Olympic Weightlifting: How to Perform Your Best at a Competition

This year of 2015 will be the 3rd year that I have been specifically training in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Since embarking on this roller coaster journey, I’ve learned a lot more about myself and still know there’s plenty more room for improvement.

The best way to test my progress in this case would be participating in competitions, and since it’s the early stage of the year; I am currently working around my own preparation and training. So, here are some thoughts about what goes on within the preparation process in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting.

What is Olympic Weightlifting?

Source: allthingsgym.com
Source: allthingsgym.com

Before I begin, what is Olympic Weightlifting? Easiest way relate is during an Olympic Games period where you see those men and women in their singlet suits, moving weights from the floor to above their head. But to be clear, in this sport, you have two principle movements:

  1. The Snatch – Lifting the barbell from the ground, directly to over your head.
  2. The Clean & Jerk – Lifting the barbell from the ground to your shoulders, and then from the shoulders to over your head.

In both principle movements, the goal is to lift as much weight possible and stand up with it; displaying full control of the movement and making it count as a successful lift.

You have 3 attempts for the snatch and also another 3 for the clean & jerk. You must perform at least one successful lift in each principle in order to achieve a total (score) for being ranked in the competition.

So, perhaps you can see now; an Olympic Weightlifting competition can be really stressful due to the circumstances. You’ve spent months and maybe even years training for a grand total of six lifts that will matter, and if you don’t make at least 1 good lift, you’re out of the scoreboard and ranking for the competition.

From my own experience in training and preparation for competition, there are a lot of factors that contribute to your performance, and many are beyond your control, such as stress unrelated to training and logistics with travelling to the venue.

However, there are also factors you can control, and some that may have never even occurred to you. Below I share my humble opinion on some points on what can possibly help make a difference:

Training & Peaking

olympic weightlifting ben 1
Benjamin Goh: “Training has to be controlled and managed properly”

There are many ways to approach competition at an optimal level. There have been athletes who keep going heavy leading up to date. But generally, training has to be controlled and managed appropriately. The risk of pushing too hard all the way close to the competition date would be high fatigue levels and injuries.

  • A simple rule of thumb – 2 weeks away from competition date, an athlete should definitely be focusing their emphasis on technique and repetitions.
  • Avoid going around the heavier numbers than you are capable of, and ensure your movement flow is spot on.
  • It all comes down to focusing and knowing what you need to do over and over.
  • The aim is to have peak performance on the competition stage and do your best then.

Resting & Food


Ensure you are getting sufficient rest and consistent sleep times. This will help with your recovery rate and also frequency to perform well during training, and will possibly carry over to your results. As you manage your rest and training properly, you are likely to be more consistent, sharp, and solid in training as you prepare yourself leading up to competition date.


Coming to the food intake, eating the right source of nutrition for performance will also matter. Just take note, that when it comes to this point, results may vary based on individuals. But ideally, be sure to have a good nice colourful plate with plenty of meat & veggies, along with some source of carbohydrates. This is generally good enough for sustainable training sessions, and can keep your system running well during your preparation period.

Credit: Benjamin Goh
Benjamin Goh: “Plan your warm-up lifts ahead of the competition”

Loading the Bar: Do It Right

In competition, the bar will be loaded accordingly from the heavier plates inside, to the lighter plates set towards the outside of the bar, and will match the number requested by the athlete. Whereas in training, it is normal that we just add on whichever plates that gives us our desired number. Hence, heavier weight plates are seldom used on the bar.

In general, if you don’t practise loading the weights like in the competition, this can create a subconscious belief that the bar is heavier than what it really is. So as you prepare for competition, mimicking the same situation and feeling of the bar consistently will ensure you know how it feels like for your performance on game day.

Know Your Warm-Up Routine

When you head for a competition, it’s best to know exactly what warm-up lifts you’ll be taking. This should not only be planned ahead, but should be something you’re already used to doing. One of the worst things to do at competition is having sudden changes to your warm up progressions from the usual everyday training routine.

This is really crucial to the mental state of mind. If your warm-ups feel routine, your competition lifts are much more likely to feel routine. So, leading up to the competition, follow the same warm-up weights for the snatch and clean & jerk that you plan to use at the competition. Again, it is important that you are consistent and familiar with the same setting from training to competition environment.

Dealing with Anxiety & Nervousness

Source: crossfitinvictus.com
Source: crossfitinvictus.com

Like any other competition,anxiety and nervousness inevitable. This is especially so for newer athletes or first timers in a competition. The harsh reality is there’s nothing much you can do, you just have to learn how to tame it. Of course, it gets easier after you’ve competed more often.

But here’s what I usually like to do to ease my senses and relax my mind the night before:

  • Start off the day happily looking forward to the upcoming competition. Set a positive mind.
  • Spend time with people that matter to you. It helps getting some chatter with them and probably some good encouragement/support.
  • Go to a mall, play some games, catch a movie or something. Have some dosage of entertainment and relaxation for your system.
  • Have a good dinner. Be sure you are eating right and just enough. Don’t stay out too late.
  • Have your favourite playlist of songs ready for the night. Get into bed a bit earlier than usual, enjoy your music, and let the anxiety kick in. Just try to stop thinking too much, and get some good sleep.

Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, the night before show-time, things will kick in and creep into your head. Just get up the next morning, get excited, and be ready to give it everything you’ve got!

So, there you have it people, just shedding some light from my own personal experiences. I hope this could help some of you who in future might be interested competing in this beautiful sport of Olympic Weightlifting, and also possibly to some other sports that can relate. Remember, training preparations for the body and mind is always crucial for any athlete today!


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This article originally appeared on The Vanguard.

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