Interested in weightlifting as a sport? Want to compete against other athletes? You’ve come to the right place!
At Hunger in the Wild, we’ve taught fitness enthusiasts and athletes of all ages and skill levels how to compete in weightlifting programs for over 15 years.
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about weightlifting competitions. We hope it helps!
Are There Weightlifting Competitions?
Yes! Hundreds of local, state, national, and international weightlifting competitions exist. The smallest levels of competition take place locally.
The highest levels of competition are state and nationwide, governed by the International Weightlifting Federation, or the “IWF.”
In an Olympic weightlifting competition, each competitor is grouped into a session based on age, weight class, gender, category, and entry total.
An athlete may compete against similar weight classes or other categories deemed at the event at a local level. At a national level, lifters compete only within their weight class and category.
First-time competitors will participate in a local weightlifting competition. These local weightlifting events are used to qualify for national competitions hosted by USAW.
Here’s a complete list of local weightlifting competitions around the country.
What is Competitive Weightlifting Called?
Competitive weightlifting is called “Olympic Weightlifting,” which comes from the Olympic games as they compete at the highest level.
Since weightlifting is an Olympic sport, it has strict rules and regulations that all nations must follow to be eligible to compete at the Olympic level.
These rules and regulations make Olympic weightlifting uniquely different from all other strength sports.
It also provides absolute consistency, naturally making the actual competitive event much easier to understand and comprehend.
How Do Weightlifting Competitions Work?
The ultimate goal in Olympic weightlifting is for athletes to lift the maximum amount of weight above their heads. Age, gender, and body weight are used to characterize athletes.
Here are the steps to a typical Olympic weightlifting competition:
- First, athletes are required to weigh in before the competition. Weigh-ins begin two hours before the competition starts and last exactly one hour.
- Second, two independent events, or exercises, known as the snatch and the clean and jerk, take place one after the other.
- Third, the sessions begin. Each competitor has a certain number of attempts, with a 10-minute break. The athlete’s score combines their best successful lift in each snatch and clean & jerk—the athlete with the best total wins.
Here’s a Olympic weightlifting competition day-off schedule.
Now, let’s dive a little deeper into each session.
Olympic Training Options for Different Levels (What You Need to Know)
Need help finding your next step in competition? Have you never done it before? Here’s our best advice for each level of training – from beginner to advanced.
Beginners must first find an experienced coach who can provide the building blocks to develop a proper foundation for safe, effective and efficient techniques.
They should work with the coach individually until a strong understanding of proper technique is established and consistently practiced.
Intermediate athletes who have established proper technique should either seek an experienced coach or training partner who can help to provide guidance and advice on how they can continue to improve technique and navigate the obstacles that all athletes go through while also focusing on building absolute and maximal strength that has the potential to transfer specifically to the classical Olympic lifts.
Experienced athletes should seek a competitive training environment that forces them to progress. It’s important to surround yourself with athletes of equal or higher levels of talent.
At this level, the sport of weightlifting is a grueling process that requires massive amounts of self-discipline, determination, and dedication to succeed.
How Do You Train for Weightlifting Competitions? Follow Our Framework
Training for an Olympic weightlifting competition requires that you (1) focus on your physical preparedness, (2) your form and technique, and (3) your mental game.
Let’s talk about each area first. Then, we’ll share with you our step-by-step training set.
#1 Physical Preparedness
The weightlifting part of weightlifting. You must be physically strong to execute the lifts with proper form. Strength is built over time through intentional weight training, which should include a variety of volume and strength exercises.
We recommend focusing on doing lots of reps with lighter weights to build up your endurance. Mix in some heavier lifting days to increase your strength.
Performing the Snatch and Clean & Jerk lifts will contribute to building your strength, but because these are such technical movements, you will build more strength through the back squat, front squat and clean grip deadlift!
A well-rounded weightlifter has strong legs, a strong back, and a strong upper body.
#2 Form & Technique
No matter how strong an athlete is, the technique will always be a limiting factor. The more your technique improves, the more weight you will be able to lift.
Brute strength will only carry you so far – Olympic weightlifting is a technical sport.
For this reason, it’s vital to spend time and effort improving technique. Having a good weightlifting coach can help you escalate your progress.
Whether your coach is in person or remote, receiving feedback on your movements is critical for improving the Olympic lifts.
Download our free technique posters for the Snatch, Clean, and Split Jerk.
Breaking down these complex lifts into individual positions and movements is a great way to grasp the essentials and begin making progress.
Even more, experienced lifters can benefit from a deeper understanding of these details. Our weightlifting technique posters detail each position of the snatch, clean and split jerk. Download our posters for free here.
#3 Mental Game
Mental strength is equally important when performing the Olympic lifts. When you approach the barbell, you must be confident and control your nerves and emotions.
If there is any doubt in your mind that you will not make the lift, the chances of missing it will increase.
Like physical strength and technique, mental strength is developed with time and reps. Hiring a coach is a great way to establish the accountability you will need to push your limits and develop your mental game.
Steal Our Workout Plan for Competitive Weightlifting
Follow our three-step Olympic weightlifting plan to build strength, improve technique, and peak for your competition.
For a more customized experience, you can apply to work one on one with one of our trainers. You can be anywhere in the world, and we’ll help you take it to the next level.
Step 1: Choose a competition date that is roughly 16 weeks out. You can find a local match on the USAW’s local events calendar. Click here to see a competition near you.
Mark the exact date on your calendar and count backward to determine the precise number of weeks you have to prepare for the event.
Step 2: Divide the total number of weeks by 4 to find the number of training blocks you will have to complete before competition day. Each of the following “blocks” has a specific focus and purpose, with the ultimate goal of preparing for competition day.
Phase 1: Accumulation Phase
- Weeks 1-4
Phase 2: Strength Phase
- Weeks 5-8
Phase 3: Preparation Phase
- Weeks 9-12
Phase 4: Peaking Phase
- Weeks 13-16
Step 3: Set goals for each phase that builds on a former one to provide a timeline of what you need to accomplish at each benchmark.
These goals should start very general regarding how closely they relate to the competition exercises. At each training phase, they will become more and more specific, ultimately leading up to your goals for competition day. See an example of this type of goal setting below.
Phase 1 Goals:
- Back Squat – 280KG
- Overhead Press – 120KG
Phase 2 Goals:
- Muscle Snatch – 120KG
- Push Press – 170KG
Phase 3 Goals:
- Power Snatch – 130KG
- Split Jerk – 190KG
Phase 4 Goals:
- Snatch – 155KG
- Clean & Jerk – 195KG
- Snatch – 160KG
- Clean & Jerk – 200KG