eliminating the walk out portion of the squat during a particularly heavy lift this makes it much safer for the lifter.  Removing the walk out means reducing any potential for injury. 

A downside of the monolift is that they cannot be used by a lifter squatting alone.  This is because an additional person is required to retract the bar catchers once the bar has been unracked by the lifter. 

Another downside noted by some is that the monolift can encourage the lifter to potentially attempt a weight that they would not otherwise try if they were to walk out that weight.  It’s important to gauge the weight once unracked before attempting the squat.  The walk out can help a lifter to get a feel for the weight before they squat it. 

WHAT FEDERATIONS USE A MONOLIFT

The regulations by federation do vary with some forbidding the use of a monolift with others allowing it.  There are many federations out there, all with different rules, but below we have provided a few example of federations along with their ruling on the use of a monolift. 

The USAPL (affiliated with the International Powerlifting Federation) only allow use of the combination rack.  The USPA (affiliated with the IPL) will allow a monolift in competition however, the lifter is still required to walk out the squat negating the use of the machine.    

The WPC (World Powerlifting Congress) do allow the use of a monolift and a walk out is not required during squats.

As explained above the important thing to note is when lifting in a competitive environment first choose the federation where you plan on lifting and understand their rules.  If you want to squat with a monolift you’re going to need access to a gym that has one and furthermore you’ll need to pick a powerlifting federation that will permit their use. 


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