Re-Thinking The Way We Schedule Sessions

For years we’ve run local weightlifting meets the same way without ever considering whether what we were doing was the best way.  These procedures somehow get embedded in our culture and nobody bothers to question them.  Well recently conditions have changed and it would probably help the sport to periodically review the way we conduct competitions. 

In years past when only men lifted weights and the roster of the LWC might not exceed 50 people total we could get a meet done in two sessions, one for the lighter bodyweight classes and one for the heavier ones.  The addition of women and the designation of youth, juniors and masters didn’t always produce a great increase in numbers and so we were still fine with two sessions and maybe a third small one to cover the odds and end that didn’t fit into the two major ones.

Somedays the bar eats you

The set up for meets was changed with the introduction of the 15 kg women’s bar.  This meant that we either had to always hold a separate women’s session or have the women lift separately on the new bar and then hold the men’s session.  This usually resulted in having a small session for the women held first on meet day.  Now there are some traditions that most current lifting fans don’t even know about that contributes to this concept.

Real Old Habits Die Hard

In the very old days, weightlifting was conducted by the A.A.U. Weightlifting Committee which also was the governing body for Physique.  The usual practice was to have a weightlifting meet early in the day followed by a physique contest at night.  More often than not, the heaviest classes would be finishing up as the very large physique audience began filing in.  This resulted in a big audience that made for profitable gate results.  The enduring image was heavyweights plus physique made for big box office.  When physique was taken away, meet directors still held to the idea that the heavyweights would still be the big show and would be the biggest box office draw.  Although there are rules requiring that weight classes be conducted in ascending order, that doesn’t necessarily prevent the order of the various categories (juniors, youth, open women, masters, and open men) from being mixed.

We are for the most part, however, stuck with the idea that the heaviest men are the headliners whether it’s true or not. 

The Effects of Early Morning Lifting

Aside from the lack of spectators in the early morning sessions, there are physiological factors that are counterproductive to good athletic performance. 

Most of the studies on the best time of day to perform high intensity athletic movements favor late afternoon schedules.  This is due to the number of times the athlete gets to eat after rising, and the amount of time that physiological processes have been functioning at waking levels.  Anyway, it is challenging to perform weightlifting well early in the morning.  But we have been asking the women, and especially the small women, to do so ever since the advent of women’s lifting in the early 1980’s. 

So What We Have Now

Right now we are saddled with the rules that require that weight classes within an age category be conducted in ascending order so that someone failing to weigh under the limits of a given bodyweight class can move up to the next class (providing the qualifying total has been lifted which is not usually a factor in most local competitions). 

There are no restrictions, however, on shuffling the order of the age or gender categories.  This might actually result in some of the women lifting later in the day when they might have a better chance at achieving a better performance.  After all the world championships and the Olympics avoid the problem by having all A sessions in the evening so that the best lifters have the best chance to make big lifts.

So Why Not

The next time that you are putting together the final schedule for a meet you might want to consider mixing up the sessions so that the smaller women are not always lifting first and the heaviest men aren’t always lifting last.  I don’t know how this might fly, but it might be worth trying just to provide a little variety in the scheduling and to give the women a better chance at lifting some heavier weights.