Blog Special: Guide to Your First Weightlifting Meet

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If you are preparing for your first weightlifting meet, this quick guide is here to help you get through it! Even if this isn’t your first meet you may learn a little…

First let me congratulate you on signing up! It takes a lot of nerve to put yourself out there, and for that we are proud of you. Below we break down some things you need to know. Of course you need to read the rules also!

What to Bring

Any equipment (shoes, wraps, belts, etc.) you usually use while performing the lifts. Fuel (snacks, fluids, etc.).

Kilograms

Before we can get too far we have to make sure you know your kilos. If you tell the table you are going to attempt 155, they assume you are talking kg. Most places won’t even correct you… they will just load 341 LBS and let you stand there looking like a noob. At our meets we will at least give you a courtesy “in kilos?!” question, but please don’t let it come to that. There are free conversion apps and if all else fails, bust out the calculator. The conversion is 1kg = 2.2lb.

Weight Classes

Unlike CrossFit, weightlifting is broken into weight classes. Of course all of the classes are in kilos (see above). You should receive a starting list or schedule that will tell you what group you are in and when your group weighs in. If you weigh in heavier than your weight class, you get bumped into the next weight class. For local (small) meets, I DON’T recommend cutting more than 2-3% of body weight to reach a certain weight class, but if you are only 1-2 kilos over, that’s nothing a few days of “clean” eating can’t resolve. But you don’t want to miss weight by a half kilo! I recommend you weigh yourself each morning and then again throughout the day, particularly at the time of day you will eventually be weighing in. This way you know what you typically weigh in the morning and how much you gain throughout the day. The day of the meet, you weigh yourself in the morning, and you know what to expect come the important weigh in. Of course, if you are in the middle of your weight class, eat.

When the day comes, you want to weigh in as soon as your weigh-in opens. This way you have time to cut a little weight if you are a little heavy. If everything goes well, you are all set, and you have more time to hydrate, get a snack, get acclimated with your surroundings, and relax.

The Course of Competition

The entire group will Snatch, take a short break, then Clean & Jerk. You get three attempts at each. Your best Snatch and best C&J will be added to get your total. Each group will start with the lowest declared opening Snatch. After each lift the next highest declared weight will be called to the platform, this will continue until every lifter has taken their three attempts. Each lifter gets 1 minutes (60 seconds) to make their attempt. If a lifter follows themselves, either because they missed or because there is no one else, they get 2 minutes (120 seconds). The clock does not start until the bar is loaded and ready. If there is a weight change the clock will stop until the change is complete.

There will be a table where all weight declarations need to be made. There will be three judges. For a good lift you need a majority decision (2 out of 3).

Selecting Weights

When you weigh in you will declare your opening weights for the Snatch and the Clean Jerk. After you declare your weight you can make two changes to your selection. Once your weight is on the bar it can not be lightened. If a lifter misses, they can re-attempt the same weight, or request to go heavier.  If a lifter makes their lift, their next lift will automatically be set to 1kg more than the previous lift until they declare their next weight.

You should have your game plan written out (in kilos) before you arrive. This plan should include warm-up attempts, opening weights, and subsequent attempts.

Opening Weights
With only three attempts, the last thing you want to do is bomb out (0 for 3). A lifter’s minimum (opening weight) is more important than their max. A minimum is the highest amount of weight a lifter can hit nearly every time (4 out of 5) they attempt it.

For beginners or first time competitors, the opening weight should be fairly conservative. Percentages will vary based on experience and consistency, but for beginners it is  85%-90% of their 1RM. Experienced lifters can plan on opening at a higher percentage 92-94%, and adjust their plan based on how they feel in warm-ups.

Subsequent Weight Selections
After you make your first attempt (see what I did there), the next attempt should be a 2-5kg (5-10lb) increase. A lot of information is available out there about what your jumps should be, but they are all opinions. Here’s my suggestion:
New Lifters                                     Experienced Lifters
Attempt 1: 85-90%                       Attempt 1: 92-94% 
Attempt 2: 90-95%                      Attempt 2: 95-98%
Attempt 3: 95-101%                    Attempt 3: 99-101%
The variance (85-90) gives some adjustment room based on how your training has been going, how your warm-ups go, what your first lift felt like, etc.

Misses
It’s most likely going to happen. Few athletes go 6 for 6. When it does happen, do NOT go to your next planned weight. Keep that ego in check and repeat your attempt.

There are a few rare reasons to go up in weight after a miss:
1) You want more time to rest and get your head right. Going up 1kg may put you a few more lifters down the list, or at minimum, pause the clock for a few seconds while the weight is changed.
2) You have one C&J remaining and you need a certain weight to win, medal, etc.
3) You already have it won and are going for a record, PR, whatever.
There are probably some other reasons to go up that I can’t think of, but you get the point.

Warm-Ups

The first thing to do before you start warming up is figure out how many lifts into the session you will take your first attempt. You’re not going to get it perfectly right, and that’s fine.

Based on everyone’s openers you can estimate roughly how much time you have until your first attempt. Figure about 1 min per lift. If someone is opening 10 or more kg below your weight, you can assume they will make all three of their attempts before you make your first.

The next step is to write down your warm-ups, based on attempts. You should hit your opener or at least 95% of your opener during warm-ups.

Here is a mock warm-up based on opening at 90kg in the snatch:
3 lifts out (3 min) 1@90kg (100% of opener and last warm up lift)
6 lifts out (6 min) 1@85kg (95%)
9 lifts out (9 min) 1@80kg (85-90%)
12 lifts out (12 min) 1@70kg (75-80%)
15 lifts out (15 min) 1@60kg (65-70%)
18 lifts out (18 min) 2@50kg (50-60% of opener)
21 lifts out (21 min) empty bar drills
24 lifts out (24 min) general mobility and warmup

After the snatch, have a light snack and hydrate, and perform the same process for the clean & jerk, with the following changes to your warm-up:
1) Instead of working up to your opener, work up to about 95% of your opener.
2) Take fewer lifts, and your last 3-4 lifts should include more rest between lifts, since the clean & jerk is more taxing.

Here’s a mock based on opening the C&J at 120kg.
4 lifts out (4 min) 1@115kg (95-97% of opener and last warm up lift)
8 lifts out (8 min) 1@110kg (90-92%)

12 lifts out (12 min) 1@100kg (80-85%)
15 lifts out (15 min) 1@90kg (70-75%)
18 lifts out (18 min) 1@70kg (55-60% of opener)
21 lifts out (21 min) empty bar drills

Competition Lifts

Once your called and the bar is loaded you will have one minute (unless you are following yourself). You should have chalked up while the lifter before you was going.

Now you are on the platform, DO NOT RUSH. One minute is longer than it sounds. Just move like you would normally during training. A buzzer will sound at the 30 second mark usually or at minimum you will be able to see timer. When you approach the bar find your focal point across the room. Setup to the bar like normal and DO NOT RUSH.

Boom, you’ve made your first lift! HOLD, HOLD, HOLD! Do NOT drop the bar until the head judge tells you too, and drop it in front of you. Lowering the bar before signaled to or dropping it behind you will result in a NO lift! Horrible way to miss a lift! Now go straight to the marshals and declare the weight of your next lift.

KEY RULES
1) No press outs. This is a big one for CrossFitters. You must get the bar locked out in one fluid motion, if you have to stop and press it out, it’s a no lift.
2) Drop the bar in front of you, only after the signal.
3) If your knee touches the platform, or your elbow touches your knee, no lift.
4) No manipulating the bar oscillation. English? This means you can’t bounce the bar up before your jerk dip/drive, another popular one among some CrossFitters.
5) Slam the bar after a big lift! It’s not a rule but it should be. It’s cool, it feels good, and it is NOT against the rules. If anyone tells you otherwise, tell them to shove it.

4 replies
  1. Dave RR
    Dave RR says:

    This makes me want to someday get to a point where I am ready to enter a completion. Not ready to make that a goal, but am inspired a little by the content of the Blog Special: Guide to…

    >

    • Coker
      Coker says:

      Dave, find a local (small) meet and enter, go have fun. You will learn more participating like a beginner than not doing it at all! I’m pretty sure out next meet is almost 75% first timers. Not everyone’s an expert, but everyone has fun!

  2. bendthebareventsinfo
    bendthebareventsinfo says:

    very informative and well explained post, thank you for sharing with us.

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