Prepping for a National Meet: How it feels, how it works, & what to expect

Having been to a few national meets and with a fourth coming this week, we wanted to share our experience and insight into what happens at a National meet held in the United States as a coach and an athlete. We’ll start by saying that your national meet experience will be very different based on what session you are put in and your entry total. With the rise of lifters in the U.S., the American Open has to break up weight classes into sessions A through C, and for some weight classes, all the way to J. Let’s say you (the coach and athlete) are in the A session and are one of the top lifters in that session. You will probably open and run through your attempts pretty smoothly. Awesome. Let’s say you hit the exact qualifying total (or just above) for your weight class. Your competition will be a bit different and may or may not run as smoothly.

When arriving to these national meets, you may want to move around and sweat a little bit just to shake off the “airplane feels” if you had to fly in.  The venue of the competition will usually have a training hall where athletes can train if they come earlier than their actual competition date (highly recommended). When going to the training hall, expect it to be busy and chaotic. There are usually 10-15 platforms and 600+ other athletes who need to train. These training halls are packed! Plan accordingly. You may need to wait 20-60 minutes for a platform to even open up. Once you get a platform, you will mostly likely be sharing it with five to six other lifters. There will be lots of plate sharing and changing. That’s just how it is.  

Competition day. First you’ll weigh-in, fuel up, and then head to the warm-up area. Make sure to head to the warm-up room early enough. Three sessions will be held in the same area. So that’s about 45-50 lifters and 15 platforms.  So let’s say you are in the C session, a session where every lifter hit the same or similar total to qualify. We can assume that every lifter is opening around the same weight. Your first attempt will probably go very well. You time it out very well and you nail your opener. Here comes the tricky part. Since every lifter is opening around the same weight, we can also assume that they will make similar jumps in their second and third attempts. This is where the waiting game happens. This is the trickiest part of these National competitions for those in lower sessions. What we don’t like about this is the chance of getting cold (you probably will).

So now, the coach must figure out a way to keep their athlete warm. In our experience, having our athletes perform lifts from 60-70% and doing heavier pulls while we wait has been effective. However, the timing when the athlete performs these lifts is very important. Depending on how many attempts out you are before you lift again, your wait time may vary. What we have found works is having our athletes perform a lift every 3 attempts that happen on stage. Let’s say we are 12 attempts out from our next attempt, we may perform anywhere from 4-5 lifts.  We also have to take into account misses, makes, and technical difficulties. All these things affect how our timing will go.  

The best way to prep for these National meets is to expect these obstacles and experiences. Train harder and smarter each year so you can go back, experience it again and learn more each time you go.

-Coaches Chris & Josh