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5 Lessons Learned from My First Lifting Meet

by ~jenniferlynn on October 20, 2014

in CrossFit

I have been doing Crossfit for under two years and have competed in a handful of competitions, including a couple of individual competitions (here and here), two partner competitions (here and here), and one team competition. But none of those day-long competitions full of multiple WODs could compare to the simplicity and mental exhaustion that came with the Michigan Barbell Classic, a one day competition hosted by Lex Artis (an amazing and super organized competition company) focused on only five total lifts: Snatch, Clean and Jerk, Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. The weight lifted was adjusted based on your bodyweight to give a fair ranking. I weighed in at 136.6#.

lex artis michigan barbell classic

Rather than give a typical recap of each lift and how it went, I thought I would share five lessons learned during my first lifting meet, as presented by the outcome of each lift. For each Oly lift, we had 5:00 to attempt as many lifts as you wanted, and 4:00 for each powerlift. My initial strategy (courtesy of one of my Oly coaches) was to complete three total lifts for each, opening with something I was confident I could hit, resting for 90s and attempting my current max if I was feeling good, then letting the clock countdown and beating my PR if I could with less than a minute remaining.

For the record, I always use a “girl bar” which technically is 15 kilograms, or 33# but as far as my logbooks go, I consider these lifts rounded to the nearest 5# (so my current PRs are technically 2# less than what it stated). But for the purpose of this competition, actual weights were recorded.

5 Lessons Learned from the lex artis michigan barbell classic meet

Lesson 1: Competitions are the time to PR

Lift: Snatch
Prior 1RM: 95#
Goal: 100#

I have been chasing 100# for so long and was getting quite discouraged for a while about not reaching it. I can fairly consistently snatch 90#, but lately 95# has been extremely hit-or-miss, typically a miss. I opened up this lift by confidently snatching 85#, snatched 90#, and surprised myself snatching 95#.

Lex Artis Michigan Barbell snatch

I was rushing just a little as I managed to squeeze in four attempts rather than my planned 3, but after 95# felt good, I had to get in 100#.

And I did. I almost effortlessly snatched the weight that I have been so scared of so many times before, a weight that I had gotten underneath but couldn’t stand up, a weight that I see the plates on the bar and mentally freak out.

Scored lift: 98#

Scored lift: 98#

Lesson 2: Keep calm and breathe

Lift: Clean and Jerk
Prior 1RM: 120# (though have cleaned 130# and jerked 130# independently)
Goal: 135#

When I recently hit a PR on my jerk of 130# I knew that I had to be close to being able to jerk body-weight. However, for some reason when my jerk is preceded by a clean, all focus and concentration goes out the window. I jerk so much more confidently from the blocks, and I clean much more confidently when I know there is no jerk afterwards.

Lex Artis Michigan Barbell clean

I opened with 115#, a weight that lately in my training has been inconsistent, but I hit it during my warm-up so was comfortable starting there. I did 125# which I wasn’t thrilled about at the time, but later realized was a 5# PR!

Lex Artis Michigan Barbell jerk

I figured I may as well attempt 135# while still riding on my snatch PR high, so attempted the lift and failed.

I dropped the weight to 130# hoping to make official my clean and jerk PR (since I really don’t count it since I have not done the two together at this weight), and again failed. As someone shouted at me from the sidelines that I had time to attempt it again, I looked at her, looked at the bar, and said, “I do not want to clean that weight again anytime soon.” Maybe not the best attitude early in the competition.. 😉

Scored lift: 123#

Lesson 3: Listen to your coach

Lift: Back Squat
Prior 1RM: 155#
Goal: 160#

I just recently PRed my back squat after being stalled at 150# for over a year, and even then, I have only added 5# to it. I solicited the help of a powerlifting trainer at my box the week before this event to see if he can give me some cues for the three powerlifts, knowing that there was really no way that I was going to be able fix anything substantial within a week but maybe something would stick. Working with him last weekend, I was able to confidently squat 155# and failed on a 165# squat which he was sure I was going to be able to hit during competition.

I tried to remember all of the cues that he told me but when it came to attempting my squats, I was sure that half of what was said was in one ear and out the other as I reverted back to my old ways. After a shallow (and scared) 135# squat, I hit 145# and 155# deeper but not so effortlessly.

lex artis michigan barbell squat

I failed at 160# but pretty sure if I had the coach standing there beside me it would have gone over a little better.

Scored lift: 153#

Lesson 4: Muscle memory is important

Lift: Bench Press
Prior 1RM: 110# as of last week, 95# prior
Goal: 110#

As with my squat, I took some major tips from the powerlifting coach that significantly changed my bench press. Since I started Outlaw, I rarely bench, so I had no huge expectations on this lift. Last weekend after learning how to set up properly under the bar, how to arch my back, where to place my hands, where to place my feet, I PRed the lift by 15# so hoped that confidence and muscle memory would carry over into the competition.

Lex Artis Michigan Barbell bench press

But without ever benching after that and without repeating what I was just taught on my own (even without weight), I remembered small pieces of what I was taught and the rest was just trying to use willpower to get that bar to move.

Scored lift: 93#

Lesson 5: Use the equipment provided

Lift: Deadlift
Prior 1RM: 265#
Goal: 275#

Common sense, right? I don’t know about you, but often for squats and deadlifts I don’t use clips. I never considered not using clips until this last Open when someone strategized the deadlift WOD without them, and from then on it just started to make sense to not use clips when under a time crunch for non-Oly lifts. Throwing heavy weight overhead – clips mandatory. Weight not going anywhere – clips optional.

lex artis michigan barbell deadlift

So 4:00 to work up to my new 1RM, I didn’t even consider using them, since the plan was to probably fit five lifts in at this point. Plus, they used those metal springy clips which I hate using (I like the little plastic ones).

I opened with 185#, then 205#, 235#, 255#, and then decided it’s going to be a PR day and loaded the bar with 270#.

In a video I’d rather not share due to my less-than-stellar deadlift form, I did stand up the 270#, but just as the judge was supposed to be calling it a good lift, two of the plates fell off of the left side of the bar. No-rep. I accepted it as a no-rep even though a couple of my fellow athletes told me it was a good lift, I re-watched the video multiple times and you cannot see the weight plates from the angle of the video, but watching the shadows of the plates I was at full extension for a hot moment before the fall. I’m counting it in the logbook!

Scored lift: 253#

Bonus Lesson: Lifting is a mental game

At my home box we use colored plates, but at this competition we were using all black plates. There is something to be said about not visually seeing the weight on the bar that changes the perception during a lift. If I cannot quickly look at the bar and count the weight on it, I do not have an opportuntiy to get a number in my head and have it alter my thought process on if I can make the lift or not. I approached the snatch and clean and jerk the same just as if it was a lighter weight. This eliminated a lot of fear and hesitation that I normally have during my lifting!

Bonus Lesson 2: Even in a lifting meet, Crossfit community is still alive and well

Going into this competition there was only one other athlete from my box, and not a long list of spectators coming to see us. In fact, up until the night before I knew of zero people who I knew that were coming to watch. It was a bit discouraging and a little disappointing, as I feed off of the energy of others to do my best.

Two of our athletes did show up to watch, but there was still the same level of enthusiasm and excitement coming from other athletes all around me. Standing in line for the bathroom, all of the girls could relate to the nervous pre-lift potty break, and sharing a wall with some other athletes who they, too, were celebrating PRs. Seeing other girls warming up that I can only dream about maxing at was extremely inspiring and motivating, all while the girls were very encouraging and supportive of my lifts that couldn’t even compare to theirs.

While I was hesitant to sign up for this one and even the night before was considering not doing the competition, I am very happy that I did, extremely proud of my PRs and cannot wait to do another competition like this in the future, keeping the tips above in mind!

Your turn..
What was the biggest takeaway that you got from your last competition?
Have you ever done a lifting-only competition?
Do you prefer Oly lifting or powerlifting or WODs?
Do you use clips on your deadlifts and squats?

Be twinsies with me! Shorts: JekylllHYDE Apparel Aero, tank: “If it doesn’t scare you, it isn’t heavy enough”: LatitudeGearRX (use link on the right sidebar for a 30% discount); lifting shoes: Reebok Oly Lifters (newer style available); minimalist shoes: inov8 230s from TheClymb; second tank: courtesy of CanyonCrossfit drop-in WOD with @crossfitandrew!

Disclaimer: All photos above courtesy of Lex Artis. Some of the links above may be affiliate links in which I will receive a small commission to help support my blogging efforts if you make a purchase. Using these links is encouraged! 😉

Jennifer October 20, 2014 at 10:28 am

You are so strong. Sounds like it was a great day! I’d be interested to know what you did nutrition-wise. There is always one thing that happens during a competition that alters my view of training. Last time – during a chipper – I realized that I was maintaining a pace much faster than my normal turtle speed, and after that my WOD times at the box improved. (Well, enough for me to notice anyway) I also learn from watching other competitors…how they set up equipment, where they break, different tactics.

Maybe that’s why I keep signing up for the stupid things.
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~jenniferlynn October 20, 2014 at 10:36 am

I had a chat with one of my fellow athletes yesterday about how so many things are about perception in Crossfit. Like compared to the other girls, I was definitely on the weaker end, but there are a lot of girls that look up to me as being strong.. I watched a girl warmup with 200# back squats, where that’s way beyond my max; but to her- she may have been disappointed for not hitting 300#.

Strategizing is something I started to learn during the Open. We have a guy at our box that will write up spreadsheets or fill up the whiteboard with how to tackle a WOD. Everything is calculated and then you have a plan to go off of if you do it again – really interesting to put so much thought rather than just go, go go!

I can’t wait for your competition – you are going to crush it!

Twitter: fantabulouslisa
October 20, 2014 at 10:41 am

I LOVED reading this!!! What a cool thing to do–I’ve never done a lifting meet before 🙂 I have had the chance, but I always opt out because of the weigh-in at the beginning. It’s a little sad that I let that defer me from it, because I’m still sure I would do pretty well. Just not as well as I would if body weight weren’t a factor in scoring. :-/ that’s something I don’t wanna face…

~jenniferlynn October 20, 2014 at 10:44 am

They used the Wilks Coefficient, which I guess makes it more fair for the heavier lifters, too? Not exactly sure. I just know there was one girl that was 102# putting up bigger numbers than me! 😉

I feel so much more relaxed doing just strict lifting over WODs!

Are you ever going to blog again??

Jill October 20, 2014 at 11:27 am

awesome job!! 100lbs snatch is amazing!! that video is epic! i am currently really enjoying snatching. there is so much complexity stuffed into a few seconds. i am sorry to hear about your deadlift. that truly sucks but its such a technicality, you did it.

this satruday i did barbells for boobs helen meets grace, which was my first competition and my main goal was to finish, and we did! i did not anticipate feeling so pressured to go fast. i do not wod particularly fast but when we got to the pull ups, which I just started to get unassisted i got one good one and then my second was no repped and that totally shot my confidence, so i used a band for the rest (we were in a scaled division). all and all it was fun but i for sure enjoyed the clean and jerks way more then running.

~jenniferlynn October 20, 2014 at 11:29 am

Thank you!!

Ew Helen is terrible!!!! I do <3 Grace though, so can totally relate there!

Bummer about the no rep; I think that's one good thing about competitions though is that you can get used to being under pressure and having mishaps come up and then you can better prepare for next time on how to get around it. Congrats on the unassisted though!

Sara K. October 20, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Great Job!!!! I love reading people’s perspectives on Crossfit and lifting because I am new to all of this!
I attended a Crossfit competition as a spectator this weekend, what a great experience! So motivating! A few Games atheletes were there, so it was cool to watch them compete “in real life” haha!! Maybe one day a few years from now I’ll give competition a try 🙂

~jenniferlynn October 20, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Sara, what are you waiting for???

I did my first competition after only being a few months into crossfit (and like almost no athletic ability prior to CF).. it definitely will push you further than you can go on your own! Check out this post:

Sara October 21, 2014 at 7:16 am

That is a great post!!!!!! Maybe my new goal will be to compete in the Open next year! Thanks for the motivation 🙂

~jenniferlynn October 21, 2014 at 7:28 am

You absolutely without a doubt should do the Open!!

Shelly October 20, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Whoo hoo! Congrats on your new PRs! I have little to no knowledge about what goes on at a lifting meet, so this was wonderful to read. I couldn’t agree more with you that lifting is a mental game. I try to avoid counting the weight on my bar when I’m trying to max out. If i know where I’m at, I tend to psych myself out. Luckily, we only have the black weights so it’s much easier. Those colored ones would definitely throw me for a loop.

I am super jealous of your deadlift max! 😉
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~jenniferlynn October 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

I’m not sure if this is typical of lifting meets; I think it’s a bit different than how an Oly meet would go.. but either way, it was great! 🙂

It’s funny how sometimes we look at each other as being so strong where others are just as strong but in different things.

Sky @ Blonde Freedom October 20, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Congrats on your 100# snatch!! That’s awesome!! I’ve never been to a lifting or CrossFit type of competition, but I hope to go to one soon! Loved this list of lessons and some of the things you mentioned will be helpful for when I’m working on some of my lifts! Once again good job in your competition!
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~jenniferlynn October 21, 2014 at 10:59 am

Thank you, Sky!! You HAVE to go to one!! Then be inspired to DO one!! 🙂

Danielle @ It's a Harleyyy Life
Twitter: itsaharleyylife
October 20, 2014 at 8:28 pm

AWESOME JOB LADY! You are friggen awesomeeeee! Great job! We need to compete one day with each other! (:

PS: I want your snatch.. in a not dirty way. I wish I wasn’t scared to get under the bar like that!
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~jenniferlynn October 20, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Haha girlllll I’ve been scared of 95# lately in training so this was a huge surprise! I just didn’t think- that’s the key lol

Martha October 20, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Beautifully done! I had no idea you were competing last weekend! Im so proud of you for getting out there and doing this… I think you made an excellent showing for your first lifting only meet, and I can’t wait to see what next time around brings for you! Great great job!
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~jenniferlynn October 21, 2014 at 10:57 am

Thanks, Martha! 🙂

Yeah, I was almost in denial about doing it and it came up so quickly that I didn’t talk much about it ahead of time. Definitely happy I did it though! 🙂

Next competition is a fun partner one in December.. partners have to have a 10+ year age gap; ought to be a good time!

Oh.. and a 10k next weekend.. which should be interesting 🙁 lol

Lauren October 20, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Damn you are strong! All that weight! I’m just getting back into going to Crossfit regularly after a hiatus for marathon training so I’m hoping to get some strength back!
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~jenniferlynn October 21, 2014 at 10:55 am

Thanks, Lauren!! It’s been my only focus lately so I hope I’m improving! Excited you’re getting back into it!

jill conyers October 21, 2014 at 5:50 am

I love to imagine doing a competition. One day inspired by you 🙂
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Charlotte @ Commitness to Fitness October 21, 2014 at 10:42 am

Love this “things I learned” take on a recap post!! And I’m completely wow’ed by your strength!! I find that “keep calm and breathe” lesson works well throughout all facets of life… personally I’m still working on it 🙂
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~jenniferlynn October 21, 2014 at 10:44 am

Thanks for reading, Charlotte!! 🙂

Chris October 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Good lessons! Congrats on your PRs! I’m weird about using clips, once I get a couple plates on the bar, no matter what plates and no matter what lift, I use them. I think it’s a symmetry thing (of which I have weird issues with!) and if some of the weight shifts a little on one side it totally freaks me out and does crazy mind things to me.
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Jen October 21, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Congrats with your snatch lift!

Completely agree with weight lifted being a mental game. I switch between 2 gyms during the week, and the 45 lb plates at one gym are about half the size of the plates at the other.

For whatever reason I am always more confident and seem to hit my best lifts with the smaller plates. They’re the same colour but I can imagine this having a similar impact.

Personally I prefer powerlifting with the classic 3 exercises, but I never use collars to hold the plates on least not until my last 2 work sets.

Are there any specific competitions you would like to compete in next?
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~jenniferlynn October 21, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Thanks, Jen!

I have an upcoming Crossfit competition in December that’s a partner-one; it should be fun!

Carly @ Fine Fit Day October 21, 2014 at 11:15 pm

I loved everything about this post. I especially like how you drew a lesson from each lift, whether it was a PR or not. I think you were right to not try another clean – sometimes you just know when you don’t need to push it. Oh, and totally agree about not immediately recognizing how much you’re lifting – it makes all the mental difference. Congrats in an awesome comp!
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Ruinchristmas October 23, 2014 at 5:53 pm

You CrossSHITTERS all the same! Crossfit is stupid, it hurts people and its just an excuse for pathetic people to do pathetic exercises while being supervised by morons! Learn how to train IDIOT!
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~jenniferlynn October 23, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Thank you for the constructive and intelligent comment..

Dana Smith October 23, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Maybe on your next Chore Draft you can write, help spread peace in the world by being kind, especially to strangers, on public blogs. It sounds like something that might be a chore to you verses just something human you know how to do. Who knows, practicing a little kindness in random places might improve the lives of people you love.

Deryn @ Running on Real Food October 24, 2014 at 10:21 am

Awesome work!! You’re amazing. Congrats on your first competition 🙂
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Twitter: mast2mar
October 26, 2014 at 12:31 pm

so awesome you did a lifting competition, sort of back to grass roots so to speak before cross fit 🙂 Great job!
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Lindsay @ liftinginlilly November 2, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Awesome job!! I love reading about different competition experiences! Next weekend I have my second partner Crossfit competition, and I’m starting to get nervous!! I am hoping to be a USAW competitor in the spring or summer, too, so that will be a whole new kind of nervous to deal with! Great job PRing your snatch!
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