We will be having our Fall Club Weightlifting Meet in about a month’s time, and for some of you, this will be your first experience following a weightlifting competition protocol. We will be going over what to expect in training, but I thought it would be good to have something written down for all of you to follow. This will be a friendly club meet to introduce you to the idea of competition. While the results will be official and count for those that need to qualify for Winterlift/Provincials, for the majority of you, think of this meet as more of a practice session, just structured in competition format.
Weightlifting is a bodyweight sport, therefore you only compete against those that are in the same weight class as you. The weigh-in is the first official part of competition day. For your first meet, athletes should not be concerned with what they weigh, as the main goal of the first meet is to make your lifts, so we’re trying to limit the amount of stressors involved.
The start list for each session will be posted close to the weigh-in area. The start list will show the session weigh-in time, start time, athletes names, declared weight class, and each athlete’s lot number. The standard weigh-in time starts 2 hours before the start of the competition and lasts for one hour. Athletes are then called to the weigh-in room one-by-one, beginning with the lightest weight class and lowest lot number within the weight class. Once in the weigh-in room, the athlete will step on the scale to determine their bodyweight, declare their opening attempts in the snatch and clean and jerk, and then initial their start card that lists their name, bodyweight, and declared opening attempts. The athlete should know what their opening attempts are prior to the weigh-in having discussed them with their coach. Typically for your first meet, this will be a weight that you can consistently make.
If an athlete is not present when their name is called, the next athlete on the list is called, and the athlete that wasn’t there must now wait until all other athletes have been called before they can weigh in. Also, if an athlete is trying to “make weight” and weighs in above (or below) their intended category, they have the remaining hour to try and drop (gain) a bit of weight, come back, and be weighed again. In this case, you wouldn’t sign your card until you make weight or run out of time. As stated before though, “making weight” isn’t something to be concerned with at your first meet.
After the weigh-in has concluded, the start sheets will be updated to include the athlete’s bodyweight, declared opening attempts, and their new start number. If there were no athletes that moved from their declared weight category to their actual weight category, the start number order will be the same as the weigh-in order. Athletes and coaches should then be looking at this list when it is made available to determine when the athlete should begin their warm-up. In competition, the weight of the bar only goes up, therefore the lightest weights are lifted first. If you have the lowest declared opening snatch, then chances are you’re lifting first, which means you should be probably be the first one warming up! If you have one of the heaviest declared openers, you’ll need to wait for everyone else to lift before you, and need to time your warm-up accordingly.
There is a “Presentation of Athletes” 15 minutes before the start of the competition. Athletes are lined up in the back room by one of the officials, brought out to the platform, and presented to the audience. The announcer will introduce each athlete individually, usually stating their weight class and what club they are representing. Since this is close to the start of the competition, those lifting first will likely be in the middle of their warm-up, while others may just be loosening up. Once all athletes are introduced, it’s back to the warm-up room, and then the announcer will give the time remaining to the start of the competition.
Usually we define a warm up in terms of general warm up and specific warm up. General warm up includes any mobility type stuff, arm swings, leg swings, air squats, etc. I’ll include empty bar work with this as well. I’ll then define specific warm up as anything with weight. At this point, this should primarily be the full lifts performed for minimal reps. Some may prefer to do complexes/power for the first few sets, but once we really get going, this should be full lifts for mostly singles. The coach should be back and forth between the warm-up area and the competition area to keep their lifter on track so they’ll be ready to lift before their name is called.
Ok, so now you’re weighed in and warmed up. Get ready to have your name called and be ready to lift! You will be called to the platform by the announcer, and the clock will start running. Once your name is called, you will have one minute for your attempt. The clock will stop once the bar leaves the floor, so you can take as much time as you need in the bottom of a snatch, or to set up for the jerk after the clean, as you need. There will be a warning buzzer when you have 30 seconds left. Most lifters will try to either make sure they lift before or after the signal to avoid having it buzz as you are lifting. Once you have the bar overhead under control, with your feet in line, you will either get a down signal (buzzer) along with a light, or the centre judge will give you an audible “down” signal while motioning with their hand. You then need to place the bar back on the platform in front of you in a controlled fashion, keeping your hands on the bar until it is below shoulder level.
Once you’ve completed your attempt, the judges will give their decision of good/no lift. Some informal club meets may be run with just one judge, but for the most part, it will be 3 judges, and majority rules. There are a few reasons you may get the bar overhead and not be awarded the lift. The most common is finishing with a press-out (incomplete extension of the arm). Others include (but are not limited to) lowering the weight before the down signal, elbow touching the knee in the clean, double dipping in the jerk, and having any part of the body other than the feet touch the platform (dropping to one knee).
If you were successful in your lift, you and your coach will then decide on your next attempt. If you don’t declare a weight immediately, you will be automatically incremented by 1 kg. You can then make 2 additional changes to your attempted weight, provided they are made before the 30 second warning. If you were unsuccessful, you will have the option of repeating the same weight. In either case, if you happen to follow yourself (lift next with no other lifters between you), you will then have 2 minutes on the clock for your attempt. The flip side of this is that if there are a lot of other lifters between your last attempt and your next attempt, you may need to go back to the warm up room to do some more lifts to prevent from cooling down. When following yourself, the first weight change must be made within the first 30 seconds. Each lifter has 3 attempts to put up a number for their snatch score. The highest weight successfully lifted then becomes the first part of your total score.
After everyone has completed their snatch attempts, the competition will then move on to the clean and jerk portion. There is a standard 10 minute break in between the snatch portion and the clean and jerk portion of the competition. Often in larger sessions, usually with 10 lifters or more in a single session, the break is either shortened or eliminated. If there is a change in the length of the break, this will be announced beforehand and lifters and coaches must be prepared to time their clean and jerk warm ups appropriately. Each lifter then has 3 attempts to put up a number for their clean and jerk score. Their best snatch and best clean and jerk are then added together to give their final “Total” score.
If this all seems like a lot to take in, don’t get discouraged or worry about it. A lot of the technical parts of competing are ultimately the coach’s responsibility. The athlete’s responsibility is to listen to their coach and do what they are told, when they are told, and focus on just making their lifts. Competing in a weightlifting meet is what makes this a sport and is what differentiates a weightlifter from someone who trains using snatches and clean and jerks. Performing in a competition is a skill that has to be practiced and will improve with experience, just like every other aspect of the sport. In the beginning, don’t be discouraged if you aren’t breaking records every time you compete. There’s a big difference between hitting a PR on a random training day when you get to control a lot of the variables, and lifting against the clock, at a specific time, on a specific day, with just 3 attempts, and no option for lowering the weight. That being said, performing well in a competition is one of the most rewarding experiences you will have in this sport knowing that the effort you put in to your training is proven on the competition platform.
For some more info on weightlifting competition, check out the following articles by Uncle Bob Takano: