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#.
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.
Lesson 1: Competitions are the time to PR
Prior 1RM: 95#
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#.
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)
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.
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!
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#
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.
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
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.
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
Prior 1RM: 265#
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.
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!
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! 😉