So we are officially less than a week away from the Texas State Weightlifting Championships.  Our team has entered the final prep phase and are looking extremely well.  This meet has turned out to be quite the spectacle boasting a record 165 lifters!  Many of those lifters, this will be their first time competing.  Multiple teams and lifters around the country are prepping and have set their eyes on a meet sometime in the early part of the year.
This morning the competition lifters got to work and found their opening attempts for the snatch and clean and jerk.  An “Opener” is a weight they are comfortable with as their first attempt no matter the circumstances or stresses.
I wanted to write a quick blog about what an opener is, how to find it, and why it’s important to pick the right number.  I have always told my athletes that an opener should always be a number that you can hit if I were to break into your house at 2AM, drag you out of bed, and put you on a platform to warmup.  (Assuming you don’t shoot me)  That weight needs to be the heaviest weight possible that you will never miss.  I often tell my athletes to look for this number to be closer enough to their PR that they can jump to a current PR for their second attempt.  However, I do not want the opener so close to the PR that there is potential for a miss.  The first attempt has to ALWAYS be a weight that is as close to guaranteed as weightlifting can be.
You find this number through weeks of training.  My lifters have been at our above 90% multiple times this cycle and know where misses begin to happen.  They know what numbers are guarantees and what numbers are not.  You determine what weight to start with by hitting heavier weights during training and knowing mentally what weight you can approach with certainty.
It’s important to pick the right opener for two reasons.  First, a number too high can cause misses and often can start a trend for missing during your next two lifts.  Opening too high is hugely detrimental to making attempts and getting the chance to put a PR number on the bar.  Secondly, an opener too low can prevent the opportunity for success by limiting how high a lifter can go for their second and third attempt without drastic jumps.  You don’t want to open too low simply for the fact that an opener that is too low puts you too far away from the numbers that would create PRs.  And PRs are the reason you compete.
Determining openers are an important piece of the competition puzzle.  They can be HUGE confidence builders OR they can be complete confidence killers.  If you are competing this winter choose your openers wisely.  They may in fact determine the results for the other 4 lifts.
Here’s a good example (from last year’s State Meet) of the clear difference in what an opener should look like as opposed to a last attempt.
Third Attempt