I have received the following question recently in my email, and figured it might be time to answer.
“Hey Wil, I have my first weightlifting competition coming up and wanted to know how you should warm-up?”
Before I get to how to warm-up, let’s start with how to not warm-up
At Junior Nationals this spring I watched a competitor to one of my athletes snatch for 30 minutes before the competition up to a weight above his opening attempt, and take 5 attempts at what was seemingly a PR lift. This athlete, bombed on the snatch portion of the competition, and then came back in the warm-up room and finally made that PR, when it didn’t count.
At Senior Nationals this summer, one of my own competitors started warming up for the snatch 20 minutes prior to the start of the introductions, work up to his opener, work back down, and work back up again to an attempt higher than anyone in the entire session was opening. Needless to say he went 1/3 in the snatch portion of the competition
Warming Up should be just that, getting your body in peak condition for maximal attempts. This is not a time to “build confidence” that you will hit a lift, if you don’t have confidence in the lift you shouldn’t be there. Remember there is a fine line between, under warmed up (not good) and over warmed up (also not good).
Part of me thinks that maybe I shouldn’t write this article so my athletes can reap the benefits.
Warming Up the Right Way
First, go through your normal warm-up routine (stretching, rolling, etc), my goal is to make it like a normal day.
(Optional, but not recommended: Chug coffee for 3 hours in a van down by the river)
Then, it’s time to get to business. Look at the attempt cards on the official’s table. Count all attempts before you go as this will give you your ideal blueprint to warming up. You are basically guessing as to the number of attempts before you open, but it is an educated guess.
Let’s use the snatch for instance. You are going to open at 100 kilograms, when you look at the attempt cards, you see that there are lifters opening at 80kg, 85 kg, 90 kg, 94kg, and 97kg.
Here’s where a little guess work goes into the equation. For all lifters 8kg or more lower than your opening attempt, assign them 3 attempts until you go, for 7kg-4kg assign them 2 attempts, 4-1kg assign them 1 attempt.
So in this scenario:
80kg guy: 3 attempts
85kg guy: 3 attempts
90kg guy: 3 attempts
94kg guy: 2 attempts
97kg guy: 1 attempt
So in this scenario you have 12 attempts til you take your first attempt. There will also be a 10 minute clock from introductions/end of the previous session til your session starts.
There are also scenarios where someone opens at the same weight as you. They will be listed before you on the scorer’s table if they are going before you, pay attention to these guys though because they can possibly jump their attempt to a higher number if they choose, and that lift you were counting on is gone.
Planning your warm-ups.
I like to take a total of 15 or so reps, over the course of 6-8 sets. (More for the snatch, and less for the clean and jerk).
So with 100 as our sample opener you would do something like this. I would always prefer to spend more time at lighter weights and “get loose” so the first warm-up sets could be done for even more reps than I list.
Bar x as many as you want
Then you need to look at the timing of those warm-ups, and this is where a lot of people screw up. Time each warm-up 3 minutes or 3 “drops” apart. Do not take the approach to “follow what’s on the bar,” or lifting whatever is on the competition platform while you are in the warm-up room, this does not work.
Drops, is a term I use in reference to hearing the bar drop on the competition platform. You can count drops yourself, but it always helps to have a teammate or coach count them for you. Less for you to think about, and it makes you feel like an absolute machine when your coach/teammate just says “Lift” and then you go lift.
So now it looks like this, and remember at official competitions there is a 10 minute clock that should run after intros and before the first lift.
Bar- all time before the clock starts
50kg 12 minutes to go (2 minutes before intros)
60- 9 minutes to go in the clock, or almost immediately after you return from introductions.
70- 6 minutes to go in the clock
80- 3 minutes to go in the clock
85 -12 drops til you lift (or the very first lifter in the competition because there are 12 drops/attempts til you are on the platform)
90-9 drops til you lift
94 6 drops til you lift
97 -3 drops til you lift
If you were to have a higher opening attempt you might find yourself waiting out the entire clock before even attempting a warm-up, this is fine. If you happen to have the highest opening attempt in the session, you might even find yourself warming up later than anyone else in the session, although nerve racking, stick with the plan and wait to warm-up!
In the clean and jerk you would warm-up in a similar fashion with only some slight possibilities for change:
-Bigger athletes and those with heavier opening attempts might choose to have 4 attempts between warm-ups.
-Because you are generally “warm” you might not need as many warm-up attempts. For instance, if I am opening at 160kg in the clean and jerk, I will often only take 60kg, 100kg, 120kg, 135kg, and 150kg. My old legs need fewer attempts, but this is something you should hash out in training before the competition.
Keep in mind that every lifter has the opportunity to change their attempt 2x before actually being required to take it. So sometimes those opening attempts are not what will really happen. People often move up and move down, and in a national competition, moving up and down is more common as people try to wiggle their way to placing. So I would advise you to continue to check back to the table to keep track of where people have placed their attempts (an ideal job for a coach).
Once my competition starts, I very rarely take any more warm-up attempts between lifts. The only times that I break this pattern is if I have 6 or more attempts until my next attempt. In that case, I may consider going to the warm-up area and taking a “pull” or a power variation.
Kick some Butt
Try this method for warming up in training before going to a competition. Find out how your body works best, 12 warm-up lifts, 18 warm-up lifts, etc. Get some fake attempt cards and play around with how to read and count attempts. And please, don’t warm-up past your opener.
Like many of you that love Olympic lifting, whether it be for performance, CrossFit, or the sport itself, I was shocked when I heard last week that an athlete had suffered a serious and life altering injury from doing an Olympic lift. I received a dozen emails about how to “miss a lift,” and thought that this was an important time to release this blog post.
I don’t know Kevin Ogar, and I will not speak to the way that his injury occurred, I think that it would be very disrespectful to Kevin, his family, and friends. Personally I think this was a completely freak accident, a massively unfortunate, 1 in a billion occurrence. I only wish him the best, and will pray for his recovery.
This is a piece of an upcoming project I am putting together, and wanted to make sure it is out there to share. Read More→
In college I waited tables at a local sports themed restaurant that featured more TV’s than you could shake a stick at. While this meant that I never missed an episode of sportscenter for 4 years, it also meant that Sundays in the fall meant waiting on tables full of football fans of dozens of NFL teams.
Being in small Bloomington, IN you might think that every table was full of like minded Colts fans, but the largest group of fans that we would get in the restaurant were those of the Cincinnati Bengals. Ahh, the great wearers of the stripey clothing, and the great shouters of “Who Dey”, fans of the Cincinnati freaking Bengals.
If there is one take away from those days it is that I do not like Cincinnati Bengals fans (at least the ones that frequented my restaurant). Maybe it was one too many small tips on a large bill, or one too many guys calling me names for telling him he had reached his limit of adult beverages on the day, but to this day when I see a Bengals jersey on a fan I shudder.
Well, today those fans would be wise to read the blog because I have a very special guest.
Coach Ron McKeefery is here to answer my questions. Coach McKeefery is one of the most well respected strength and conditioning coaches around. He literally built the football program at South Florida, built the largest weightroom in the country at the University of Tennessee, and is now making Bengals fans everywhere happy by developing the programs for Cincinnati’s NFL team, who are having one of their best seasons in years.
Coach McKeefery also maintains one of the best rolodexes in the S&C field having worked with legends like Istvan Javorek, and conversing regularly with the best coaches in the field on his AWESOME podcast, Iron Game Chalk Talk. (Doesn’t hurt that I was the first guest). Read More→
In my youth I thought the idea of a computer hacker was pretty neat. I can recall one of my first experiences on a PC playing a heated game of Number Munchers, when the computer switched away from the game and showed a series of numbers and letters. It is very likely that the computer crashed, but to my 8 year old mind, I had hacked the computer system like I was Matthew Broderick in War Games.
Hacking a computer is a work around, a barrier which was set up is broken down by some clever trick. While I have heard of the sheer force of thousands of computers trying to hack through a computer security system, the neat ones that we read about are the ones that are just so clever as to say “why didn’t I think of that”
While life has not led me down the path to computer hacking, the idea of the shortcut, or work around that breaks down barriers is still something I am pursuing. The web is full of ideas on how to “hack” your everyday life, to make your experience in the kitchen, with your tech, and your job even easier.
Weightlifting hacks also abound. These are simple tricks that just by their nature correct technique. They are independent of training, they don’t make you stronger, they just make weightlifting easier. If you want the red pill, read on, if you want the blue pill just return to your normal daily routine. Read More→
The following post comes from Eric Cressey. Eric is world renowned as the “shoulder guy”, and in this post he gives you an assessment tool to see if you are ready to train overhead. Never have I seen such a simple assessment and simple corrections if you are found to be lacking. If you want to press, snatch, or jerk you must keep reading.