weightlifting categories

New weightlifting categories

Olympic weightlifting is a weight class sport, meaning you compete against athletes that are within your particular weight range (plus gender and age range). A few days ago, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) announced new weightlifting categories, which hadn’t changed essentially since 1998 – there was one extra category added for women in 2017.

Current weightlifting categories

There are 2 sets of categories, one for competitions organised by the IWF and one for the Olympic games (approved for Tokyo 2020), which is essentially a subset of the former.

These are the changes for men’s weight classes (seniors and masters):

Previous Current
N/A 55 kg (IWF only)
56 kg 61 kg
62 kg 67 kg
69 kg 73 kg
77 kg 81 kg
85 kg 89 kg (IWF only)
94 kg 96 kg
N/A 102 kg (IWF only)
105 kg 109 kg
105+ kg 109+ kg

And below are the changes for women’s weight classes (seniors and masters):

Previous Current
N/A 45 kg (IWF only)
48 kg 49 kg
53 kg 55 kg
58 kg 59 kg
63 kg 64 kg
69 kg 71 kg (IWF only)
75 kg 76 kg
N/A 81 kg
90 kg 87 kg
90+ kg 87+ kg

What does this mean for athletes?

Apart from having to change their social media handles (kudos to Ursula Garza), some athletes might choose to adjust their weight up or down to fit into the new weightlifting categories. Typically, you want to be at the top end of your category to have a competitive advantage. This is because strength is usually proportional to body mass; this is why weight categories exist in the first place.

Most athletes train a few kilograms heavier than their competition weight in order to maximise their output. Then they “make weight” just before the weigh-in using a variety of methods, which normally involve water shifting (e.g. dehydration through sweating or simply not drinking water). There is a period of time between the weigh-in and the actual competition in which athletes recover fluids, electrolytes and energy to get ready to lift.

Weight manipulation strategies

Unfortunately, there is no single strategy that works for all athletes. It’s important to know your body and how it reacts to different strategies, which means you need to experiment and keep track of the results. A savvy dietitian can suggest strategies that are likely to work for you without compromising your performance or nutritional status.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t feel you need to go up to the next weight category just for the sake of lifting more weight. Some people feel/perform better at a lighter bodyweight.
  • If you decide to train above your weight category, just go over by a small percentage, i.e. a couple or a few kilos. The more weight you need to cut, the more difficult it will be and the more the cut will impact your output.
  • If you’re a female athlete, know how your weight fluctuates during your menstrual cycle and plan your competition strategy accordingly.
  • Test different strategies and keep note of how much weight you are able to cut and how long it takes for your body to react.
  • Don’t manipulate your weight if this compromises your health, nutritional status, strength or performance.

For more information, read this fact sheet by Sports Dietitians of Australia.

Why have weight categories changed?

I don’t know the actual reasons but isn’t it interesting that most categories have gone up by 4-5 kilos (men) and 1-2 kilos (women)? Does this reflect the fact that we, as a population, are getting heavier?

[Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash]

Future Whey

Product review: Future Whey

Future Whey is a newish sports supplement. I decided to try it mainly because I got a free sample, but also because the packaging got me intrigued. It looks like detergent. It looks like a prank product. It is not.

The name implies this is a whey powder product, but it claims to be dairy-free – this is confusing. Future Whey is really a collection of amino-acids, including the branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs, which are the ones preferentially taken up by muscle cells.

What is in Future Whey?

From the website: essential amino acid blend (L Leucine, L Threonine, L Valine, L Isoleucine, L Lysine, L Methionine, L Phenylalanine, L Histidine, L tryptophan), L Glutamine, L Glycine, L Alanine, flavouring, L Tyrosine, malitol, citrulline malate, citric acid, L Taurine, sweetener (sucralose).

I’m not sold on the “flavouring” and sweeteners (malitol and sucralose) but I guess they have to make it taste good somehow. The two currently available (and very unorthodox) flavours are cola and lemonade.

Future Whey - back

(Yes, “glutamine” is misspelled)

From the nutrition panel:
Per Serve (25g)
Energy (kj): 387
Protein (g): 22.8
Carbohydrates (g): 0
– Sugars (g): 0
Fats (g): 0
– Saturated (g): 0
Sodium (mg): 0

The taste test

Given I only tried one serving of the product, I can only comment on taste and not results. My sample was lemonade flavour. They suggest taking it with sparkling water but I drank it with room temperature tap water. It was not horrible but a) it did not taste like lemonade to me and b) it was a bit salty. Not that this bothers me, but just FYI.

Future Whey or regular whey?

I think this comes to individual preferences and results. Personally, I am not 100% comfortable with not knowing the source of the ingredients in the supplements I consume. Plus, I have no gut or moral issues with good quality whey protein. In addition, there is evidence that the cysteine content in whey protein may increase glutathione levels in the body (glutathione is a powerful antioxidant). For all of those reasons, I choose whey over Future Whey.

Want to learn more?

Head to Bulk Nutrient’s website.

Krav Maga

What is Krav Maga and why I do it

Krav Maga is the self-defence system used by the Israeli Defence Force. Therefore, it is not a sport, a martial art or a fitness class. Krav Maga was created by Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1940s for army purposes. He later adapted the system for civilian populations.

There is a grading system that works like most martial arts: with a belt system that reflects the practitioner’s level. This is mainly to determine which techniques are taught to which people. More advanced practitioners, for example, learn third-party protection (i.e. how to defend others).

Training topics include holds (e.g. chokes – including head locks, wrist grabs, shirt grabs, bear hugs, takedowns, etc.), weapons (knife attacks, knife threats, stick attacks, gun threats), ground (chokes from different positions, grappling, kick defence) and combatives (strikes, kicks, sparring). All these techniques are designed to prepare the practitioner for the worst case scenario with the expectation of never having to use them. De-escalation of violent situations is always the preferred option.

There is a fair bit of conditioning included in training sessions (e.g. push ups, sit ups, squats, burpees, etc.) for two main reasons: 1) if you do have to fight, it helps to be fit, 2) you should be able to react to an attack even if you’re fatigued. Also, techniques are repeated over and over again with the purpose of making them second nature.

I suggest you read the following article: Why Krav Maga is different from martial arts and/or check out the video below for a brief glimpse of how we train.

My Krav Maga story

I have always had an interest for martial arts/combat sports. I was too self-conscious when I was a kid so I started late – at age 27 with taekwondo. I trained for approximately 3 years and eventually stopped for a number of reasons. Then I trained for a while with my husband’s kung fu teacher until we moved to Australia.

I heard about Krav Maga in 2015 from a Polish friend who was living Sydney at the time. I Googled the gym he recommended – Krav Maga Defence Institute (KMDI) and emailed to find out more information. I got a reply from Jarrod, one of the senior instructors, but I did not take action then.

One year later, Alvaro decided to do an induction class at KMDI Surry Hills and joined straight away. He then invited me to a couple of weeks of free classes. I did some She Fights Back sessions (designed for women) and some generic classes. I found training challenging due to the conditioning component, but overall enjoyed the experience and found the environment very welcoming and friendly.

I had to negotiate with the part of me who wanted to lift exclusively (see my previous post) and the part of me who didn’t want to spend extra money in training. Alvaro quickly fixed that last issue by asking “what else are we going to spend our money in?”

Regarding my weightlifting/Krav Maga ambivalence, I initially solved it by convincing myself that Krav served as conditioning for my lifting. However, the more I got into training, the more I understood this was not conditioning. This was not just cardio and striking. It finally hit me in my first grading when Ron Engelman, KMDI’s chief instructor told us: up to your first grading you learn how to defend yourself, after that you learn how to protect others.

Why I like Krav Maga

The philosophy of learning how to defend oneself in order to protect others aligns perfectly with my motivation as a Buddhist.

Krav Maga also forces me to step out of my comfort zone, in part because I’m never confident of my level of fitness/skill and in part because, as an introvert, I find it hard to partner up with someone – even if I know them. I face up the challenge every time remembering one of my favourite quotes from my lama: “real development occurs outside one’s comfort zone”.

Last but not least, Krav Maga, like weightlifting, forces me to be 100% in the moment and take my mind away from everything else.

Benefits of Krav Maga

Side effects of practising Krav Maga include increased fitness, strength, energy levels and confidence. On top of that, you’ll make friends with an awesome bunch of like-minded people.

You will learn how to be more aware of your surroundings, assess a potentially dangerous situation and defend yourself and others if needed.

Should you do Krav Maga?

You know what I’m going to say: it depends! I’d suggest you book an induction class and see how you feel about it. For that and more information, please head to KMDI’s website or visit a nearby training centre.


What is weightlifting and why I do it

Weightlifting or Olympic weightlifting (a.k.a. Oly lifting or lifting) is an Olympic sport (hence the name) that consists of 2 lifts: the snatch and the clean and jerk (see videos below).

When people ask me what I do for exercise (I look fairly strong and fit for a woman my age), I just say “weightlifting” knowing that most people will assume I mean “I lift (pink) weights” or “I do bodybuilding”. Less often, some people think I do powerlifting, which is a completely different beast. I tried to avoid saying the word “Olympic” because some people think this means I actively participate in the Olympic games (LOL!).

Training for Olympic weightlifting involves many assistance exercises besides the snatch and clean & jerk. We need to acquire strength and skill in a variety of muscle groups and movements, and thus we also do squats, deadlifts, press, push press, bench press, pulls, etc. Yes, that includes a variety of bodybuilding moves, such as bicep curls and tricep extensions.

Weightlifting is a weight class sport, which means an extra level of complexity when dealing with athletes’ nutritional demands.

If you spend some time watching weightlifting videos on Youtube you will find different athletes have different styles. The main differences are due to the geographical region of origin. Chinese, Russian and American techniques, for example, are very different if you pay close attention.

My weightlifting story

I discovered weightlifting circa 2012. These days, most people discover weightlifting (and paleo) through Crossfit. I discovered paleo first, weightlifting and Crossfit several years later through Robb Wolf’s podcast. I found Atletika Weightlifting on the interwebs and booked an intro session. I fell in love with the sport because it challenged me big time. I trained for a few years with Sarah and Ricky until they had to move the gym further West.

In 2015, I started training with Andrew at Crossfit Sydney and I’m happy with the programming and my progress so far.

Even though they have different coaching styles, Sarah, Ricky and Andrew are not only fantastic coaches but great human beings.

Why I like weightlifting

I have come a long way since I first squatted an empty bar overhead to assess my mobility, but because I started training so late in life (in general, not just weightlifting), I find it incredibly hard to make huge improvements. That is the main reason why, aside from a few internal comps, I have chosen not to participate in unofficial (e.g. interclub) nor official competitions.

Weightlifting is a tough sport that requires speed, strength and proper neurological activation. Moreover, it requires mental resiliency and a competitive spirit, even if this means competing with yourself. This is what has me hooked.

The other aspect of weightlifting I enjoy is the meditative nature of it. You need to be 100% tuned in and let go of thoughts and feelings in order to make a lift. You need to be patient and cool with impermanence (my Buddhist friends might appreciate the metaphor).

The coach

Unlike other exercise modalities, you cannot do weightlifting without a coach (you may record video of your lifts and have a virtual coach, but you need a coach regardless). It is important to choose the right coach for you. This is highly individual, but my top reasons for choosing a coach over another are:

  • you get along well
  • they have experience in your particular demographic
  • they have knowledge about how to work around injury and strengthen weaknesses
  • they are able to get results

Benefits of weightlifting

Below is an excerpt from Health benefits of resistance training from Victoria’s Better Health Channel.

Physical and mental health benefits that can be achieved through resistance training include:

  • improved muscle strength and tone – to protect your joints from injury
  • maintaining flexibility and balance
  • weight management and increased muscle-to-fat ratio
  • greater stamina – as you grow stronger, you won’t get tired as easily
  • prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity
  • increased bone density and strength and reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • improved sense of wellbeing – resistance training may boost your self-confidence, improve your body image and your mood
  • a better night’s sleep and avoidance of insomnia
  • enhanced performance of everyday tasks

Should you do weightlifting?

It depends on your preferences, really. You should be active, period. If weightlifting sounds like something you might enjoy, by all means give it a shot. You might get hooked like I did.

[Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash]

Bye, Fitbit (again)

I bought a Fitbit on February 2016 because I was curious about how much I was walking and up my game if required. I lost it twice (the first time I got a replacement unit courtesy of Fitbit, the second time someone from my building found it), misplaced it twice and washed it in the washing machine twice.

I chose the One model because I wanted to wear it on my hip as I think it’s a more accurate location to track steps than the wrist. I wore it almost every day for almost 2 years (except for the handful of times that I forgot it at home and when I lost it). I found it a lot more useful as a step tracker than as a sleep tracker (mainly because I sometimes forgot to turn this function on/off), but to be honest, the thing I loved the most about my Fitbit was the alarm function. I prefer the gentle buzz to a sound alarm, and I find it more effective than my light alarm (which I miss when I sleep on my stomach).

So why did I sack my Fitbit? For a few reasons:

  • The battery started giving me some grief a few weeks ago (it would drain a lot faster than usual).
  • It was a great tool to track movement but I don’t think I need it anymore. Tracking steps is like tracking dietary intake: first, logging makes you act more mindfully and second, once you have logged a number of times, you learn how to estimate steps/intake without logging.
  • I wore it on my right hip all the time for consistency sake but I realise this might have exacerbated my hip imbalance.

Who is a Fitbit right for? People who want/need to be more active and who respond well to outer accountability or who subscribe to the quantified self movement.

Who is a Fitbit not right for? People who resist outer expectations. Perfectionists and/or people who get too anxious about outcomes, for which tracking can become a source of stress. People who keep losing stuff (obviously!).

If you don’t know yourself enough to determine whether a Fitbit or similar wearable might be useful for you, I suggest you take Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz.