I wouldn’t say I am a weightlifting know-it-all, but these past few months I have fallen in love with the sport. There are always going to be new athletes on the rise with incredible talent, new training techniques, a new singlet that everyone wants. It can be hard to keep up with everything.
I competed in my first weightlifting competition in May of 2017 and not long afterwards I had the opportunity to compete at my first national competition that June. The experiences were both very positive and memorable, but also very different.
Today I am going to walk you through what your first weightlifting competition may look like.
To begin with, most people start off with a smaller local competition, so I am going to base my advice and tips assuming you are going to a smaller competition.
So first off, there are going to be lifters with all kinds of experience at your meet. At my competition, there were several newbies, people who have competed before, and even some lifters that held national records. Don’t compare yourself to the other lifters, especially at your first competition. Everyone is super friendly and encouraging so don’t be afraid to cheer on your competitors and feed off their energy.
You can find cheap singlets on Amazon for under $25 or you can go all out and buy a name brand one for $150. You can even wear a gymnastics leotard or a one piece swim suit if you want. The only requirements is that it cannot cover your elbows and must be form fitting. No t-shirt and shorts allowed. Some lifters wear a shirt under their singlet for clean and jerks, but this is completely optional. For my first competition, I wore a high school wrestling singlet that my coach let me borrow. Then, for my national competition I invested in a virus singlet which I absolutely love!
3. Other Equipment
Other than a singlet, you really don’t need anything fancy to compete. You need to wear shoes, but they don’t have to be weightlifting shoes. You don’t need a belt, knee wraps, wrist wraps, etc. If you do use these training accessories, they have certain limitations. For example, belts cannot be wider than 4 inches and tape cannot cover the tips of your thumbs. At the moment, the only “equipment” I use is a pair of Adidas weightlifting shoes and a Valeo belt for clean and jerks.
4. Weight Ins
Weigh ins are two hours before your compete. For your first meet, don’t worry about cutting to make weight because it can sometimes alter your performance. Anyways, weigh ins occur one-on-one. It will only be you and the person recording your weight, so you can strip all the way if need be. You will also give the recorder your opening attempts during this time. ALWAYS say lower numbers than you plan on opening up with because you can always raise them, but you can’t lower them. Weigh ins occur before you warm up so you don’t know how your lifting will feel. Also another side note, since weigh ins are two hours before competition, most people say at the venue and eat whatever they desire afterwards.
5. Warm Ups
One of the biggest mistakes is warming up too early. If you have a coach with you or an experienced lifter, they can help guide you when to warm up. You might be the first one up, or you might not step on the platform until after there have been 20 lifts.
6. Playing the Game
Coaches and athletes have tactics to buying more rest time between lifts so you always need to be aware of what weight the bar is set at. The bar never drops weight; the weight only increases. Even though someone’s name is on the clock, it doesn’t always necessarily mean that they will be attempting that weight. There are also tricks to cheat people of their time so when you might have 2 minutes on the clock, it might end up changing to 1 minute. Always be ready.
You have one minute to complete your lift. As soon as your name is called, don’t feel like you need to step on the platform right away. If you are following yourself, you have two minutes on the clock.
8. Choosing your Weights
Your first attempts should be something you can consistently hit. Normally it is roughly 90% of your max. Sometimes you have an off day though so you have to listen to your body during warm ups. The last thing you want to do is bomb out at your first meet (not make any lifts). Don’t be afraid to set your numbers really low. It’s different in competition than training, so you don’t know how you will perform under pressure.
There are three judges that surround the front of the platform. The middle judge will signal when you can drop the weights. All three judges determine if it was a good lift. Majority wins in this case, so you need to get at least two white lights for a lift to pass. A lift is considered not successful if your arms bend after straightening, any body part besides your feet tough the platform, or you miss the lift.
At smaller local meets you will most likely be on the podium. There are so many different age divisions and weight classes that there are only a few people in each category. At my first meet, I was the only one in my division.