Weightlifting 101: What Everyone Needs To Know Before Competing

The Basics

Let's start with a USAW Membership.  The burning desire to compete is within each one of us and at some point you will want to test your progress.  All sanctioned competitions require an active USAW membership (cost per year varies based on age category), you can register here at www.teamusa.org/usa-weightlifting/membership.

Ready For Your First Competition!

Here are a few important things to know before stepping onto the platform.

Weigh in's are scheduled 2 hours before the actual lifting competition begins.  One hour is allotted for you to make weight. 

You can wear anything from your birthday suit to an official team uniform. what you will be wearing to compete.

Personal Advice: If this is your first weightlifting meet, I would not worry about making a weight cut.  Instead, go into the competition feeling comfortable and ready to focus your energy on making all of your lifts.  If you are planning a weight cut, make sure to bring plenty of fluids as well as a nutrient dense snack to replenish your body before the competition begins.

Let's Talk About Openers

During the 'weigh in' process, you will be asked to declare your opening attempt for the Snatch and Clean & Jerk in KILOS so have your conversion prepared if you are used to training in pounds.

Have a Plan - Talk to your coach prior to the competition and have a plan for your openers ready to go.  Not sure how heavy?  Always shy on the side of declaring lighter.  Nerves are normal and you want to be comfortable enough to make your openers.  Know that you have two weight changes at your disposal if you want to increase weight as long as your requested weight has not yet been loaded on the competition bar. Once the weight is on the bar, it will not decrease.

What to Wear

Choose clothing that is tight fitting.  Singlets are usually the way to go.

Weightlifting Belts must be 12 cm or less in diameter.  There are a lot of belts out there at do NOT fit this criteria so avoid a mental breakdown by checking well in advance of the competition.  

Knee Sleeves and Wraps - Wrist wraps cannot cover more than 10 cm of the wrist.  Knee sleeves and wraps are permitted but must be one piece.  No tape or supports are allowed on the elbows.

During Competition

Here's a flow chart to explain the layout of the competition if your declared opener is 70kg in the Snatch.

70kg is on the bar, you are up for your first Snatch.  The clock starts after they have announced your name and the bar is set. You then have 60 seconds to get the bar above your knees (must be completed in one motion, no pauses or hangs). Wait for the down signal before you lower the bar to the floor.

For the second attempt, you have 30 seconds from the time your name is called to declare your next weight or 1kg will automatically be placed on the bar.  You have two changes per attempt which can be used to milk the clock if you are following yourself.  If you make a change, you have 30 seconds to then declare a second new weight.  If your coach has declared 75kg for next attempt, then you have two changes from there.

If you are following yourself (1st attempt followed immediately by a second attempt), you will have a 2 minute clock.

A Few Details To Take Note Of

If you don't pull the bar above your knees.. The lift is not considered an attempt.  You can pull the bar off the ground, test it out, freak out, doesn’t matter.  As long as the bar doesn’t pass your knees you still have your attempt.

No other parts of your body may touch the platform other than your feet.  If your mobility is top notch, a judge might call you on a booty bounce.  Knees can’t touch the floor either.

The bar cannot touch your head or anything attached to your head including: hair, head bands, ribbons, hair ties, extensions, etc.

Clean & Jerk Specifics

  1. Elbows cannot touch your legs in the bottom of the clean.
  2. Re-racking and adjusting your hands before the jerk is allowed but once you change direction in the jerk, the lift is considered an attempt.  
  3. You cannot create oscillation before the jerk.  The bar should come to a complete stop before jerking.
  4. Extend your knees and align your feet while you wait for the down signal.
  5. After the down signal, you must follow the bar down until it passes your shoulders.  No dropping from the top and no “bar slamming”.

Extra Homework

Check qualifying totals for National competitions including but not limited to university, masters, youth, and juniors.  You may surprise yourself with how close you are to qualifying! At the very least, you can set some new goals!

Find a taper program that you trust - When it finally comes down to weeks prior to competition, implementing a trusted Taper Program can have a HUGE affect on your bodies CNS (Central Nervous System) and place you confidently in position to perform your best on the platform. 

For major Anchor Dates (USA Nationals, American Open or your biggest meet of the year) we recommend implementing the California Strength Two-Week Taper that can be found here on TrainHeroic.  For smaller, local competitions, we recommend implementing just the second week of the California Strength Two-Week Taper

How to Select an Online Program

The Internet has sparked a revolution in gaining easy access to weightlifting information, demonstration videos and online programming.  Online programming has turned into a business all of it's own and can be incredibly useful if you are able to narrow down your choices to a program that fits your goals.

1.  A plan that isn't tied to a spreadsheet, instead one that is ONLY results driven.

2.  Easy access to a coaching staff and a supportive online training community.

3.  One that holds you accountable to your goals.

Most importantly, have FUN!