Warming-up during a competition

In the coming weeks I have a number of my lifters attending competitions, some for the very first time, and as a result a hot topic at the moment is how to properly warm-up for competition.

Understandably, the thought of preparing for your first attempts on the platform at your first competition can cause a great deal of stress and nervousness.

It is something that we are discussing regularly here at Cheshire Barbell at the moment, and I thought it may be a topic you would like to touch on.

Please understand that it is impossible for me to guide you around every possible scenario, however the information below will be sufficient to help you through your competition so you can plan ahead and take some of the weight from your shoulders.

Competition Basics

Each lifter has three attempts in the snatch, and the clean & jerk. That's six lifts in total. The lifter may select a different weight for each attempt, but an attempt can never be less than what’s currently on the competition bar. If the bar is loaded to 85kg for a previous lifter, the next athlete can set their following attempt at 85kg or more.

You are allowed to move up in weight even if you miss an attempt, and you can increase by any amount in increments of 1 kg.

All attempts in the snatch are completed by all lifters first, and then all clean & jerks are completed.

There is typically a 15-minute break between the snatches and clean & jerks.

Lifters are separated into their weight categories and each weight class has its own session. In small, local, competitions, lifters of multiple weight categories can be combined into a single session.

Women's categories:









Men's categories:









During the morning of the competition, lifters will declare their opening snatch and clean & jerk attempts at the time they weigh-in (this can be 2 hours before the session starts).

These numbers can be changed later, but the declared openers will help the technical officials organise the initial lifting order of the session.

The weight on the competition barbell will always start with the lowest attempt weight and work up to the heaviest attempt weight of the session. Remember, the bar never descends.

Whoever has selected the lightest weight in the session needs to be aware that they must start warming up before the session actually starts.

Once the first lift has been completed, the technical official will ask the loaders to load the next weight. Once the bar has been loaded, the next lifter will be announced, and that lifter then has 1 minute to begin their lift. They do not have to have completed the lift within this 1 minute time frame, however the bar must be pulled from the floor before the 1 minute buzzer rings.

It is worth noting, that 30 seconds before the end of the 1 minute period, another buzzer will sound. If unaware of this buzzer, lifters can often be put off and their psychology interrupted. Often, lifters will weight for this 30 second buzzer to sound before initiating their lift.

After each successful attempt, the next weight will be loaded on the bar.

If another lifter is using the same weight as the previous lifter, the collars will be tightened. In this case, all lifters will take their attempt before the weight is increased to the next highest declared weight.

Should two lifters declare the same weight, the order of who goes first is determined by the number of attempts they have had (i.e. someone who has yet to have attempted their second lift will go before someone who is moving onto their third). If this cannot determine the order, then the athlete's given lot numbers will (lowest lot number goes first).

It is important you pay attention to this to avoid being surprised when your name is called.

The Warm Up

By this stage you will have already decided your opening lifts.

For this example, let’s say you’re going to open in your snatch at 100 kg.

It is important that you use a warm-up process that is familiar. One that you would normally do if working up to a 100 kg snatch in the gym, but aim to do as few warm-up sets as possible while still getting adequately warm.

An example would be:


40 kg

50 kg

60 kg

70 kg

80 kg


92 kg

96 kg

You may spend 5-10 minutes doing some basic mobility drills prior to picking up the bar provided you are happy you have plenty of time.

If you wish, you can do doubles or even triples during the lighter warm-up sets to help you loosen up a little. It is very important, however, that what you do is not fatiguing.

After the first couple weights, stick to singles only. Remember, you’re not training, you’re preparing to lift maximal weights in competition.

The challenge or key to a good warm up for competition (compared with a normal training session) is that you do so at the right time so that you’re ready for your opening attempt. You don’t want to still be warming up with 50 kg when they call you for your opener at 100 kg. Sounds unlikely, but it can happen. I, myself once missed the call for my weight class and missed almost 30 minutes of warm up time. It meant I had enough time to perform nothing other than 3 warm-up sets in close succession before being called to the platform.

Be prepared. Keep your eyes and ears open. Don't be like me!

Conversely, you don’t want to take your last warm-up snatch 15 minutes before your first competition snatch at 100 kg. The key is to time it right.

The first thing you need to do is check the attempt cards (there is also usually a tv or computer screen in the warm up area detailing each lifter's first attempt / declared opener). Once you have scanned through all the opening weights, determine how many attempts will be completed before yours. This requires a bit of guess work as you may have to make assumptions about how big the jumps each lifter will make between their three attempts to know how many of those attempts will take place before your first lift.

As an example, if you’re opening with 100 kg, and another lifter is opening at 98, it is likely they’ll only take that one attempt before yours. This may change if they miss the weight and repeat, however. In the case they miss and they’re the only lifter at 98, they’ll get a 2-minute clock to repeat. This will inevitably extend your rest time considerably. Try to be on the ball and aware of what is happening on the competition platform because you can’t know for sure who will miss or when. Again, just looking at the TV or computer screen in the warm up area will be enough for you to understand what is going on. If you're lucky, there will be cameras with a live stream of the competition platform being played in the warm up area.

Once you have a rough idea of how many attempts there will be before yours, you can figure out when to do your warm-up lifts.

Personally, I like to have my lifters take a warm-up lift for every three lifts performed on the competition platform. This will result in a warm up set being performed every 3 minutes or so.

3 minutes is more than enough rest between warm up sets. It is likely that your coach will have had you perform 'on the minute' work prior to your big day, and therefore you should be fairly conditioned for sets with less than 3 minutes rest in between.

Your warm up may look like this, with weight being on the left and time remaining on the right

Bar – 30 mins remaining

40kg - 18 mins remaining

60kg - 15 mins remaining

70kg - 12 mins remaining - 12 lifters / attempts before you

80kg - 9 mins remaining - 9 lifters / attempts before you

92 kg - 6 mins remaining - 6 lifters / attempts before you

96kg - 3 mins remaining - 3 lifters / attempts before you


100kg - first attempt

This time doesn't account for time spend doing whatever dynamic work, foam rolling, you like to do, nor account for the time it takes you to put on your singlet, shoes, tape, etc. Take this into account.

It might be worth preparing for your warm up near to when the Clean & Jerk of the session before you has started.

It is likely that if you are competing at a small local competition, there will not be a large number of lifters competing in your session. Even if you are lifting more than most of these lifters, it is unlikely that there will be 30 minutes worth of attempts prior to your first attempt, and therefore I would almost always make sure that you're prepared to get moving before the Clean & Jerk finishes in the session before yours.

As a beginner, it might be likely that you’re one of the first (or the first) lifter. In this case you need to start your warm up process at least 30 minutes before the first lift of the session is scheduled (the technical officials will often give you a 30minute warning).

At small local competitions, your warm up can be tricky as warm-up rooms are often crowded. I will almost guarantee that you'll have to share a bar with someone.

It goes without saying that it is best to err on the side of caution and begin early if you are unsure. You can always slow down if you find you’re ahead of where you planned to be.

Remember, don't be like me. It is impossible to have a decent warm-up if you find yourself rushing things.

If you do decide to slow your warm-up down because you find yourself ahead, it might be a good idea to simply add a set or two at the lightest weight before moving up. If you really overdo it, you may have to actually drop the weight back down and work back up. In any case, adjust as soon as you can. It isn't a good idea to have to add warm up sets in at heavier loads. If you have to, drop back down and work your way back up. It is not a training session. You need to be fresh on that platform and you need to reserve fuel sources.

If you really need to speed up things up a little, simply perform your warm up sets between fewer lifts on the platform (1-2). It's not a good idea to skip warm-up sets in an attempt to warm-up quicker. It's highly likely your technique will become sloppy and it'll mess with your head.

You could try to compress your warm-up by cutting the rest periods between lighter weights and then return to your normal pace. I advise that you do not cut your warm-up sets out though! Important! It's better to have less rest.

React to the situation

We make the assumption that each lifter's attempt will take approximately one minute and therefore we build our warm up structure based on that time for each lift that precedes ours. Don't forget, however, that if a lifter misses or ends up following him/herself, he/she will be given a 2-minute clock instead of the normal 1-minute clock. So when counting attempts, take that into consideration.

If you experience a time delay because there are a number of misses and therefore the clock seems to run at 2-minutes regularly, drop down and work back up if there is a fair amount of time before your first attempt. You need to stay warm, and do not want to be standing round for more than 5 minutes between warm-up attempts.

As stated earlier, you will be nervous the first time you warm up at a competition, regardless of how relaxed the environment may be. Its likely that you may be nervous every time for the rest of your life. That's not a bad thing, it shows you're passionate about the sport and your efforts.

Once your first attempt has been taken. you may sometimes experience long waits between your 2nd and 3rd competition attempts. Some lifters I've worked with like doing a snatch pull or clean pull with a similar weight to that which they’ll be taking next.

Bear in mind that pulls may feel heavy compared to the actual snatch or clean as they're often performed at a slower pace. This will put you off. You may prefer to snatch or clean & jerk with a lighter weight instead. It is just a means of moving and staying warm but this won't induce much fatigue nor make you feel as though the bar is heavier than it is. Everyone has their own preferred method, so experiment.

The number one rule is that you're going to need to practise this as much as you can in the gym. Generally, there is no reason why you cannot use the aforementioned timed protocol when working up to heavy singles in the gym. Lifters very rarely time their rest in training but I think it's a good idea, at least to help with your competition warm up anyway. The more practise you get the better. It is likely that you are going to be nervous for several competitions until you get to the point where you have competed that many times that you are used to it.

For help with mindset when approaching heavy weights, read the following article by clicking below:

Breaking that mental block with heavier loads

For details on our online programmes and online coaching, click here

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