Articles  >  Olympic Weightlifting Training
How to Pick the Right Warm-up Weights
Matt Foreman
December 18 2017

Let’s talk about how to pick the proper warmup weights when you’re working up to your heavy stuff in the snatch and clean & jerk.
Rookies often screw this up if they don’t have anybody teaching them how to do it. We’re talking about workouts (or competitions) where you need an effective sequence of weight jumps from the empty bar all the way up to your maximum lifts.
As with many things in weightlifting, there are multiple ways to do this. However, many top lifters use a fairly similar approach with some minor variations but the same basic overall method.
I’ll give you three examples so you can see for yourself how this is often done. The first two are Chinese Olympic Champion Cao Lei and Armenian Junior World Champ Simon Martirosyan. The third one is…me. Make sure you understand I’m not trying to put myself at the same level as these two. I just wanted to throw in a third example, and my own numbers were easy for me to include without having to do a bunch of extra research.
When you read these numbers, please note that all three lifters did multiple sets/attempts with several of the weights that are listed. For example, the first weights listed are 35 for Lei, 70 for Martirosyan, and 50 for me. All of us did each of these weights at least a few times before jumping up to the next weight. Just so you know you’re reading only the weight sequences for each athlete, not a complete list of the total number of warmup lifts with each weight.
*The first number is the warmup weight in kilos, and then I included the percentage of the athlete’s top weight at the competition. So when you see Cao Lei’s 35 kg snatch warmup listed at 27%, that means 35 kg is 27% of the 128 kg she made on her 3rd attempt at the meet.
Cao Lei
Snatch Warmup Weights and Competition Attempts - 2008 Olympic Games
- Dynamic warmup
- Bar work
- 35 kg (27%)
- 45 kg (35%)
- 65 kg (50%)
- 75 kg (59%)
- 85 kg (66%)
- 95 kg (74%)
- 100 kg (78%)
- 105 kg (82%)
- 110 kg (86%)
- 115 kg (90%)
- 120 kg (94%)
1st attempt- 120 kg                           
2nd attempt- 125 kg              
3rd attempt- 128 kg   
Simon Martirosyan
Snatch Warmup Weights and Competition Attempts - 2017 Junior World Championship                        
- Dynamic warmup                            
- Bar work                                          
- 70 kg (37%)                                     
- 120 kg (63%)                                               
- 140 kg (73%)                                               
- 160 kg (84%)                                               
- 170 kg (89%)                                               
- 180 kg (94%)                                               
1st attempt- 185 kg                           
2nd attempt- 191 kg (miss)               
3rd attempt- 191 kg               
Matt Foreman
Snatch Warmup Weights and Competition Attempts - 1998 American Open                                  
- Dynamic warmup                            
- Bar work                                          
- 50 kg (32%)                                     
- 70 kg (45%)                         
- 90 kg (58%)                         
- 110 kg (71%)                                               
- 120 kg (77%)                                               
- 130 kg (84%)
- 137.5 kg (89%)
- 142.5 kg (92%)                                            
1st attempt- 147.5 kg                        
2nd attempt- 152.5 kg           
3rd attempt- 155 kg
Some points of interest to mention:
  • Cao Lei did the most extensive warmup. This isn’t surprising when you consider the normal volume of work the Chinese are used to…which would kill a dinosaur. Cao actually did her 1st attempt weight 120 kg three times in the warmup room before going out there to open with it. This is extremely uncommon, but you have to remember the 2008 Olympics were in Beijing and the Chinese were leaving nothing to chance on their home turf. They pushed their athletes beyond any accepted level of physical endurance for that Olympics, so Cao’s insane warmup volume was just another day at the office for her at that time.
  • Martirosyan definitely had a quick warmup, compared to what you’ll usually see at the top levels. That jump from 70 kg straight to 120 kg was freaky stuff. He missed his 2nd attempt at 191 and had to repeat, which means he was probably thinking somewhere between 195-200 kg for his 3rd on a perfect day. Cao and I both made all three attempts and finished with new personal records, so that means our percentages were true to our absolute maximum weights, while Martirosyan’s percentages were likely off a little bit because he had probably snatched more than 191 in training prior to this meet.
  • You’re probably wondering what the C&J warmup sequences looked like. I didn’t include them simply because I wanted this article to be relatively short, but I can tell you each athlete’s C&J warmup sequence was very similar to the pattern you saw in the SN…but a little shorter, with bigger jumps and fewer total warmup lifts (which is part of the plan in competition because your body is already warmed up and somewhat fatigued after the SN).
Your homework assignment is to figure out the percentages you typically use for your own workouts, and then compare them to the ones you’ve seen here. If you’re in the same ballpark and you normally train/compete well, you’re probably doing it right.
Like I said, not everybody knows how to do this. I’ve seen a lot of guys with 90 kg PRs in the snatch who start their warmups with 70 kg. That’s 78% right out of the gate. Probably not the best way to do it.
Don’t get me wrong… you can warm up however you want to. You can stand next to the platform and wait until it’s your turn to lift, then do a few jumping jacks, scream “AMERICA!!!” and then rip the hell out of that sucker, if that’s what makes you happy. I’m not trying to stop you from living your dreams. Just trying to give you a few more tools. Best of luck!
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December 18 2017
Her family name is Cao 曹 not Lei 磊
Yep. And out of the 4 times he referred to her by one name, only once did he mistakenly use Lei. Seems like an obviously innocuous mistake.

Greg Everett
December 18 2017
I think that'd be a great ice breaker and relaxer on that opening snatch attempt. step on the platform, look directly at the head official and yell "Merica!" then lift. lol

I over warmed up at my last competition - I did something like 9 C&J's in the back and was way to worn out for my competition lifts. Less is more for sure for an old guy like me.
Matt Foreman
December 19 2017
When I mention people by name in writing, I often bounce back and forth between using their first and last names. For example, if I was writing something about Colin Burns, I might call him "Colin" some times and "Burns" other times. Just my style, no disrespect meant.
December 21 2017
Can't blame anyone. Modern Chinese names used to be predominantly in 3 characters, 2 for first name (Xiao Jun) and 1 for family name (Lu), very rarely 2. Very easy to tell which is which. In recent decades lots of people, especially in the Mainland, were named with 2 characters only. Hence the confusion by non Chinese.
December 28 2017
Thank you for this article! I'd been wondering about warm up weight progressions recently and this definitely helps.
Justin Escalante’
May 28 2019
Thank you, Matt! I typically warm up like Cao and that really works for me, but it’s cool to see how others do it so if I get rusty, I can switch it up a little.