Preparing for Your First Weightlifting Meet, Pt. 1

So you’ve made the decision to compete (maybe we convinced you with our post on the 9 Benefits of Competing, or maybe you got there on your own). Great! Now what?

There’s a lot you need to know before your first weightlifting competition. But don’t let that deter you. We’re going to lay everything out in this post (and the next) so you’re just as prepared as the seasoned competitor. 

What do I wear?

It is most common for athletes to compete in singlets. If this is your first competition, there’s no need to run out and buy the most expensive singlet on the market. Asics sells men’s and women’s wrestling singlets for as low as $30. If you can't afford a singlet or you’ve signed up for a competition just a few days away, women can also wear one piece swimsuits. However, the swimsuit must cover the entire abdominal area between the chest and pelvis, and it cannot be a halter top. Some local competitions may also allow for a tight fitting t-shirt and shorts on your first competition, but email the meet administrator(s) in advance, as it’s against the International Weightlifting Federation’s rules.

Other rules to note:

• Your singlet may not cover your elbows or knees. 
• You must wear sport footwear (lifters are not required). 
• Weightlifting belts are permitted, but the width cannot exceed 12 cm. The belt must also be worn on the outside of clothing. 
• Bandages (gauze, medical tape, Kinesio tape, neoprene/rubber) are also permitted, but they are not allowed within ten (10) cm of the elbow area (5cm above and 5cm below).
• Nothing can be attached to the barbell (e.g.: lifting straps). 
• Tape worn on the fingers and thumb must not protrude in front of the fingertips.
• Knee sleeves and knee wraps are permitted.
• Fingerless gloves (e.g.: gymnastic palm guards, cycling gloves) are permitted. But there is a 99% chance you will be the only one wearing them.
• You may wear a unitard under your singlet. The unitard may: be one piece or two pieces, be tight fitting, cover both elbows and/or knees, and be of any one color (no pattern or design permitted). 
• You may also wear a t-shirt under your singlet, as long as it’s collarless and does not cover the elbows.
• Clothing on the head, such as hijabs, are permitted. 

What are the weight classes?

Unless you are preparing for the Olympics (that’d be one hell of a first competition), there are 10 weight classes for men and 10 for women. They are as follows.

55 kg (121 lb) (non-Olympic)
61 kg (134 lb)
67 kg (148 lb)
73 kg (161 lb)
81 kg (179 lb)
89 kg (196 lb) (non-Olympic)
96 kg (212 lb)
102 kg (225 lb) (non-Olympic)
109 kg (240 lb)
109 kg and over (240 lb+)


45 kg (99.2 lb) (non-Olympic)
49 kg (108 lb)
55 kg (121 lb)
59 kg (130 lb)
64 kg (141 lb)
71 kg (157 lb) (non-Olympic)
76 kg (168 lb)
81 kg (179 lb) (non-Olympic)
87 kg (192 lb)
87 kg and over (191 lb+)

If this is your first competition, I highly recommend that you do not cut weight. The focus of your first competition should be: 1) getting experience under your belt, 2) making all 6 attempts, and 3) gaining confidence on the platform! Unless you are trying to qualify for a specific event (which is unlikely at a first competition), there should be no need to cut weight. 

How do weigh-ins work?

When signing up for the competition, you will have to declare which weight class you will be competing in. Again, make sure to sign up in a realistic and stress-free weight class. For example, if you weigh 60kg, sign up to lift as a 64kg, even if the competition is a month away. Worrying over whether or not you will make weight that day will only add to your first-competition jitters.

A week or so before the competition, the meet director will announce the weigh-in and lifting schedule. You’ll notice that there are multiple sessions at weightlifting competitions -- everyone does not start at the same time. Women and men always lift separately, and depending on the size of the competition, there may be one or more weight classes and age groups in your session. For example, if you sign up as a 59kg Open Division lifter, you may be lifting in a session that includes 45kg, 55kg, 59kg, and 64kg lifters and Masters athletes.

Traditionally, the weigh-ins start 2 hours before each session. If you lift at 12pm, your weigh-ins will start at 10am. Get in the habit of getting to the competition early. If you are cutting weight to make a lower weight class in the future, you don’t want to get there 30 minutes after weigh-ins only to find out that you’re over-weight. Weigh ins typically last 1 hour, so you would only have a half hour to drop those final few pounds. 

If you arrive before weigh-ins start, you’ll likely be able to access the scale to check your weight. If you have a few hours until your official weigh-in time and you’re under weight, have something to eat! Just don’t overdo it. If you’re unexpectedly over weight (maybe you got your period, had trouble sleeping, etc), ask if you can switch weight classes. 

Once it is time for you to weigh in, you’ll need to have access to your Weightlifting ID # (have it handy on your phone or as a printed card). When you get into the weigh-in room, there will be a person (or 2) weighing you in. If you must, you can weigh in naked. If you are under 18 years old in the US, you will have to wear a singlet at weigh-in. 

As part of the weigh-in, once your weight is recorded, you will be asked to provide your opening attempts for the snatch and clean and jerk (in kilograms, not pounds). Prepare for this ahead of time. At your first competition, your opening attempts should be weights that you are absolutely certain you can hit any day.  Remember that there will be added nerves when you’re on the platform, so be conservative here. Our broad recommendation for first-timers is to consider opening with weights you can comfortably lift for a triple (set of three) in training. It’s also important to note that you/your coach can change your opening attempt after the weigh-in and before your lifting begins. Once you’ve given your opening attempts, they’ll ask for your initials and send you off. 

To be continued...