The upcoming introduction of new bodyweight classes that will take place around July, 2018 has promoted conversations around the gym regarding the topic of bodyweight.  The proposal to be announced will feature 10 bodyweight classes for men and 10 bodyweight classes for women for competitions outside of the Olympic Games.  The Olympics will see 7 classes for each group.

Some people are upset because new bodyweight classes represent a change, but a broader view of the sport over an extended period of time indicates that periodic evaluation of the bodyweight classes is necessary to accommodate the fact that the dimensions of the participant groups change over time.  At one point prior to and shortly after World War II there were only five men’s bodyweight classes and that covered most of the men wishing to participate in the sport.  New classes were gradually added until the number grew to 10 in 1977 in order to cover the range of participant bodyweights.  A complete change took place for the period from 1993 to 1997 in order to nullify the records set during the first era of dubious drug testing.  The classes were changed for 1998 to allow competitors to prepare for the 2000 Olympics which would feature the debut of female competitors.  Thus a change is not without historical precedent and is in fact necessary.

The latest changes will take place with the two fold purpose of retiring records set under questionable anti-doping procedures and to establish classes that will better cover the full range of competitors as we move into the future.

The Function of Bodyweight Classes

When weightlifting was first contested in the Olympic Games in 1896 there were no bodyweight classes.  It was not long before the sport realized that heavier athletes were stronger than lighter ones and bodyweight classes were introduced.  Bodyweight classes were implemented to encourage a participancy from a larger segment of the population by providing smaller (lighter than unlimited) athletes with fair opportunities for competition. 

We must understand that bodyweight classes exist to provide opportunities for fair competition within a greater percentage of the population.  Bodyweight classes are not a prescription for what one must weigh in order to participate. 

The Current Buzz

This conversation is an ongoing on among many less sophisticated lifters, but an event such as a change in bodyweight classes raises the level of concern and involvement.  Right now I’m hearing conversations of real concern over what the new bodyweight class limits will be.  Some folks are trying to plan strategically where they would fit into the new scheme, what their competitors will be like and spending time on considerations that are both uncontrollable and have nothing to do with their development as weightlifters.

Your Real Concern Should Be

If you truly want to be a weightlifter, your primary concern should be to become the best weightlifter you can be.  You should be trying to perfect your technique so that you can use the muscle you develop most efficiently.  You should be gaining muscle so that you can move your body and the weights you are lifting with speed.  Since weightlifters have a higher density (kg/cm) than civilians (my term for non lifters), you should be concerned with increasing bodyweight (unless you are excessively obese) to the point where you can lift effectively.  You should be heavy enough to be able to clean & jerk at least 1.25 x your snatch, and have enough body mass to accommodate the training necessary to reach your optimum performance.  All of these things you have some control over, unlike the designation of bodyweight classes by the IWF, or the whims of local participants. 

Once you reach a well developed stage in your weightlifting growth, you can then start concerning yourself with which weight class you could compete in.  The approach I’ve learned to take with my lifters is to have them weigh-in pretty much at the best weight for their performance.  Especially in the case of Juniors, they just move right up through the classes as they mature, grow and develop.  If you weigh 60.3 and your class limit is 62, you just lift at 60.3 and set PR’s.  You can’t do better than PR’s and if someone outranks you in that situation you can’t be regretful.  Remember that the bodyweight class limits are there to insure fair competition, not to provide you with an indicator as to what you should weigh. 

Some Considerations

·       If you have good technique and your snatch is consistently more than 85% of your clean and jerk.

·       If your competition completion percentage of cleans & jerks is low

·       If you frequently can’t make it through a training session during the preparation mesocycle

·       If your body is not recovered sufficiently to perform clean & jerk movements with adequate speed and energy

·       If you are under approximately 45 years of age and have a short period of time as a weightlifter and thus are still in a process of development

If any or many or all of these are true you might consider moving up to a heavier weight class no matter how the weight classes are designated in July.