Useful Post: Counting Attempts.

August 20, 2012

Let me first start off by saying that counting attempts is not all that difficult and there is no correct way to do it.  That being said, it can be extremely stressful as your lifter’s chance for success can be greatly influenced on how good of a job you do warming them up and how well you can predict when their weights will be called.  This stress can obviously be multiplied if you have multiple lifters in one session.  In either scenario a team of two is optimal although you can still do a good job with just one person.  If you have the luxury of having other lifters on your team loading weights then pat yourself on the trap because you now have a weightlifting pit crew at your disposal.


Besides being stressful, counting attempts can also be a lot of fun as there is also a good amount of skill and luck that comes into play (depending on the session.  Some can be pretty cut and dry).  Coaches will be huddled behind the card table attempting to get an approximation on how much time their lifter has until they’re called to lift.  Due to the rules of the sport, cards will occasionally be shuffled around and lifters are given more or less time depending on the situation.  This is when things can get heated.  I remember when CC and I traveled to So-Cal for a local meet and she got in her first real duel with another lifter.  Likewise, I was in a similar situation with the lifter’s coach.  In the end, most local meets are held to make all our lifters better so coaches will usually establish some level of communication to optimize everyone’s rest time.  This is not the case at national meets.  And in most contests, everyone will be lifting similar weights which can affect the warm up process in a number of ways.  The lifter must be prepared to compete no matter what.  Suffice it to say, sometimes shit just happens and you had better be able to get out there and lift even if you just took your first set at 50 or if you’ve been sitting for 10 minutes or if your singlet tears a hole in the pudendal region.  Get out there and compete, we’ll worry about what went wrong afterwards.

Wow, tangent much?  I suppose I just wrote two paragraphs on why counting attempts is important because newcomers to the sport will often underplay the importance of the warm-up process.  You have to remember that weightlifting is a sport.  Just because you can clean and jerk 150 in the gym doesn’t mean that you are going to automatically do well in the game of weightlifting.  If you don’t want to deal with the process of counting attempts I would suggest getting really good at weightlifting before you start competing and just plan on being the last lifter of every session you compete in.  But seriously, learn the sport.  Why practice the lifts if you don’t test yourself in competition?  And why test yourself in competition if you are not prepared with all the tools that will aid in your success?

Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can finally explain to you a few key points on the warm-up process.  If you are new to the sport, I would suggest first familiarizing yourself with the basic competition format.  I apologize if I leave anything out.  For something so simple, it seems like there’s a lot to cover.  The first step in a proper warm up is determining how many sets your lifter will take.  You and your lifter should establish communication about this beforehand and I would suggest setting up a standard warm-up sequence for when your lifter takes up his/her lifts.  This way, nothing will change in competition.  For example, whenever CC takes up the snatch to maximum she will always take 1-2 sets at bar, 1-2 sets at 35, then 45, 55, 60, 65, 70 and then whatever we strategically think she should open up with.  Let’s say she opens up with 74; that would mean that she needs 8 sets before she takes her opener on the platform.  She may want to take 74 backstage so let’s go ahead and say she wants 9 sets.  Most coaches will count 3 attempts on the competition platform for every set their lifter takes in the warm-up area.  Some lifters warm up a little faster than others but most lifters will get moving around 21 attempts out.  The reason we’re counting attempts on the platform is because each attempt will take about a minute or so plus the time it takes to load the weights.  This time will vary for a number of different reasons.  There may be a group of lifters taking the same weight or a lifter will miss and be given 2 minutes to follow himself/herself.  But the number of attempts is something that you can always count on.  The weight on the competition platform only increases and every lifter is given only 3 attempts, so every lifter before yours will count for 3 attempts until the weights become close to what your lifter has asked for.  Then you have to use your powers of guesstimation to determine the number of attempts that those lifters will account for.  For example, CC is opening at 74.  Sally Sue is opening at 65.  Is she going to take big 5kg jumps?  Is she going to miss her opener?  This is where you’re going to have to make a few educated guesses.  Not knowing anything about Sally Sue, I saw her miss 55 and 60 behind her.  She is also nervously pacing back and forth and texting her boyfriend on her iphone.  We can safely assume that she will miss at least one or two attempts.  Luckily there are two other lifters on their second and third attempts at similar weights, so I’m sure that Sally Sue won’t slow down the competition by following herself.

Declaring what weights you want to take also must be a strategized decision.  If there are eight other guys in your session and they are all opening at 100kg, I would suggest either opening at 98 or 102 to pace yourself a little before or behind the pack.  Either way you’re going to have to do a bit of waiting, but I would much rather be waiting on my 2nd attempt then sitting down for 5 or more minutes before my opener.  Let’s say that you chose to do the former and there are literally eight other guys taking 100kg.  You will be waiting a while.  In situations like this, where you are 5 or more attempts between your next, then you may want to take a light power snatch to stay warm, preferably 3 attempts out from your next lift.  Or not.  It’s up to you.

At times, other coaches will fuck with your count by declaring a certain weight knowing that they are going to bump at the last minute.  The only way to combat this is to know the other coaches and lifters that you are lifting with and determine the probability of other lifters bumping up.  Like I said, weightlifting is a game and this is all part of it.  Sometimes with my greener lifters like Em or Derek, we will declare a lighter weight and then take our opener in the warm up area.  If it feels good, then we’ll get greedy with the kilos and bump up.  If we miss it, then we have another chance to make it on the platform and we’ll leave the card as is.  I’ll do this occasionally as well.  With my old and frail body, it’s hard to know for sure how I’m going to be feeling on meet day.  So I will declare something light just in case.

Working with another person counting cards is great because you can double check each other’s count or count for multiple lifters more efficiently.  I wouldn’t recommend more than a team of two counters.  That’s just too many cooks in the kitchen.  In our last contest, I was counting for four lifters in the same session.  Luckily, I had Sarah to help me with the counting.  We divvied up the lifters on two separate platforms grouped in pairs.  We actually worked together on all four but it was helpful being primarily responsible for only two.  Also, one of us could also be by a lifter’s side on the competition platform while the other one was getting everyone else ready.  It was a beautiful symphony.  I felt like I had eyes in every corner of the room.

Anyways, that’s how I count attempts in competition.  If that didn’t make any sense at all, then I apologize but I really don’t have any other way of explaining it.  E-mail or leave a comment if you have any questions or if I left something out.

Happy coaching and happy lifting.


8 Responses to “Useful Post: Counting Attempts.”

  1. WT said

    Thanks for the tips Ben. This is something I’ve been very curious about.

    I’m in a situation where I may have to count my own attempts at a coming meet. Do you have any advice for folks without a handler/in-meet coach? (Is this a terrible idea?)

    • bclaridad said

      I’ve done it many times in the past. Usually I’ll take a few trips to the card table and just kind of ballpark it. Obviously not precise, but never let anything stop you from competing.

  2. kecks said

    hi ben, aren’t there just screens in the warm-up-area showing a list of the attempts still to come? that’s how it’s done in germany, austria and italy and it makes things a whole lot easier… i had no idea that isn’t done in the us.

    • Cam said

      Unfortunatly, most local meets do not have that in the warm up room. You have to count attempts directly off the card table.

    • bclaridad said

      At national competitions (and some local) we have displays of the athletes names and weights taken. But these don’t necessarily tell you the order which is our primary interest. These displays are helpful for sometimes saving your coach a trip to the table or if you are at a meet by yourself. Having never been to any of these countries, I have no idea how their displays are set up. But I will say, that they are input by whoever after the fact. Sometimes I need to know what’s happening NOW.

      • kecks said

        the screens shows what’s going on at the “card table” – it’s called “attempt investigator/observer” here – that’s the guy/girl who sits at the table and enters the attempts into the computer (some attempt investigator also use extra cards on the table in case of computer breakdown, but most don’t). the screens in the warm-up area just show the attempt investigator’s screen: it’s a list with competitors name and called weight ranked by “who goes next”, adjusting real time to what’s happening on stage (usually there is second screen showing what’s happening on stage near the ‘card screen’ – you hear what the announcer is saying).

  3. Daniel said

    I think the guy with the blue turban and white wizard beard was counting attemps here

  4. Mrk said

    Thanks for explaining and nice tidbits!

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