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A Crash Course Guide to Competing in Olympic Weightlifting

posted on August 10, 2022

Many of you out there may be familiar with or have even taken part in a powerlifting meet at Union Fitness. Despite being a weightlifting meet, Olympic weightlifting meets run in a slightly different fashion. There are still the same 3 attempts for each lift however there are some slight differences in regards to how the meet runs. This will be a quick run through of some of the differences and information to get an idea of what to expect if you ever watch or want to compete in Olympic weightlifting.


Prior to any weightlifting meet you will sign up to compete in a weight classes for either men or women. Next will come the weigh in and unlike a powerlifting meet where you get a full 24 hours after weigh in, with Olympic meets you get only 2 hours. This can make competing a bit tougher without those 24 hours to get some weight back on before your first attempt. After the weigh in, you will enter your opening lifts for the snatch and the clean & jerk.


During those 2 hours you will do whatever you need to do to get ready and warm up before the first lift of the meet happens. Just as in a powerlifting meet, you will get 3 attempts at each lift however the attempts are taken in a slightly different order. In an Olympic weightlifting meet, once weight is added to the bar it does not come off. Therefore, after each successful attempt, more weight is added and it moves onto the lifter with the next lowest attempt. Once the new weight is added to the bar there will be a 60 second clock before the lifter must attempt the lift.


If your first successful attempt for snatch is 100 kg and your second is 105 kg and no one is lifting a weight in between that, you will have 2 minutes before your second attempt. It is not uncommon at some meets for someone to take their 3 attempts consecutively. Powerlifting is set up where each lifter goes through their first attempt and the weight is taken back off the bar to drop down for the 2nd attempt for the first lifter.


Now let’s talk about attempt changes, here is where things can get fun. For each attempt you are allowed 2 weight changes that can only go up in weight. In competitive meets, tactics come into play that can force certain weight lifters out earlier than expected. Or if they miss their lift, which you were going to take for the same weight, you can go up in weight for that attempt forcing the original lifter back out. This changes the clock from the normal 2 minutes that they would get for themselves to only 60 seconds. Once the snatch is completed there is a 10-minute break before the clean & jerk begins where the same exact rules apply.


I do feel that it is important to bring up one point about changing weights. At local meets, it is for sure considerate and in my opinion proper etiquette that if you are making a weight change which impacts the lifts of another weight lifter you give them and their coach a heads up. No one is trying to be a jerk and screw up another person’s meet at local competitions. At major meets such as National level meets or even the largest stage such as the Olympics, there are no friends, this is a sport and weight changes can be tactics to help you win.


At the end of the meet, the totals of the snatch and clean & jerk are added together to declare the winner of the weight classes. In meets such as Nationals there are individual medals for the snatch and clean & jerk along with a total of the two. You do not need to post a total of two lifts to earn a medal in an individual lift. These are just some of basics of an Olympic meet and the differences from a powerlifting meet but enough to get you through your first competition.




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