Choosing Your Competition Attempts (Olympic Lifting Edition)

I wrote last week about considerations to account for when deciding attempts at a powerlifting meet. I started there because, despite the length of the article, it's actually pretty straight forward. Especially when you start comparing it to choosing attempts for an Olympic lifting meet.

I'll try to delineate, though I may just be opening up a complicated can of worms.

The complexity is due to the differences in how the meets are run. In a powerlifting meet, you rung through all the first attempts, reset the bar, then go through the second attempts, reset the bar, third attempts. Everyone gets approximately the same time to recover from each lift, and making weight changes barely impacts the lifters around you.

In Olympic lifting meets, the bar starts at the lowest first attempt out of everyone. Then weight is added to the bar and you take you 1st, 2nd, or 3rd attempts as your desired weight is reached. The bar is only reset back to baseline after all the snatches are complete and it's time for clean and jerks. That means choosing and declaring attempts becomes more of a chess game to gain you more recovery time, and if you're feeling aggressive, mess with the recovery times of other lifters.

Counting Attempts/ Timing Warm-ups


Since the weight on the bar for each lift continuously increases, you have to be prepared to take your starting and subsequent attempts based on everyone else's attempts. That means you'll need your coach to assist more than you would at a powerlifting meet, or else you're wasting time and energy walking from the warm-up area to the competition desk where the cards are organized. 

First, come to the meet with your warm up attempts written out. Everything. I'll have something like this for my snatches, the x# refers to sets at that weight, weight in kilos:

Bar x2
35x2
45x1
50x1
60x1
63x1
66 on platform

So all together that's 9 warm up sets I would take. (This will probably be my actual set for the Kono coming up, first meet back post surgery! I digress…) I typically allow for 2-3 on platform attempts per warm-up set, with the idea that it takes 30-60 seconds for an attempt to start and finish. That means I want to start my first empty bar warm up at 27 attempts out. 

The coach will go to the cards and count out the attempts. This is something that should really be demonstrated in person, and the people who run local meets are usually more than kind enough to help you or your coach figure that out. 

Assuming an easy meet, you can estimate that you'll take each subsequent warm ups after every 3 crashes you hear on the platform. Things that can make it tricky include:
     - When someone misses a lift, they get two minutes to take it again, lengthening your warm ups. 
     - People declare conservative numbers and bump them up as they get close to their attempts, meaning you could lose time as you get close to your starting weights. 
     - Your bladder decides IT REALLY NEEDS TO PEE as you get closer to your starting attempt. 

Experience will give you a feel for how to handle those situations, but mostly it's about being mentally prepared. 

First Attempt

If you've competed before, you don't want to start with something you've never done in competition before. If you've never competed, pick something you can easily do for a double. The name of the game here is to be confident, conservative, and set the tone for the rest of the meet. Don't open with a recent PR.

Second Attempt

Since your first lift is the snatch, your best bet is to take something in the range of 2 to 5 kg greater than your first attempt, assuming you made that one. This isn't the time to go for a PR, but a time to bolster your total.

For the clean and jerk, you already know the rankings after the snatch, and you generally have an idea of where you are falling after the first successful attempt since you'll be lifting around other who want to same weights. So now it's time to take jumps that will push you up the rankings. Unless you are trying to qualify for something and want two attempts at a NEEDED weight, this isn't the time for heroics.

An experienced coach will be able to take a look at the cards, where the order of lifters and their stated next attempts are listed, and get an idea of where you might end up with two good lifts. With the assumption that each lifter has stated something conservative and will bump up their weight by 1-5kg, you can make informed decision on how long you have to rest for your next lift if you want to go for something big.

Third Attempt

Snatch what you can. If you're feeling good, go for that 1kg PR, but since you still have one more lift to go, best do something perhaps you've done in training and would be a competition PR.

The clean and jerk is where you want to go for it. Being the power move that it is, you can really allow your adrenaline to work for you. It's not uncommon for someone to dig in and make a big PR so they can jump themselves up a placing or two. Know that you have to be happy with where you end up if you don't make the risky lift, though.

In conclusion:

You want to stay pretty conservative in the snatch. Never open with something you haven't done in competition on either lift. Leave your bravado for your last clean and jerk.

I'll write another post on how to play the numbers game, make the most of your jumps for rest or to play games with your opponents.