Preparing for Your First Weightlifting Meet, Pt. 2

In Part 1, we discussed clothing, weight classes, and weigh-ins. In today’s post, we’ll go over the details of the meet itself, including the course of the competition, general rules of the lifts, and awards.

Course of the competition

If you are competing for the first time (or 20th), get a coach or find a person who is knowledgeable in weightlifting competitions to guide you through the event. Competitions are comprised of many moving parts, and it can be overwhelming without someone there to monitor the competition, guide you through warm-ups, and declare your attempts. 

If you don't have a coach or friend to accompany you, you can often ask the meet director on the day of the meet if there is anyone on-site who can lend you a hand. While they are under no obligation to provide help, most meet directors are willing to ask around at the meet on your behalf to ensure you have a good experience.

If you have no choice but to go it alone, don't fret. It's perfectly feasible to manage a competition on your own, just pay attention and stay focused on your task.

That being said, most competitions will follow the same basic sequence/schedule: athlete introductions, 10 minute countdown clock, snatch competition (3 attempts per person), 10 minute break, clean and jerk competition (3 attempts per person), and awards.

The competition officially starts with the introduction of the athletes on the competition platform. After all athletes have been announced, you may approach the center of the platform to get a sense of your environment. If you typically fix your gaze on a spot out in front of you during your setup/lift (as you should), this is a good time to identify that focal point. 

For both the snatch and clean and jerk portions of the competition, the barbell is loaded in progression of weight -- the athlete requesting the lightest weight will go first. Once the declared weight is loaded on the barbell, and the clock has started, the weight cannot be reduced. 

As mentioned in Part 1, your opening attempts will be recorded on your athlete card during weigh-ins. Prior to the first lift, these cards will be lined up on the announcer’s table in order of weight. It is your coach’s job to count the number of attempts that will be taken prior to your opening attempt. Your coach will need to continue to monitor these cards as they move based on makes/misses of the other athletes in your session. Your coach will also use these cards to determine when you should take your warm-up attempts. Ideally, you will perform the same warm-up progression that you would in a normal training session leading to a max lift. 

There are four factors (listed by priority below) that determine the lifter order:

1. The weight of the barbell (lightest weight first) 
2. The number of the attempt (lowest number first) 
3. The sequence/order of the previous attempt(s) (the athlete who lifted earliest is first) 
4. The start number of the athlete (lowest first)

When you are one attempt out, the announcer will make known that you are “on deck.” Remember that this can change based on whether or not the person preceding you makes a successful attempt. 

When it is your turn to lift, your declared weight will be placed on the bar. Once the bar is loaded and you are called out to lift, your one minute clock will start. You must begin the lift before your clock runs out. After 30 seconds, a warning signal sounds.

If you successfully complete your attempt (rules for both lifts are listed in the section below), you or your coach must declare your next attempt before the next lift/lifter is called to the platform. If you don't submit a declaration of weight, your next attempt will be declared for you, automatically increasing by one kg over the weight you just made. 

If your lift is unsuccessful, the weight on the barbell automatically remains the same. You can choose to either complete the lift at the same weight or increase the weight to buy yourself more time. Each athlete is allowed two weight changes per lift. If you must follow yourself (take two attempts in succession), you are allowed two minutes on the countdown clock instead of one minute.

Once you have completed all three attempts, you will wait for your session to finish, have a ten minute break, and then prepare for the clean and jerk portion of the competition. 

General rules of the lifts

For both the snatch and the clean and jerk, there will be three judges determining whether or not each lift counts. In order for both the snatch and the clean and jerk to count as “good lifts,” you must abide by the following rules:

• You must begin the lift before the timer runs out.
• Any unfinished attempt in which the barbell passes the knees counts as a “No lift.”
• No part of the body other than the feet may touch the platform during the execution of the snatch or clean.
• Touching the thighs or the knees with the elbows or the upper arms during the clean is prohibited.
• Any stopping/pausing of upward movement of the barbell during the pull is prohibited. For example, you may not pull the barbell to the mid-thigh, pause, then proceed to lift from the hang position.
• You must catch the barbell in the snatch and jerk with fully extended arms. Finishing with a press-out is defined as: “continuing the extension of the arms after you have reached the lowest point of your position in the squat or split for both the snatch and the jerk.” If you physically cannot fully extend your arms, you must inform the jury prior to the start of the competition. You may also remind them of this fact by pointing to your elbow before each lift. 
• Bending the elbows during the recovery is also prohibited.
• You must remain within the confines of the competition platform. 
• The lifted weight must be maintained in the final motionless position, with both arms and legs fully extended and feet on the same line (parallel to the plane of the trunk and the barbell).
• You must wait for the referee’s signal to drop the barbell. The referee gives the signal to lower the barbell as soon as the athlete becomes motionless in all parts of the body. At at local competitions, it is typically spoken and accompanied with a downward hand motion.
• After the referee’s signal to lower the barbell, you must lower it in front of the body. 
• The grip on the barbell may only be released when it has passed the level of the shoulders (no bar slamming).
• Touching the barbell with the feet is prohibited.

Additionally, before the jerk, the athlete may adjust the position of the barbell for the following reasons:

• to withdraw or “unhook” the thumbs
• if breathing is impeded 
• if the barbell causes pain
• to change the width of the grip

The barbell adjustments noted above are not considered to be an additional attempt at the jerk. However, any apparent effort to jerk in which the lift is not completed, including lowering the body or bending the knees will result in a “No lift.” Additionally, any deliberate oscillation of the barbell to gain advantage is also not allowed-- your body must be motionless before starting the jerk. 


At some local competitions, awards are handed out in each weight class and age division for the highest totals. The athletes who win first, second and third place in the total are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively. Your total is determined by the sum of your heaviest successful snatch + your heaviest successful clean and jerk. If there is a tie, then the award is given to the person with the best clean and jerk result. If identical, the person who attempted the best clean and jerk first will come first.  

This post was just an overview of the rules and regulations of competition. Mental preparation is also a major component of planning for your first weightlifting competition. For tips on how to prepare your mind, check out our previous two posts: “Managing Performance Anxiety” and “Visualization for Success.” 

And remember, this is your first competition. Keep the pressure low, and have fun!