USA Weightlifting Features Your First National ...

Your First National Level Competition Part 3

Feb. 15, 2016, 1 a.m. (ET)

Your First National Level Competition

Part 3: Weigh-in and Warm-up

With the participant numbers off the charts for the 2015 American Open Championships this past December, veteran and novice coaches shared the venue. Veteran coaches have shared their insight here to shorten the learning curve for novice coaches – so that all athletes benefit from this information and respond with quality performances. This article is the third of a four-part series that highlights the key components of a USA Weightlifting national level competition.

First Timers Seminar

At every national event, USA Weightlifting now offers a First Timers Seminar, led by an experienced coach and athlete. Even if it is not your first time, these seminars are an invaluable opportunity to gain the personal experiences of that athlete and/or coach and ask any questions you may be unsure of ahead of time.

The time and location for the seminar are communicated by email ahead of the event and listed on the preliminary schedule.


Competitors should be accompanied at the weigh-in by their coach or other team official. They must provide evidence of athlete identity (passport for international competitions) and proof of age (passport or other documents).

The competitors are weighed while either nude or in underclothes, in the presence of officials of the same gender. The officials verify the competitor’s weight which is then recorded on the Competitor’s Card.

The coach must verify that the bodyweight recorded on the Competitor’s Card is correct and write the weights for the competitor’s first attempts in snatch and clean & jerk on the card in the spaces provided. Be prepared to give the opening attempts in kilograms. Once the coach is satisfied that all of the information on the Competitor’s Card is correct, he or she signs the card in the appropriate space

The athlete will be given their session stickers. Each athlete is allowed a maximum of 4 stickers, one for themselves and up to 3 for his coaches. The stickers must be placed on the official credential. This is how athletes and coaches get into the warm up area.

The head coach must ensure that the addition of the starting attempts comes to within 20kg of the qualifying total verified on the entry form for men and within 15kg for women. If an athlete does not adhere to this policy, the jury can disqualify them. For each attempt, lifters are allowed to make two changes from the initial chosen weight. These changes can be increases or decreases or a combination of both. Whenever a weight is nominated, be it initial or a change, the coach must sign the Competitors card. If the coach has not nominated a weight for the next attempt, lifters will be called for an automatic 1kg increase between 1st and 2nd attempts and a 1kg increase between 2nd and 3rd attempts. If the weight of the first snatch is decreased, then the weight of the first clean and jerk must give a total that is within 20kg/15kg of the entry form qualifying total.


At USA Weightlifting national events, in concert with the practice at the IWF World Championships, competitors will only be allowed in the warm-up area 15 minutes before introductions. Knowing how to warm up effectively is critical to the athlete’s success.

The purpose of the warm-up is to prepare the athlete physically and psychologically for maximal performance in the competition. The routine should include general warm up and mobilization, stretching, and the specific warm-up.

The specific warm-up consists of performing the competition lifts, starting with light weights and progressively increasing the weights up to a final lift which is close to the weight of the athlete’s first attempt. The content and timing of the specific warm-up is critical. It should include sufficient repetitions at light and medium intensity to practice speed and technical accuracy as well as sufficient high-intensity repetitions to recruit muscle fibers and instill confidence in the athlete.

The warm-up should not excessively tax their energy stores. The specific warm-up should be completed with enough time for the athlete to recover from their last warm up lift before making their first attempt in the competition. There are a number of factors to consider when directing the specific warm-up of an athlete at a competition, such as:

  • The weight of the competitor’s first attempt
  • The level of the competitor’s experience
  • The competitor’s position in the order of calling
  • The prevailing conditions within the venue (e.g. temperature and humidity)

Suggestions for Warming Up for First Attempt

Acknowledgment to Hall of Fame Coach Bob Takano


  • Plan on 5—6 warm up lifts
  • Plan on taking 1 warm up lift for every 3 on the competition platform
  • Watch out for missed lifts as they may necessitate a 2 minute clock
  • Be aware of other lifters increasing their weights
  • Take a pull of at least 85% if you need to “re-warm”
  • Warm ups should be singles
  • The increments between warm up lifts should decrease as the starting weight is approached (e.g. 60, 70, 75, 80, 83, 85, open with 87_ 
  • Warm ups should conserve as much energy as possible for the actual competitive lifts

Holding Warm

  • In some competitions, there may be many lifters attempting weights within a very   narrow range.  Add a couple of missed lifts and the time between your athlete’s attempts may be 10 or more minutes. 
  • Schedule a pull of at least 100% of the last attempt every 3 ½ minutes or so
  • Be aware of missed lifts that will necessitate a lifter following themselves.  This will add another minute to the wait especially in the clean & jerk.  The time between attempts increases in the heavier bodyweight classes. 

At the Platform

  • Sequester your athlete psychologically
  • One cue per attempt
  • Settle your athlete between attempts.  Don’t allow them to be carried away with elation nor despondency
  • Allow your athlete to get into his or her head space
  • Figure out immediately whether to remain in the pre-staging area or return to the warm up

After Each Attempt

  • Make a decision to:
    • Go Up – how much?
    • Repeat  - If the lift is missed, based on how much it is missed by and the experience of the lifter
  • The goal in the snatch is to lift the most weight possible on that day.
  • The goal in the clean & jerk may be to lift a PR, lift a PR total or move up in the standings or all 3.  The possibilities must all be available for consideration in your mind.
  • Note: While it is possible to out-coach others, you can also out-coach yourself 
Warm up Room Etiquette

Given the importance of the warm up and the large number of participants in many national events, it is critical to understand best practices and proper etiquette in the warm up room.

  • Sight lines for focal points should not be violated
  • Common courtesy should be exercised before “borrowing plates”
  • Lifters not competing in the current session should stay out of the warm up room
  • Unnecessary personnel (entourages) should leave the warm up area
  • Lifters who will be lifting later in the session should stay out of the warm up area until a reasonable time before their first attempts
  • No one should congregate in the doorway between the warm up room and the competition venue in a manner that inhibits egress and access
  • Warming up should be a thoroughly understood concept by coaches
  • Unnecessary personnel should not congregate behind the scorekeeping table and inhibit access to the expediting cards
  • Coaches should not offer advice to lifters they are not coaching. Helpful suggestions should be passed through the athlete’s coach.
  • Audience members and others within close proximity of the competition platform should put their cell phones on “vibrate only”
  • Respect that the seats in the pre-staging area are for the competitors

Do you have questions? Ask! Reach out to our events team at who will be happy to help. Stay tuned for the next edition of this series that will focus on competition tactics and anti-doping controls! 

Prior Articles