So you've Decided to Enter a Weightlifting Competition...

Before your Competition

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You've signed up for your first competition. Of course what you'll want to do immediately is dial in your training and push your gains as hard as you can. That is a good reason everyone should try a meet at some point. It can really focus you and give your training purpose. 

But there are additional things you'll want to plan now to help you prepare for competition day. 

Plan your deload

A deload is when you turn down the volume and intensity of your training so that your body has time to recover and your energy will be at its peak. Most athletes usually take about a week to do this, scheduling their last heavy training session 8 days from competition day. 

This can also be the most mentally challenging time for many athletes. Lifting weights feels good, and many athletes say they don't feel great during a deload. Resist the urge to throw in a heavy lift just to "test how you feel." 


Probably the part that makes first time lifters the most  annoyed is having to buy and lift in a singlet. They don't look good on anyone. You can rest assured that no one that day will care about your singlet, since everyone is going to be in one. 

Luckily, there are a lot of places that sell fun singlets now. Here are links to a few:

It used to be that one could wear a tight fitting tank top and shorts for their first competition, but that rule was changed in 2013, so get your singlet now. 

You'll also want to make sure you pack your wrist wraps, knee sleeves, preferred socks, lifting belt, athletic tape, and weightlifting shoes. You cannot wear elbow sleeves in competition, among some other support gear that other sports allow, so check to make sure your preferred gear is acceptable for competition. 


Most competition sessions last about two hours from first snatch to final clean and jerk. Nerves can make it hard to eat a meal before you lift, so you're going to want to pack snacks that can keep your energy up without weighing you down. Popular snacks include trail mix, protein shakes, 100 calorie snack packs, and a personal favorite of SPS Gym, chocolate covered coffee beans. 

The warm up area can vary in temperature, so make sure you have warm ups in case it's cold and plenty of water in case it's warm. 

    The Day of Your Competition

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    When you arrive

    When you first arrive, you'll need to check in. They'll make sure you've signed the waiver to lift at the host location, check your name off, and give you your attempts card. Make sure your name and weight class are correct, but don't fill anything else in yet. 

    Weigh-ins start two hours before each session's first lift. So if your session starts at 10am, weigh-ins will start at 8am and last for an hour. Don't worry, you don't have to strip naked for your weigh-ins, but you do have to at least get down one layer of clothing, such as underwear or tight fitting shorts and a sports bra. The rules prohibit athletes from wearing extra clothing that might artificially inflate the weight class they lift in. 

    When you weigh in, give your card to the attendant and make sure the attendant writes in the same weight that you saw on the scale. The attendant will then ask for your opening attempts for each lift. This means, how much weight you want them to put on the bar for each of your lifts. Know the weight in kilograms. You can always bump your opening weights up, but once you announce your weight and it's on the card, you cannot lower it.  

    Do I have to weight EXACTLY 94kg?
    What do these weight classes mean?

    Weight classes in sport are a way for people of similar sizes to compete and compare their efforts. You do not have to weigh exactly what the weight class is called. Take the women's 75kg class as an example. Anyone that weights more than 69kg and less than or equal to 75kg will be grouped into the same weight class.

    USAW collects the scores and ranks lifters based on these weight classifications. As a lifter becomes more advanced and more competitive, they usually opt to weigh as much as they can within a weight class in hopes it will allow them to lift more weight. For your first competition, however, you should simply choose the weight class that corresponds with how much you typically weight on any given day.


    When your session begins, hopefully you have someone to help you time your attempts and keep track of how many lifts you have until your first on-platform lift. There is a whole system to "counting cards" that is beyond the scope of this page. 

    When it's your turn to lift, you will have one minute from the time the loaders get off the platform to start your lift. There will be a 30 sec bell, many lifters like to wait until after this to start their lift.

    You will get three attempts at a solid snatch. Each attempt will be judged on:

    • Did you lift the weight in one continuous motion from ground to overhead?
    • Did you catch the weight on fully locked out arms?
    • Did you drop the weight in front of you after the down signal was given?
    • Did any part of your body, other than your feet touch the platform? 

    If your lift is good:

    ... you will get an automatic one kilogram increase for your next attempt. You or your coach will need to tell the cards table what weight you want to take next if it is higher. You get a total of 3 attempt declarations and must take the final weight declared. 

    If your lift is bad:

    ... it will be assumed you are going to stay at that weight. If you are the only person attempting that weight, you will get a two minute clock to take the weight again. You can increase the weight, but you must tell the cards table before the final 30 sec bell rings. 

    Clean and Jerks

    Generally, a 10 minute break will be given between the end of the snatches and the start of the clean and jerks. Pay attention to where your attempts are in the line up. If you are one of the first clean and jerks, you may have to start warming up your lifts before the snatches end. 

    That said, hopefully you have someone helping you time your warm up lifts and counting the cards. Trying to lift and keep an eye on the order of lifters is a steep task for any one person. 

    You will also get three attempts at a good clean and jerk. The lifts will be judged on similar criteria:

    • Did you lift the weight from the floor to your shoulders in one continuous motion?
    • Did you elbows touch your knees while at the bottom of the squat?
    • In the jerk, did you catch the weight overhead on fully locked out arms?
    • Did you bring your feet back in line after the jerk?
    • Did you come to a complete stop with the weight controlled overhead?
    • Did any body part, other than the feet, touch the platform during any part of lift?

    Just like with the snatch, if you make the lift you'll want to tell the cards table your next attempt as soon as possible. And if you miss the weight, you'll be automatically given the same weight again. 

    And just like that, It's all over

    Hopefully you've had fun, learned a few things, and had a chance to try a PR on a competition platform. There is nothing quite as intimidating as your first competition, so try to enjoy each moment!