How to Prepare for Weightlifting Competitions: Part 2

If you’ve not read ‘Part 1’ of this blog, may I suggest you do.  It walks you through everything you need to know before arriving at a competition; what to expect when you arrive and the weigh-in process.  I’d highly recommend this especially if you’re about to throw yourself head first into competition.

What to do after you have weighed in:

Eat!

What would I recommend you eating?

Not too much! Especially if you’ve been cutting weight. The last thing you want to do is eat way too much, be bloated and struggling to move. 

I used to have a white bagel with Nutella spread and a mushed-up banana to get me going. White bread is more quickly absorbed, sugar from the Nutella, a banana will provide slower release energy. I would then have a couple of Jaffa Cakes for a bit of a quick ‘pick-up.’ 

This isn’t about eating well. This is now about fueling your body to make sure you have the energy to get through the competition. 

Rehydrating is critical if you’ve cut fluid. If you haven’t been dehydrating and cutting weight, then water will be fine. If you have, I would recommend an electrolyte drink of some kind to replace the salts that you lost when you sweat.

Once you have fueled up, now you’re ready to go into the warmup room.

What to do when you go to the warm-up room

Get to the warm up room in plenty of time and familiarise yourself with where everything is. 

You’ll find that there is a scoreboard and a desk where you can nominate your weights. If it isn’t in the competition hall itself, it might be an area where all of the lifters have to pass through to get to the competition.

I try to avoid the busy areas with my lifters go to the other side of the warm up room, so we have our own space and we don’t have people walking in front of us when lifting.

Next, make sure that wherever you place yourself, you’re not facing the mirror. I’m shocked at how many competitions I go to and there are still mirrors around, so make sure that you go somewhere you’re not facing a mirror.

Be proactive. Either you or your coach need to find out:

  • If the competition is running on time, if not, how delayed is it? 
  • Find out if there is going to be a planned break between Snatch and Clean and Jerk and if so, how long. 

Knowing this information at the start means that you can time your warm up really well and you don’t disturb the officials once the competition starts..

How to deal with the nerves

You’re likely to feel a little bit nervous.  You may experience any of the following:

  • Feeling sick
  • Sweaty palms, 
  • You just don’t want to be there, and you’re worried about the whole situation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Doubting your ability

Don’t worry. All you can do is your best. The best way that I used to deal with nerves was to know that I had done everything that I could in preparation. Familiarise yourself and be as organized as possible in the build up to the weigh-in to take as much pressure off yourself as possible. 

All you can do is go up to that bar and give it your best. That’s all anybody can ask of you. If you do that and you don’t perform, don’t worry. If you do that and you do perform, then well done. Remember this is a learning curve. 

Most of you reading this are likely to be new to competition. This is where you make your mistakes. I made so many mistakes early in my career. The key is not to make the same mistakes again. So don’t worry if it doesn’t go quite to plan, that is normal. 

Presentation of lifters to the crowd

Before the competition begins, you and all the other lifters in your group will be asked onto the platform to be presented to the crowd. An official will come into the warm up room to call everyone together before lining you up in order as per the scoreboard. When they call your name, you just need to step forward, stick your hand in the air, and step backwards. That’s it.  Nothing to worry about.

While you are there and everyone else is being introduced to the crowd, I would recommend absorbing what is going on around you. Think about where you are going to look when you go to the bar?

Once the presentation is done, the lifters will go backstage, and start/continue with their warm up. I would recommend you just stay there, go to the bar and feel it so you know how sharp the bar is.  Don’t worry if you’re the last one on the platform when everyone else has walked backstage, who cares? This is about you and your performance. You do what you need to do to get comfortable with that situation. 

Check where the chalk is? Your coach might give it to you backstage, but if not, where is it? Now you’re familiar with the competition, and what is going to happen when you walk out. 

Warming up

After the presentation of lifters, get yourself back to the warm up room and start or finish your warm up. In the warm up room, make sure that you time your warm up accordingly so that you have enough time to do everything you need.

I would ask my lifters to stretch out, complete overhead squats and snatch balance by a certain time. Then I know we are ready to start loading the bar and it’s the coaches job to time the warm up correctly. 

The coaches and lifters will be able to see a scoreboard which will have recorded all lifters names along with the starting weights they posted at the weight-in a couple of hours earlier. 

Next to each lifter’s name, there will be a number 1, 2, 3 for Snatch and the same for Clean/Jerk. Underneath the number 1’s, you will see a number, and that number is the weight you nominated at the weigh-in. You will be able to see everybody else’s weights now too. 

Here is an example of a scoreboard you may see in competition:

For the purpose of this example, let’s say you are lifter ‘F’.

You have posted 39 kg as your opening snatch.

You now need to estimate how many lifts will take place before you.

Count anything lower than 39kg,and consider that some lifters may take more than 1 attempt before the bar reaches 39kg.  For example, lifter ‘I’ is starting considerably lighter than you so you would count 3 lifts.  Lifter ‘B’ and ‘D’ are starting very close to you so I would probably only count 1 lift for each of these people.

Lifter ‘E’ has the same weight posted as yourself and is higher on the scoreboard than you so you could expect them to take a lift before you.

Lets have a practise now… How many lifts do you estimate would be before you are on? Check the scoreboard example above before continuing to read on.

Consider that lifters can change their starting weight twice so the numbers on the scoreboard are not set in stone.  If your warm up doesn’t quite go to plan, you can lower your starter but you cannot go lower than the weight already loaded on the platform. If all is going to plan, you may consider moving up by a couple of kilos.

You need to be prepared for other lifters to change their weights at the last second so anticipating this is also important.  The key is to keep an eye on what other lifters are doing in the warm up room and how easy or difficult their lifts are looking.  This should be the job of your coach and not something you need to worry about.

So, how many lifts did you guestimate to be before you?  I made it approximately 6.

You need to have a plan that you’ve discussed with your coach about what your warm up routine might look like.

For example, if you plan to start on 39kg, I would work backwards:

37 would be the last warm up backstage, preceded by 35, 33, 30, 25, 20, 15. So the warm up would now look like this:

15 2×3 (2 sets of 3 reps), 20 1×3, 25 1×2, 30 1×1, 33 1×1, 35 1×1, 37 1×1

Total number of sets = 8

Number of anticipated lifts before you = 6 (approximately 6 minutes – 1 minute per lift).  In this case, lifter ‘I’ may be following themself so each lift would probably be closer to 2 minute. Therefore, there will likely be closer to 8 minutes before you are on once the competition starts.

I would have my lifter take one warm up set every two minutes. Based on this, I would want my lifter to take 30kg as the competition lifts off and the remaining lifts (33, 35 & 37kg) approximately every 2 minutes.  Be ready to speed up or slow down depending on how quickly the competition is moving.  You would need to take your lighter warm up attempts before the first lifter takes their first attempt.

In summary, work backwards from when you think you’ll be on.  Determine your warm up plan. Plan approximately when you need to start adding weight to the bar. Make sure all stretching and empty bar work is finished approximately 10-15 minutes beforehand.

Other considerations

Focus on yourself. When you get to a competition, there is no reason why you should focus on anybody else. Let your coach worry about the weights other lifters are taking.  You can control what you do but you can’t control what everyone else does. If you start worrying about everyone else, it is likely to affect your concentration and how you perform.

If you are inexperienced, then you have to trust your coach to know what they are doing. If you are going to competition without a coach, that’s okay as well. But when you get there, just have a chat, ask around, ask the officials if there is someone available to watch the scoreboard and help you time your warm-up. Weightlifting is a small community and we do like to help each other. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Somebody will step in, they won’t get involved in teaching you the technicalities, or they shouldn’t, but what they will do is read the scoreboard for you and tell you when to take your warm up attempts. If you can’t find anybody, have a look at the scoreboard to see another lifter who is on the same weights as you in terms of the weights they are starting on and follow what they do on their warmup. You just have to hope they know what they are doing and that you aren’t both in the same situation. 

If the timings at a competition change at the last minute, then deal with it. There is no point in complaining or arguing, you just have to go with it. If the officials say that the next category is 30 minutes late, then it is what it is, it’s the same for everybody, and the person who deals with it the quickest is probably going to cope the best. 

In the warm up room, do not expect your coach to be with you all of the time. Yes, they will be at some point, yes, they will give you feedback, but don’t expect them to be sat next to you all of the time. They have another job to do and that job is to go and watch the scoreboard and keep an eye on what everybody else is doing. If there are two coaches, it makes it a bit easier.

Between Snatch and Clean & Jerk

Once you have finished snatching in the competition, It’s done. Leave it. Park it. Put it out of your mind, it is finished. If you lift amazingly well, great! But get off of that high as quick as you can, and get your head ready for the Clean and Jerk. If you underperform, then put it behind you, it’s done, you can’t change it. Reflect on it later.

What if there is a long break between snatch and clean & jerk?

Let’s say you are one of the first lifters out for the Snatch, and there is a 10 minute break between the lifts, but you’re one of the later lifters for the Clean and Jerk. You’re going to have a long break and sometimes, depending on how many people are in the category, it could be half an hour or longer. 

Depending on the conditions, and how you, as a lifter, deal with the pressure and the nerves, I would say get out of the warm up room. Just go somewhere, have a coffee, don’t go too far, and keep an eye on the time. Go and watch the competition, or get out of the environment and do your own thing and chill out for a bit and refocus.

If you have had a break between Snatch and Clean and Jerk, go back to the bar, and run through a warm up as you normally would. 

  • Make sure you have planned your warm up lifts, as you did with the Snatch
  • Make sure you have counted the scoreboard so that you know how to tie in your warmup. 

Once you have done a lift on the platform, be mindful that there will be an automatic one kilo increase. Let’s say you hit 35kg as your opener, you put the bar down, the bar would automatically go up one kilo to 36kg. It’s up to you or your coach to nominate your second attempt. Very few people would take 1 kilo, it’s usually 2, 3,4,5 kilos, that they would go up to. You or your coach will need to physically go and nominate that weight, and sign the piece of paper. Make sure you do that, because as soon as your name is called the clock is ticking and you only have 30 seconds to change the weight. 

For the remaining lifts, it’s down to you and your coach to select the relevant weights.  If you miss a lift. you will have the option to take the same weight again or go up regardless.

It’s not the weight you start on that’s important, it’s what you finish on.

Finally, remember to enjoy the experience.