The Handler's Guide to Attempt Selection, Managing Expectations, & More
BEFORE THE MEET
Ask the lifter what they want to accomplish. Remember, we as coaches and handlers succeed only if the lifter succeeds (by their own standard). Success isn't solely determined by going 9 for 9. Talk about different possibilities and thought processes so they have their options, but ultimately let them decide.
Do they want to go 9/9? Play conservative and don’t risk real 10’s
Do they want to to hit a specific number (something achievable)?
Would they want to go for the win? Ex. Would they potentially go for 1st, but if they miss they don’t medal, or would they rather go safe with what they know they have and go for placing?
Know the lifter’s RPE’s and how each lift moves. RPE is judged by the weakest point in the lift, not how fast the overall lift moves. If the sticking point looks like an RPE 10, but the lift overall looks RPE 8, adding 10 lbs means they will not make it through the sticking point.
Opener is generally an RPE 7/7.5 (Something that can be done for 3 to 5 reps)
2nd attempt is about an 8.5 (Challenging but gives room to build up to a max attempt)
3rd attempt is RPE 9-10 depending on what you wanted to go for discussing with the athlete earlier
NOTE: 3%-5% of the max is an RPE jump. Maxes can be judged based on training sets leading up to to the meet as well as previous training blocks.
NOTE: With peaking, you have reduced fatigue, so if peaking went decently, you’d expect 5%-10% more than the calculated maxes during training.
Pre-plan the attempts and have atleast a safe, expected, and aggressive attempt selection. This includes 1st attempts which can be gauged during warm-ups. 1st attempts can be changed within 5 minutes of the flight.
Pre-plan the warm-up attempts
I like to have atleast 4-5 warm-up attempts. This is because warm-ups get hectic with all the people and you want something as quick and effective as possible. You can leave out things such as the bar or warm-ups that take no rest.
DURING THE MEET
Have the lifter weigh in as early as possible and begin stretching early
When the 2nd attempts of the flight before your lifter begins, you can start your lifters warm-ups if they like to take a little longer, as well as begin before everyone else realizes they need to start. The typical time is halfway through the 2nd attempts. Then you can adjust based on where your lifter is in their flight or how the flight is moving.
The hard part is keeping track of where the previous flight is. There is a lot of running around from platform to warm-up room involved because if they have the tracker online, it can lag or stop working. Some flights move way faster than others.
The lifter should eat between lifts (squat & bench). Eat something with more substance little by little during the meet but especially before bench, so energy can be restored and digest by the time it gets deadlifts.
Usually want to make sure the lifter takes in plenty of salt and electrolytes right after weigh ins so the lifter does not dehydrate, especially if they have been water cutting. The body has been in the process of flushing, so if no salt is taken in, the body will continue to flush out the water and the lifter will become dehydrated and cramp.
Have the lifter eat easy to digest carbs such as donuts, honey, bagels, energy chews, chips, bananes (again between lifts). Even if the lifter struggles to eat, they need to eat or else they’re going to be drained before they get to deadlifts.
Caffeine takes about 30 minutes to an hour to kick in and lasts about 3-5 hrs (all rough estimates). So you want to be consuming with that in mind where you want it in full effect for your lifts.
Ammonia capsules should be used really for 3rd attempts and tough 2nds. Can be used for deads if the lifter is worn out and the day has been long, etc.
The lifter should sit down as much as possible. Conserve energy.
Ask the lifter after each attempt how it felt. It can look fast, but it’s the lifter who’s RPE you need to go with.
NOTE: Grinding out attempts will impact upcoming attempts due to fatigue as well as CNS.
Handling shouldn’t just be standing on the platform calling attempts. The details are what will truly make or break the day. The lifter spends months preparing for this meet and now just need to execute. Your job, as the handler, is to deliver the lifter’s performance.
The key to all this is awareness. If you are keeping up with what is going on and paying attention to your lifter, it will all work out well. It is why we try to be as 1-to-1 when handling people because the process sounds really simple but can become very hectic, very fast. The lifter should be able to focus on their lifts and execute while the handler’s job is to remove distractions and allow for the highest possibility for success.