A Weightlifting Meet: What I’ve Learned, Part 2

by Carl Raghavan, SSC | December 29, 2021

carl raghavan finishes a clean and jerk in weightlifting competition

Welcome to the second installment of what I learned from my last weightlifting meet. I’d like to begin where I left off, discussing my taper – which I followed with great success. 

Correct taper

As always, a big reason I love weightlifting is fellow SSC Josh Wells. I hear his voice in my head whenever I snatch or clean & jerk. He’s the only coach I constantly send footage to, asking for training advice. This meet I was very nervous. Josh has been my weightlifting guide for quite some time, and he is the reason my taper went so well and the bar felt so light on the day of the meet.

The exact instructions I got were: 


  • Max snatch 
  • Max clean & jerk 
  • 3 attempts 

Monday: Work up to something last warmups 

Wednesday: Work up to openers 


  • Snatch (light) 5x1 @ 50kg
  • Clean & jerk (light) 5x1 @ 70kg 

Friday: Hotel and relax

Saturday: Meet

My Top 10 Tips

  1. Don’t cut weight
  2. Don’t clap or watch others
  3. Find a nest and/or time alone
  4. Be selfish
  5. Choose realistic openers
  6. If you miss a lift, let it go – move on
  7. Find a meet handler or coach
  8. Don’t celebrate until your last lift of the day
  9. Don’t get injured
  10. Have fun and enjoy the day 

Don’t cut weight

Again, this is a competition where you’re aiming to lift the heaviest weights you can. You’re not focusing on being in a particular weight category. Save that for national and international meets, when it matters. Today we just want to do our best and go 6 for 6, if possible. 

Don’t clap or watch others

I know the polite thing to do is be gracious to everyone who’s on the platform. You want to cheer and clap. Don’t. Watching people lift before you do increases your anxiety, especially if you’re in the last flight of men in a group of 50 male and female lifters, like I was that day. It’s too exhausting to sit bolt upright in a crappy flip chair and clap every 90 seconds. Worse, you may see someone badly hurt themselves, which would be a terrible thing to witness if you’re about to lift after them. Accidents do happen. 

Find a nest and/or time alone

If you can, find a place at the meet venue where you can go and chill out. The biggest mistake I made during this meet was checking out of my hotel room early. I didn’t start warming up till past midday, so from 9–12 I had a lot of dead time. I watched a few people (bad idea: see above), took a walk and chatted. I could easily have gone back to my room for a few hours then returned closer to my warm-ups. One good thing I did do was listening to some calming music (reggae) and chilling out. I even closed my eyes and focused on breathing for a few minutes. If you can, take a nap, but you may be pretty nervous and too excited to fall back asleep. It is, however, a great way to pass the time on meet day and stay loose. 

Be selfish

Don’t feel ashamed to ask people for help. If you have friends or family at the meet, ask them to go grab some extra food or fluids. This is your day, and you want to do as little as possible. Basically, focus on lifting prep and platform lifts. You are Jabba the Hut for a day. 

Choose realistic openers

Obvious but often overlooked: pick very doable openers. Again, if you have done powerlifting or strengthlifting meets you will know how nervous people get during their first squat attempt. In weightlifting, your first attempt is the snatch, which is a far more technical lift than a squat. The most technical lift of all, if you ask any weightlifting coach (I’m joking). I was going to open with 90kg, but on that day I was very nervous. It had been 6 years, so I played it safe and did 85kg. I’m glad I did. 

If you miss a lift, let it go – move on

On the platform, if the judges say you didn’t get the lift, this is what you do: ask politely what the fault was, listen to the judge's answer, and then forget you missed the attempt. You don’t have time to bitch and moan about the umpires, since their decision is usually final. Just make sure you make the next one, and leave no doubt. At this meet, the judge red-lighted my first clean & jerk at 110kg. Which I thought was odd. The call was that my left elbow was soft (the “press-out” rule). There’s always a human element on meet day – always the potential for mistakes. Luckily for me, I got away with some elbow bend on my final attempt at a clean & jerk (at 130kg), but she didn’t call it. So sometimes the human element can swing in your favor. To be fair, it was a 50-person meet and I was one of the last 5 people to clean & jerk, so this judge was probably pretty tired after focusing on maybe 295 lifts up to that point. It was a call that I was happy to accept that day, as you could tell from my screaming uppercut celebration. 

Find a meet handler or coach

This is especially handy for a weightlifting meet, because as mentioned above, the lifting order is determined by what numbers you’re going to lift. If other lifters are close to your numbers, the lifting order can change rapidly, and it's best if somebody else follows this so that you can concentrate on lifting the weights. That’s not to say don’t do a weightlifting meet if you don’t have a handler, but it really does help, so take the option if you have it. 

Don’t celebrate until your last lift of the day

One big mistake that I have made at previous strengthlifting meets is to celebrate my squat or press lifts. Those are an early stage of the meet, but getting jazzed up then made my next lifts suffer. Screaming and celebrating that intensely actually burned out my focus and depleted my reserves of energy for the rest of the meet. For this reason, seasoned lifters will focus on one or two big numbers and put down a respectable third lift that keeps them in the game – or sometimes it’s just a token lift. I will say, though, that my passion for hitting PRs sometimes gets the better of me. After all, I’m only human. 

Don’t get injured

This sounds like a stupid statement, but at a weightlifting meet in particular, the chances of something going wrong are vastly more likely, since the nature of the lifts is more explosive and quick, and since you're supposed to be doing the heaviest weights you can lift. That’s not to say you won’t be safe. If you’ve signed up for a meet, you should have done suitable prep and you should have picked the correct attempts. You want to walk away from the meet unscathed and be ready to train again in 2–3 days’ time. 

Have fun and enjoy the day

As always, you want the meet to be enjoyable and lots of fun. At least, I make that a priority. You can chat and be social with your fellow competitors (after you’ve focused on the lifts). Make some friends in the process and just soak up the atmosphere that the meet day brings. 

Do as I say, not as I do

I’ve said above, and it’s almost a cliché: don’t cut weight. Especially not for your first meet, regardless of whether it’s weightlifting, powerlifting or strengthlifting. You don’t need to worry about being in a weight category where you can “place well.” That’s bullshit talk – you just need to do your best. Since when is that not enough? In any case, cutting weight is a sure-fire recipe for having a shit day.

But this wasn’t my first rodeo, and I knew that doing a 10kg weight cut wasn’t going to affect my meet prep. At 120kg, I was a fat fuck – granted – but I felt bloody strong. Before my cut began, I maxed out a few odd lifts. I pin pressed 160kg, benched 180kg with a slingshot, rack pulled 270kg x3 and pause safety bar squatted 210kg. All big PRs for me. Going into this 10kg weight cut, I was stronger and bigger than ever. This meant that my weight cut before the meet didn’t affect my performance: I hit a PR on both my best meet snatch and clean & jerk.

I’ve mentioned in a previous article that most people have an ideal bodyweight at which they are their strongest. Mine is between 97–130kg, so being at 110kg after the cut I was still in the sweet spot. Another main reason I did well was that it had been 6 years since my last meet, and I had used that time to get a hell of a lot stronger and gain weight, so trimming the fat didn’t affect my bottom line on the platform. But my situation was probably a little different than that of most of you reading this. If you’re looking to do your very first weightlifting meet (or meet in general) then please, I’m begging you, don’t cut weight. I’ve done over half a dozen meets this decade so I know the deal, and if my weight cut was going to affect my performance I would have adjusted my plan. It didn’t, I knew it wouldn't, so that’s that.

My other piece of so-standard-it’s-cliché advice would be not to drink too much the night before the meet – especially if you're going to ignore my advice to not cut weight. I’m going to be honest with you here: I had 5 pints the night before. So, again, this is another case of do as I say, not as I do. I’ve been a pretty seasoned drinker for a while now, so this didn’t really touch the sides. It actually helped me relax and sleep more restfully. If you’ve done a meet, you know that the nerves kick in pretty bad, like it’s the night before Christmas or an exciting flight abroad. Normally you don’t get good sleep even if you go to bed early the night before meet day. You’re better off focusing on getting good sleep in the last 12 days beforehand instead of worrying about the night before, which is essentially a write-off. Personally, a few beers does help me in that regard, but getting blackout drunk wouldn’t be advised. Again, I have also done that before a meet, and I pressed 130kg that day, so I did okay even then. How much did I actually consume? I plead the 5th! 

On reflection – more was in the tank

Looking at this meet subjectively, I wish I’d had a fourth attempt on both my snatch and my clean & jerk. For some reason, the 95kg snatch and 130kg clean & jerk felt very light, especially considering that my best in the gym are 100kg and 135kg. I guess I should be grateful that I performed well for my level, and it’s motivated me to crush bigger and better numbers in the future. I also wish I’d gone in with more confidence. In weightlifting in particular, I have found that you want your confidence to be sky high. You need to feel strong and fast. When you miss, it can sometimes leave a mental stain that plays on your mind. Not everyone is like this, and I can only speak from my experience. I assume that the more experienced you get, the easier it is to let go of missed attempts. But I find missing lifts to be extremely frustrating, especially when it’s something I know I can hit. Nerves and cautiousness can be motivating, but I prefer to be really confident and go into meet day with no doubt on my mind. But that’s just my take. I guess I’ll have to see with time if my opinion on that changes. 

Objectively speaking, I did exactly what I needed. I hit both of my third attempts and did what I planned. In fact, I exceeded my planned goals for the meet: I wanted to leave with a 90/130 and got 95/130. My taper and the adrenaline of meet day worked in my favor. 

I will close by saying that, yet again, Rip was right. The moment you sign up for a meet, any meet, your training improves. You have now put your ass on the line, and you have showed everyone what you’re made of. A lot of people don’t have the guts to compete. They say they’re not ready, they want to make sure they can win before they compete, blah blah blah. People come up with more excuses than a pregnant nun. And the pressure is undeniable. You want to do your best, and that’s good character-building shit. Don’t, however, let this pressure stop you from competing till you think you’re good enough to place. That’s a brittle spirit who’s scared to fail – don’t be that guy.

I didn’t get a medal that day and honestly I don’t care. I hit PRs and had fun, and that’s what really matters. The funny thing is, no one really cares who won anyway. It’s only a local meet. It won’t knock the world off orbit if you do badly. It does, however, show that you as an individual are willing to step out onto a platform and show people you’re not afraid to fail. You just show up and roll the dice. Sign up to anything you can find: weightlifting, powerlifting, or better still strengthlifting. Pressure makes diamonds, not hugs or participation trophies. So what are you waiting for? See what you can do with 6–12 weeks of prep. Step up and be somebody, not an I-could-have-done-that guy.

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