In Part I, we discussed the pre-meet preparations. Here we’ll talk about the meet itself.
Now that the planning is out of the way, let’s talk about what to do once you arrive at the venue.
The first thing you should do is get your bearings. Before you worry about getting weighed in (because you didn’t cut weight so you’re not in a rush to eat,) take a look around. Find a place to keep your things and claim a space of your own. Having a place to camp out, especially if you have someone in attendance with you, will lend you a bit of extra stability throughout the day.
Find out who’s in charge and introduce yourself. Let them know it’s your first meet. You’ll usually find them to be friendly, accommodating, and grateful that you’re at their competition. Take this opportunity to ask any questions you may have about how the meet will run, anything you should know about the venue, and the like.
Next check out the warm-up area. Figure out where the bars and plates are, where the chalk is (often there’s only one chalk bucket,) and how far you’ll be from the competition platform and marshal table (the table where you will declare your attempts and changes.)
Lastly, go to the competition platform itself. If it’s open, step onto it to feel the surface and decide on a focal point to keep your eyes on when you lift – pick something which won’t be moved, or obscured by the judges or the crowd.
Registration and Weigh-In
Once you’ve got the lay of the land, you can head to the registration table (or booth or car or whatever.) Here, you’ll show your USAW card and in return you’ll be given an attempt card. Take this to the weigh-in room, where you’ll stand in line with a bunch of people, at least one of whom will probably be very unhappy because they are hungry and dehydrated. Here’s another opportunity to make some new friends – but maybe leave the guy who’s struggling to make weight alone until after he’s eaten.
When you weigh-in, the official will ask for your openers. Though he or she will probably be able to convert from pounds to kilos for you, it’s best if you know the numbers beforehand. An important note on this subject – if your number in pounds doesn’t convert precisely to kilos, round down, not up.
From Weigh-In to Warm-Up
For most people, the 90-120 minutes between weighing in and starting warm-ups will be the most stressful part of the meet. The absolute most important thing you can do at this time is try to stay relaxed (did you bring that pillow?)
Eat as you would before any other workout. Same goes for supplementation and hydration. Try to keep things as similar to a normal training day as possible. Take the opportunity to pay attention to the session before yours (assuming you’re not the first session of the day) and get an idea of the pace and details of the event. Talk to other lifters and, if you’re lucky, find someone in your session who’s lifts are similar to yours, and you’ll be able to “follow” them during the warm-up. They probably won’t mind.
The first thing to do before you start warming up is figure out how many lifts into the session you will take your first attempt. Since weightlifting “follows the bar,” the weight only ever moves up – there is no round robin style rotation such as what you’d see in a powerlifting meet. So, if Johnny snatches 100kg, and his next lift is 102kg, and Billy is the next lift with 103kg, Johnny will have to “follow himself,” meaning he will lift twice in a row.
Head to the marshal’s table, where the cards with opening attempts written on them will be laid out. Find your card, and it’s fairly easy to get a reasonable idea of how many lifts will occur before your first attempt happens. You’re not going to get it perfectly right, and that’s fine.
Let’s say there are ten total lifters in your session, and you’re opening with 90kg. There are three lifters opening with 70kg, two opening with 80kg, two opening with 85kg, you at 90kg, and two more at 100kg. The lifters opening with 70kg will likely take all three of their attempts before you open – that’s nine lifts. The lifters opening with 80kg will likely take at least two attempts before you open – that’s another four lifts. The lifters opening with 85kg will likely take one attempt before you open – that’s two more. There’s no need to worry about the guys opening with 100kg, because they’ll open after at least your second attempt.
So, you have a rough total of 15 lifts before you take your first attempt. You can count attempts roughly as minutes. The next step is to write down your warm-ups, based on attempts. Assuming your last warm-up for the snatch will be 90kg (hitting your opener once in the back room,) your warm-up should look something like this:
3 lifts out (when there are three lifts before your first attempt,) take 90kg (last warm-up.)
6 lifts out, take 85kg
9 lifts out take 80kg
12 lifts out take 70kg
15 lifts out, take 60kg
18 lifts out, take 50kg
21 lifts out, take the bar
Since you are the 16th lift of the session, this means you should be done with your general warm-up (rolling out, stretching, etc) and taking the empty bar roughly 5 minutes or a little more before the session starts. Particularly in your first meet, it’s better to be a little bit ahead of the clock than a little bit behind it, so start a few minutes before you really need to and slow down a bit if you get too far ahead.
On the Platform
So, you’re warmed up, your name has been called, and the one minute clock is now running. You should be chalking up as the lifter before you finishes his lift.
The most important thing to remember as you approach the bar is this: you have time. Don’t rush yourself. With 30 seconds remaining on your clock, a buzzer will sound, to let you know where you’re at.
Upon approaching the bar, find the focal point which you located earlier. Once you’re set on it, don’t take your eyes off of it unless you absolutely have to.
DO NOT rush your set-up. This is probably where I see the most new lifters miss their attempts – they get too excited and hurry through their set-up. Behave exactly as you would in training.
Once you stand up with the lift, WAIT WAIT WAIT for the down signal! This may be a referee saying “down!” or a buzzer going off. Even for my most experienced lifters, I can be heard shouting “wait wait wait hold it!” on every single attempt. This is probably the single silliest way to miss a lift in competition, so be ready to hold that bar!
Once the first attempt is done, it’s smooth sailing. Head straight to the marshals table and declare your next attempt (even if you’re taking the automatic 1kg increase, you should officially declare it within 30 seconds, otherwise you will not be allowed to make any changes.) Try and pick your attempts so that you don’t have too long a rest between lifts. Stay relaxed and follow the same process for every lift. After the snatch, have a light snack and hydrate, and perform the same process for the clean & jerk, with the following changes to your warm-up: 1) instead of working up to your opener, work up to about 5kg under your opener, and 2) your last 3-4 warm-ups in the clean & jerk should give you 4 attempts between lifts rather than 3, since the clean & jerk is heavier and more taxing. If you’re opening with a clean & jerk of 120, your warm-up would look something like this:
4 attempts out, take 115kg
8 attempts out, take 110kg
12 attempts out, take 105kg
15 attempts out, take 100kg
18 attempts out, take 90kg
21 attempts out, take 70kg
24 attempts out, take the empty bar (if you take the bar before clean & jerks.)
That’s about it. Get out there, learn, enjoy yourself, and make friends in the community. Your first meet should be a challenging, fulfilling, and fun experience.Jacob Tsypkin is a CrossFit and weightlifting coach, and the co-owner of CrossFit Monterey and the Monterey Bay Barbell Club in Monterey, CA. Website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter