Are you maximizing your weightlifting competition potential?: What are the Best “Jumps” Between Attempts? (Part 1)

Written by: Aaron Snoberger

Takeaway Message:

  1. I analyzed over 40,000 lifts from national and international-level competitions to determine the best “jumps” to take between snatch attempts.
  2. The majority of male lifters choose 5kg jumps, but this jump is not optimal for most weight classes.
  3. Experience level of lifter and the amount of weight on the bar did NOT seem to affect the optimal jumps between attempts.
  4. Bodyweight was the sole factor that influenced the “optimal” jumps between attempts (for example, the best increase from snatch #1 to 2 is ~3-4 kg for a 56kg lifter, and ~6kg for a heavier 105+ lifter.

**If you don’t have time to read how I arrived at these conclusions, you can skip to the last 2 tables of this article where I summarize my findings**

For the Men’s clean and jerk analysis, click here.

In weightlifting competitions, it is absolutely critical to know a lifter’s capability and use this information to determine proper openers and loading progression (the “jumps” between attempts). This is especially important since, in weightlifting competitions, a lifter only has 3 attempts in both competition lifts: the snatch and the clean & jerk. So, determining the optimal opening attempt and subsequent jumps is arguably the most important part of pre-competition strategy.  As many who are reading this I’m sure already know—many lifters don’t seem to be maximizing their potential in competitions (for example, they open too heavy or make jumps between attempts that are far too large), and red scoreboards have become far too commonplace in competitions.

Red Scoreboard

This leads us to 2 very basic questions: 1) What is the best opener?  2) How big of jumps should one make between attempts?

There are lots of really great coaches and articles that attempt to address these two questions. Many recommendations come from coaches with decades of experience and experimentation with their own lifters.  The consensus is somewhat obvious: Openers should be “sensible”. Dr. Mike Stone experimented on his own lifters and found the best success opening with 94 ± 1% of a meet goal (thanks for sending me that info, Doc!). This is similar to JP Nicolletta’s suggestion to open with 90-92% of a meet goal, followed by 3-5kg jumps. In one of Greg Everett’s articles, he suggests that after a sensible opener, most novice lifters should take jumps of less than 5 kg. Then, once the weight on the bar is over ~130-140kg, the jumps can increase a bit. I’m sure there’s resources that I’m missing, so feel free to comment below with any you may have found helpful.

All of these suggestions are great, but I’ve been trained in biochemistry so I like to have big ‘n’  values before I’m convinced of anything.  So, I thought it would be nice to look back at past meet results for patterns.

This project started with a conversation between my coach, Dr. Guy Hornsby (West Virginia Weightlifting), and myself. We thought it’d be cool to look back at past Olympics and see if there are any trends in the success rates with different loading strategies. As it turns out, prior to 2005 lifters actually were only allowed to make jumps in multiples of 2.5kg (with 5kg being the minimum jump from the 1st to 2nd attempt). So, prior to 2005, there really wasn’t much choice for jumps, and 5kg was, by far, the most commonly chosen increase. Only 3 Olympics (2008, 2012, and 2016) have taken place since the implementation of the “1kg rule” (where lifters can choose jumps in 1kg increments), so there wasn’t nearly enough Olympic data for any definitive conclusions.  To make a long story short, to get enough data to run this analysis, over the past year or so in my (very limited) spare time I have analyzed over 90,000 lifts dating back to 2005 from all Olympics, IWF World Championships, IWF Continental Championships (Pan-American, European, Asian, African, Oceana), as well as USA National Championships and University National Championships.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 2.13.55 AM

After compiling all of this data, I quickly realized that it’s very difficult to answer question #1 above (what is the best opener), since this requires a lot more information than is available on a results list (how many times have they made the opener in practice? How many times have they missed that weight? How fatigued are they today? How mentally tough is the athlete? Have they cut weight? Have they peaked properly? etc. etc.).  Maybe in the future I’ll analyze this further, but for now I’m going to focus on question #2: What are the optimal jumps to make between attempts?

Before I dive into this question, I should put this disclaimer out there: EVERY LIFTER IS DIFFERENT. There are always going to be people who fall outside established norms. With that said, however, I think I can show what strategies seem to work for the majority of lifters, and hopefully this will serve as a good starting point for people moving forward.

This became much more of a bear-of-a-project for me to work on, and there’s just so much data to present, which would make this article a bit lengthy. So, in this first post I’m going to focus on men’s snatch results. I plan on eventually posting the rest of what I’ve found concerning the Men’s clean & jerk as well as the Women’s lifts.

The first thing I noticed while compiling data for the increase from snatch #1-2 is that the vast majority of lifters opted for 5kg jumps.  In fact, close to half (47%) chose 5kg jumps.

Blog 1_fig#1

So the obvious next question is: are 5kg jumps optimal, and if not, what are the optimal jumps to take?  Does it have to do with bodyweight?  The amount of weight on the bar?  The experience level of the lifter? Almost every time I watch a weightlifting event with commentary, these questions are debated.

So, I Iooked at the increases and whether or not the lifter made or missed the attempt. Below is an example of the 56kg class, where I show the number of made/missed lifts for different increases from snatch #1 to 2.

Blog#1_fig2

Notice that most of the successful lifts in the 56kg class were centered around a 3-4 kg increase, while at 5 and 6 kg increases the attempt is more likely to be a miss.

Next, I eliminated outliers and graphed this same data as percent success rate:

Blog#1_56k success rate

This graph clearly shows that as the weight jump increases, the less likely a lift will be successful. The center of the curve (3.4kg) is the “optimal” jump, since this maximizes the weight increase while minimizing the chances of a missed lift (that is to say, it’s not too close to the dropoff that occurs after 5kg).

I carried out this analysis with all weight classes, and below are the optimal increases from snatch #1 to 2:

Blog #1_Fig3

Notice that for most weight classes, the optimal increase is less than 5kg.  For superheavyweights the optimal weight increases depended on the lifter’s bodyweight.

Very interestingly, when you plot these optimal weight increases for snatch #1-2 it fits very nicely to a line (this line is what I’ll use to make my recommendations at the end):

Blog #1_fig5

I did the same thing for from snatch #2-3. These points also fit a line:

Blog #1_Fig6

Notice that from snatch #2 to 3, all of the weight classes have optimal increases at 4kg or less.

Does skill level of a lifter (weight on the bar) make a difference?

Better lifters (higher Sinclair score), unsurprisingly, have higher success rates than lower level lifters:

Blog#1_fig7

Because of this, I thought that optimal weight increases may change based on the experience level of the lifter. To my surprise, although the overall success rate was higher in the better lifters, optimal jumps remained constant regardless of experience level.  Below I’ve re-graphed the optimal weight jumps vs. bodyweight, but I’ve also separated them based on experience level (Sinclair Coefficient):

Blog#1_redo sinclair fig

Therefore, weight on the bar does NOT seem to play a role in optimum weight jumps. For example: a 56kg lifter has optimum jumps of ~3.4kg whether there’s 60kg or 120kg on the bar. So why have others made the correlation between weight on the bar and optimum jumps? I think there’s a simple explanation: heavier weight classes are usually lifting heavier weights.

So, you’d think that lifters would have caught on by now, right? Well some have, but the majority of lifters are still making bad decisions. Even though the 1kg rule has been around for over 10 years, 5kg is still the most frequently chosen jump from snatch #1-2 in every male weight class (and in every class above 77kg from Snatch #2-3).

Since I think a figure is worth a thousand words, I’ll conclude with these two tables.  The top table shows the most frequently chosen jumps (the “mode” for all you statisticians out there), while the bottom table is my recommended weight increases:

Blog#1_Fig9Blog#1_Fig10

For the Men’s clean and jerk analysis, click here

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Written by: Aaron Snoberger

Big thanks to Dr. Guy Hornsby, Dr. Mike Stone, and Dr. Jessica Snoberger for your input and helpful comments on this article.

Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved.

2 comments

  1. Well written, Aaron. Makes sense. I would love to hear comments from people who use this and the results they have.

    Like

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