Oh Sh*t – I Just Signed Up

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Oh Sh*t – I Just Signed Up
by Coach Leslie

What should I expect during my first Olympic Lifting Meet?

It’s official. You’ve signed up, paid your dues, and the date is circled in red on the calendar. Woooooo this is going to be fun!

The good news is, Olympic Weightlifting meets follow a simple specific structure. You have three attempts at the Snatch, and three attempts at the Clean & Jerk. Your best Snatch + Your best Clean & Jerk = Your Total.

Here’s how it happens:


For Olympic Weightlifting, weigh-in’s begin 2 hours prior to your session’s start time. For example, if your lifting session is at 11am, your weigh-in will begin at 9am and end at 10am. I recommend that you arrive to the facility early, and be ready to hop on the scale right at 9am.

At weigh-in, you can wear up to one layer of clothing – you can even be in your birthday suit if you’d like. In a sanctioned USAW meet, there are specific weight classes folks are seperated into. For our mock meet this Sunday, no need to worry at all about what you weigh – this is purely just to calculate our winners at the end of the day.

Also at weigh-in, you will be asked what your ‘openers’ are. The weight of your first lifts are written on the card at weigh-ins, for both the snatch and clean & jerk. For example, if you are planning on attempting 60 lbs, 70 lbs, and then 75 lbs in the Snatch, and for the Clean & Jerk you are planning on taking 80 lbs, 90 lbs and 95 lbs, you would say “60 lbs and 80 lbs.” This creates the overall order of the meet, and will determine when you take your turn on the platform. You will be asked to initial next to your opening numbers (60 and 80 in this example), and next to your weight.

Hurry Up and Wait!

After you weigh-in, there is lots of down-time. I recommend bringing snacks! This is a great time to talk with friends, foam roll, put on your awesome singlet, meet new friends, etc. Depending on when your turn is, you will start warming up prior to the session starting, or right after the start of the session.  

As soon as all of the weigh-ins are completed, the cards will be laid out on the scorer’s table in order. Think of this as standing in line waiting your turn – these cards are just holding your place in line.


There will be a designated warm up area, where you can perform the lifts specifically and work up to your opening weight. Foam rolling, stretching and other mobility can usually be done anywhere, but the warm up area is usually just for using the barbells themselves. Athletes are expected to share and may even have multiple bars on one platform. Teammates usually help each other change weights and prepare as well.

The goal isn’t to do a full exhausting training session before maxing out on the platform! You want to feel warm and loose but not tired. You want to feel ready. I personally get antsy and like to move a bit more with the empty bar – I like to get started! Others wait until the very last minute and feel best. Listen to your body, and err on the side of being too warmed up!

Try to have a warm-up plan, and practice your plan before the meet. For example, for the athlete opening in the Snatch at 60 lbs, her warm up plan is as follows:

 Daily mobility routine

 Jog/bike/jump rope/burpees (something to raise heart rate slightly)

 PVC routine and drills

 Empty Bar drills 2x

 45# 2x

 50# 2x

 55# 1x

It’s Starting! Ahhhhhh!

We all start with Snatches. The individual with the lowest opener will take their attempt first. There will be three judges watching and determining if the lift is good or not. Red means “no lift” and white means “good lift.” You need two “white lights” for a good lift. The center judge will also tell you when to put the bar down. If you put the bar down before the ‘down signal,’ that is not a “good lift.” Err on the side of waiting too long!

Then the next lifter will go – she may have the same weight as the previous lifter, or may have more weight than the previous lifter. However, the weight on the barbell on the platform will never decrease. That is why it is really important to choose your opening lifts wisely!

After you’ve made your lift, the folks at the Scorer’s Table will ask you what weight you’d like to attempt next. This will determine when you take your next turn on the barbell. After your third attempt at the Snatch (*whew*), you are all finished! After everyone has completed their Snatch attempts, we will take a 10 minute break, and start all over with the Clean & Jerks – in the same manner as the Snatches.

Wait What It’s Over?

Yes, just like that it will be all done! Depending on the meet, there will be some mad-math done by the organizers to determine winners. USAW meets will have weight classes and will often give awards for each class, sometimes age groups as well. For our mock meet, we will be using “Sinclair” to determine who was the ‘strongest.’ This formula uses your weight and the total weight you lifted (Snatch+Clean & Jerk).

Olympic Lifting takes great focus, composure, and intensity. It feels as if you are on stage, performing a dance routine – in a way you are! My advice – relax and enjoy! These are movements you’ve done over-and-over again. Remember your technique and trust your strength. Be inspired by those around you, and do not be afraid to inspire those watching.

Coach Leslie


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