weightlifting categories
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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 a minor change in 2017: one extra category added for women).

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):

N/A55 kg (IWF only)
56 kg61 kg
62 kg67 kg
69 kg73 kg
77 kg81 kg
85 kg89 kg (IWF only)
94 kg96 kg
N/A102 kg (IWF only)
105 kg109 kg
105+ kg109+ kg

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

N/A45 kg (IWF only)
48 kg49 kg
53 kg55 kg
58 kg59 kg
63 kg64 kg
69 kg71 kg (IWF only)
75 kg76 kg
N/A81 kg
90 kg87 kg
90+ kg87+ 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]

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