So it’s time for your first weightlifting competition. You’ve sent in your form, you’ve purchased a singlet, you’ve done your training. And now you find yourself wondering:
What the fuck am I doing?!
We’re here to tell you not to panic. Sarah, a veteran competitor (and intermediate person), and Rose, an intermediate competitor (and veteran person), have been giving tips to Lauren, who is preparing for her first competition on 2 April at MSC Performance in Birmingham along with our friends Sian and Danielle. And now we’re going to share them with you.
This is the hardest part but also the most crucial, so we’re going to try to tackle it first.
Accept that you’ll be nervous. Of course you’re going to be nervous! You’re going to get up on a stage whilst wearing a sausage casing and try to throw heavy metal over your head without farting or dying. (Or both.)
The point is not to let nervousness control you. Remember that:
- Everyone else is nervous too– even the most experienced, decorated lifters on the programme.
- Nobody in the audience cares. They are there to see a bit of sport. They won’t boo you or fling their poo at you if you miss a lift.
- It’s just weightlifting. You do this for fun. Enjoy it.
If You’re Asking “Am I Ready?”, Here’s the Answer: Yes. Unless you rock up to your weigh-in hungover, in handcuffs, or with a freshly broken arm, you are ready. Trust your training. You have been working towards this day for weeks or possibly months, and you’ve practised your lifts hundreds or even thousands of times during that period.
After all those many repetitions, all you have to do is execute six lifts. And as long as you make one in each category, you get a score! Simple.
Why Are You Here? It can be useful to ask yourself why you wanted to compete in the first place. If you can’t give a coherent answer about why you signed up for this, you need to have a serious think. Here are some of our reasons for competing:
- Sarah: Because 8.91 m/s^-2 means nothing to me. Seriously, I do it because I need to use my competitive nature somewhere. It’s a major outlet for me.
- Rose: I compete because pursuing a sport gives extra purpose and structure to my life. And because I’m not doing anything else on the weekends, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
- Lauren: Because I like winning things and having something to show for all my training. I consider it a bonus to the entire process of training.
Training and competing in sport is one way of fulfilling the urge to achieve. Having competitions sprinkled through your calendar can become an important grounding element in your life– it affects your schedule, your food, your sleep– everything. And frankly, there are years when the only thing you progress in is your training.
It helps to know the rules of the sport you’re competing in. We’ve attached the official British Weightlifting Rulebook here. It may look complicated, but it really isn’t.
Here are the major points you’ll need to know.
On the Platform
Out on the platform there are two people acting as loaders, a set of lights and buzzers, and three judges.
The loaders (wait for it) load the weight on the bar. The lights act as visual timers showing you how much time you have to make your lift– there will be six white lights in a row, each representing ten seconds. On either side of these lights, there are lights with down arrows painted on them. These are the down signal.
The judges are there to ensure your lift meets the IWF standards (more on that below).
You are also out there. The only part of you that can touch the platform is your feet, so no celebratory cartwheels, please.
Executing Your Lifts
After your name is called, a clock will start and you have one minute to begin your lift. After thirty seconds have passed, a warning buzzer will sound. Once you initiate your lift (pulling the bar off the floor), this timer stops. It will stay stopped as long as you pull the bar past your knees, so don’t feel like you have to rush your jerk after your clean or bounce out of the bottom of a snatch if you’re not steady yet.
If for some strange reason you return the bar to the platform before pulling it past your knees, the clock will start again.
Once you’ve stood up your lift, your feet need to be aligned and the bar stable above your head. You’ll then get a down signal. This can be either the lights with the down arrows, or a hand signal from the center judge. Sometimes the center judge will also do you a solid and say “Down,” just to make it absolutely clear.
You must lower the bar in a controlled manner past your shoulders. Don’t just drop it to the floor; you’re an athlete, not a rapper.
General Technical Rules for the Lifts
- Again, your feet are the only part of you that can touch the platform.
- At the bottom of a clean, your elbows can’t touch your knees.
- At the bottom of a snatch, your butt can’t touch the floor.
- You must lock the bar out in both lifts. This means no bending or pressing of the elbows. Shoulder movement is fine.
- You must stand all the way up in both lifts with feet parallel and the bar under control in order to receive a down signal (those lights we mentioned earlier).
- If you put the bar down before receiving a signal, it’s a no lift.
- You need to wear a singlet. It can’t have a collar or fasteners at the neck. If you’ve never worn one, wear it during training once or twice before your comp so you can get used to moving around in it/ getting in and out of it to use the toilet.
- You can wear a t-shirt under your singlet if you fear accidental sideboob.
- We’ve been asked about underpants under a singlet. VPL is a legitimate issue.
- What Rose wears: Silicone butt-padded Spanx (actually just anything that doesn’t have lace on it)
- What Sarah wears: Pants with Finding Nemo on them and a sports bra that’s colour-coordinated to her knee sleeves
- Your elbows can’t be covered– the judges need to see them to ensure you’ve not pressed out of your lift.
- You can wear fingerless gloves. Leave the matching handbag behind though.
- You can wear knee sleeves, wrist wraps, long socks, and all the tape you want.
- You can wear a weightlifting belt, too.
- You can wear a hat or other headgear– even a helmet. It’s all considered part of your head. Although Sonny Webster’s hat may actually be part of his head.
You need a coach at your competition (California Strength is not your coach). Coaches tell the officials what weights you’re going to lift. They also tell you what to do and where to go so that you can focus on your job: picking up the heavy things.
A coach acts as your advocate when something goes wrong, too– if the officials mess up the clock, if they say you’re from “Second City Coventry” when you’re from Second City CrossFit, if the loaders mis-load your bar– your coach will be watching for this and will sort it out.
Ours also provides comic relief and questionable playlists.
Your Competition Go Bag
In addition to your lifting kit, you will need some paperwork and some accessories. Here’s what you ought to have in your bag the night before your comp:
- Identification (passport, driving license)
- Country weightlifting membership book or card
- Lifting shoes, lifting belt
- Chalk (sometimes there isn’t any at the venue)
- Singlet plus t-shirt if wearing
- Knee sleeves, wrist wraps, tape
- Sports bra, socks, spare pants (the ones you compete in will get sweaty!)
- Smelling salts
- Water bottle
- Directions to the venue
- Money for transport or parking, if necessary
You will also want to bring some food for after weigh-in. You may wait two or more hours between weigh-in and your first lift. You might also get hungry while watching teammates compete.
In our experience, many of the smaller venues will also have someone manning a cash-only snack bar, so make sure you have coins or notes handy if you want coffee.
Again, Some Perspective
This is your very first competition. Weightlifters divide their PBs between training and competition, so the first lift you make will be a personal best, no matter what. Don’t get worked up about hitting a specific total or even hitting a specific bodyweight on the day.*
You’re there to make a total (any total), get some experience in the sport, and possibly also make new friends. Go out there and have fun.
*Dave’s philosophy (with which we agree) is that first-time weightlifting competitors shouldn’t really worry about making weight, so it’s not included here. We will be addressing making weight next week, however, for those of you who are interested in qualifying for something in a specific class.