How to survive your first weightlifting meet

Look, at some point you’re going to have to do it.

Nothing you do is really going to count until you do it for white lights on a competition platform. And deep down, you know that.

“I don’t feel like I’m good enough,” “my form still sucks.

As a weightlifting coach, I hear this all the time when I tell someone that it’s time to get out of the gym and compete.

Competing makes you better almost immediately. The experience itself will give you a clearer view of what you need to improve, and provides motivation to train harder.

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Things you need to know

  • Your weight class: do NOT cut weight for your first meet. Seriously. Figure out what weight you are during the middle of the day after having eaten as much as you normally would. You want to be well fed and watered. Don’t increase the stress of your first meet for the slight possibility of placing better in a lower weight class. This meet will be the first of many competitions, worry about making weight another day.

  • Know the rules: No one is going to expect you to have the British Weightlifting rulebook committed to memory, but don’t be that guy who’s surprised when you get red lighted for dropping the bar before the judges give you the down signal. It’s important that you know all the rules which apply directly to you when you’re on the platform. This meet is a foundation for all of your future competitions, start getting into the habit of knowing, understanding, and being prepared.

  • A clock? What is this, CrossFit? Well, no, but there is a time limit. Once the bar has been loaded and the platform is ready, the lifter has one minute to attempt his lift (the attempt has not started until the bar has passed the lifter's knees.) If the lifter is following himself (that is, if he takes an attempt, and there is no one else between him and the next attempt,) he’ll have two minutes instead of one.Once or twice, do a workout where you’re taking lifts on the minute, or at least your heavy attempts. This will give you an idea of how long it takes you to approach the bar, get set up, and take a lift.

  • Ask Question: Go into your first meet ready to learn. Weightlifting is generally a community of friendly people who will be glad to help you. Make friends as quickly as you can, and if you can find someone more experienced than you to give you a little guidance, much better


If you go into your first weightlifting meet with the attitude “I’m here to win,” you probably don’t have the right attitude. Yes, it could happen. Weightlifting is a small sport and depending on how talented you are and how strong your local weightlifting community is, it’s possible that you could place well. However, in your first meet, it is my opinion that you should be attempting to go 6 for 6, or at the least 5 for 6 with the only miss being your last clean & jerk.

Why? Because missing lifts is stressful, and you’re already going to feel stressed out enough. You want each lift to make you look forward to the next one more, not make you worry.

Take risks next time. Today, have fun and…learn how a meet runs.

Make Friends. Like most strength athletes, weightlifters are generally pretty cool. And since the sport is so small, they’re usually very happy to meet new lifters and willing to help out where they can. Your first meet should bring with it some new friendships, and maybe even new training partners.

Determinate your lifts


Every weightlifting meet comes with six important decisions: your three attempts in the Snatch and in the Clean & jerk.

Your opener should be something you can hit for 2-3 doubles in a training session. You should be able to take it 1-2 times in the back (for the snatch, not the clean & jerk) with 100% confidence, and then walk out and absolutely smoke it for your first attempt.

Your second attempt should still be something you’re confident in, and not more than a 3-4kg increase from the first on the snatch, and not more than 5-6kg on the clean & jerk.

The third attempt can be a bit more risky, but something you typically make at least two out of three times in training.


  • Don’t warm up too early. As soon as you weigh in, you have to do one thing, and arguably the most important— eat and drink. Although I do not agree with cutting weight for your first meet, inevitably you are going to do it anyway. So make it a priority to get hydrated and fueled up! Dehydration and glycogen depletion are not your friends in the sport. Sandwiches and Gatorade are.

  • Have a plan. The warm-up primes you and sets the stage for your successful lifts. If you do not have a coach there are some simple rules you can use. Count backward from your opening attempt, count the number of attempts in front of you.

You can allow 1 minute per attempt, so if there are 12 lifts before you will have roughly 12 minutes before you lift.

  • Sit down: between lifts you need to rest. I get it, you just converted from Crossfit and you can’t wait to do another WOD, but this is a different sport. Sit down, conserve your energy.

What to eat

Don’t eat anything you’ve never eaten before, stick with your safe and usual training meals.

You don’t want your body to be preoccupied with digesting and jitteriness, you want it to be focused on lifting.

Remember that meets can last for hours. A smart strategy is to consume a moderate amount of protein and carbs one or two hours before to your first attempt, and to either sip a beverage that’s a mixture of protein and carbohydrates and healthy fats throughout the day or, if you’d rather eat a lunch, split it up into two or three snacks.

Weightlifting is very anaerobic, each lift takes less than ten seconds to complete. Throw in some warm-ups throughout the day and you’re only looking at a few minutes of actual work being performed throughout the entire meet. Focusing on whole foods like trail mix, fruit or sipping on a shake would be better for sustainable energy.

You just want to have a good meal to start off the day and adequate calories to keep you satisfied throughout attempts.

I usually opt for some fast and slow digesting carbs with protein so I get a good hit of energy without a crash. Oats with berries, peanut butter, and protein powder mixed in work really well for me and I have it an hour and a half before lifting.

Drink plenty of water, dehydration is your worst nightmare! Coconut water is my favourite.

Between Snatch and Clean & Jerk, you usually have from 10 to 20 minutes, the perfect time to have a quick snack like:

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  • Banana and dark chocolate

  • Protein bar

  • Banana, jam and PB sandwich

  • Homemade cookies (my favourite are this awesome Pumpkin Oat Cookies )

The bottom line is:  keep it simple, have all the fun, make reasonable increases and make lifts!

This was following on from the first part of this series on “How to fuel for a weightlifting session”


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Marta Lesina is one of our nutrition coaches based out of The Yard in Peckham and CrossFit Blackfriars. If you are interested in working with her head over to the nutrition coaching page and sign up for online coaching!


Nutrition adviceMarta Lesina