"I have to weigh what?" A discussion of weight class
For those of you new to competing in a weight class sport, you may be feeling an added level of anxiety. Even seasoned competitors get anxious about "making weight." It's complicated enough to try to eat right to support your hard training - and now you have to worry about the scale? Feh.
In this post, I'll give a background on the usefulness of weight classes, how Iron Maidens set its classes, advice on determining the best weight class for you, and how to negotiate cusps.
A primer in weight class
Strength capacity often correlates to size. If we take two competitors with the same level of experience and training history, it is generally true that the 120lb woman will not lift as much as the 185lb woman. There are exceptions to that statement, mainly having to do with genetics. So, setting that aside for the moment, I think it's fair to say that more weight begets more plates.
Sports like powerlifting, olympic lifting, and grappling group competitors based on weight in order to reflect the inherent difference in capacity due to size. This allows for relative comparison which makes for a fair(er) competition.
Determining appropriate groupings for weight classes is difficult, and I think it is reasonable to criticize those that currently exist in many powerlifting federations. In the past, Iron Maidens had four weight classes that were unique to our event. Since one of the goals of this meet is to be a preparatory space for women interested in getting into competitive powerlifting, I felt it would be useful to align the groupings with many of the larger federations, and add a fifth weight class.
Choosing the best weight class for you
If this is your first competition, or even your second, your focus should be on your training. Think of the weight classes purely as an organizing principle, and you happen to fall into X category. Whether you would like to be in some other weight class can be addressed later, when you've gotten more competitive experience and improved your capacity.
In other words, if you weigh 140 lbs and are a novice, I would advise against dieting down to the 132 class or stuffing your face to get above 148 lbs. Train hard, eat enough to fuel yourself and stick with where you're at.
This also applies to those of you who may have a fair bit of experience lifting, but are kicking your training up to a new level for the first time. You want to encourage all the gains you can get; don't blunt the process by under-resourcing your energy intake. Eat the food.
If, however, you have competed several times and are interested in moving yourself to another weight class, this could be a good, lower-stakes opportunity to try out a more targeted diet for fat loss/weight gain, or even a moderate water cut. Both are typical for experienced competitors. And both are best done under the guidance of a coach you trust who also has experience, particularly with a water cut. This is not something you should wing on your own.
Cut-offs are fine, except if the cut-off is exactly where your weight hovers. Fear not, Iron Maidens allows you to compete in whatever class you weigh into the day of the meet. You may end up at the top or bottom of a weight class you weren't planning on, but you will still be able to lift.
It might be prudent to take your weight regularly at least one week prior to the meet so you can see variations. Weigh yourself in the morning, before you've had food or water to get an accurate sense of your "unloaded" weight. Also note where you will be in your cycle, since it is common to carry an extra pound or three at certain times of the month.
Ultimately, I hope your focus on weight is attached to the barbell, and not to the scale.
Keep in mind that if you are on the cusp between weight classes that are in different sessions, you may need to be flexible in your schedule. If you intend to compete in a weight class that is scheduled for the morning, but at weigh-in your weight puts you into a class that competes in the afternoon, you will need to wait until that session to lift. If, however, you plan to compete in an afternoon session weight class, but could have weighed into a morning session weight class, you will still compete in the heavier, afternoon session weight class - you’ll just be lighter than the other women in your weight class.
You will weigh-in at the session your weight class competes.
The day's schedule is subject to change based on final numbers of competitors, so keep your eyes out for any announcements.