Testing My Max (Athlete Journal 14)
This week was a pretend meet, so I rested and did cardio as I typically have to cut weight on a week like this. As far as testing maxes in a gym setting versus testing them at a powerlifting meet goes, there are lots of ups and downs.
First, let’s look at the positives of a pretend meet:
- Warming up
- Testing maxes
- Cost and ease of use
At a powerlifting meet, lifters always outnumber pieces of available equipment and you must adapt. Warm ups never go according to plan, so this is something I take into account.
You can test your max at the gym any day of the week. You’d be hard pressed to find a powerlifting event for every day of the year (unless you were dating a flight attendant). Throw all the fun travel stuff out and all you need are some friends to spot and judge your lifts at your home gym.
This brings us to the negatives:
- Equipment & weights
The top of the list would be expectations. I can tell you I put a helluva lot more pressure on myself at the actual meet. It’s an accumulation of months of training performed in front of your powerlifting peers.
Timing is also different, as I alluded to earlier. I consistently waited seven minutes between attempts during my mock meet. At an actual meet, you could wait up to fifteen minutes in between attempts. I also waited ten minutes after each lift to warm up for the next lift. Depending on how many flights there are (and what size they are), you could be waiting a few hours to bench after your third squat attempt.
"Judging would be the most critical negative aspect. It is hard to judge proper depth on the squat. You need three attentive sets of eyes."
The environment is also different. At a meet, you have fellow lifters, men and women, crushing personal records (PRs), screaming like wildebeests, and cheering you on. The atmosphere is exhilarating. It’s a lot easier to psych yourself up on actual meet day.
I didn’t face any problems with equipment, but if you are working out at a gym with a handful of platforms, you can run into trouble. Imagine finishing the squat and all of the benches being full for the next half hour. Buzzkill! The equipment at a gym is most likely different as well. At meets you lift kilos, whereas at most gyms you lift pounds.
Judging would be the most critical negative aspect. It is hard to judge proper depth on the squat. You need three attentive sets of eyes. Good judging is the difference between a PR (personal record) and a GR (gym record).
Squat to 285
Bench to 190
Friday – Mock Meet
300 - Make
325 - Miss
325 - Make
205 - Make
230 - Make
240 - Miss
315 - Make
360 - Make
380 – Miss
Rest of Week
45 minutes cardio or yoga
I tested my maxes four weeks ago, so I was conservative with my attempt selections as I only had three weeks of training under my belt. But as a number chaser, you take small wins where you can.
First up was the squat. I chose 300lb because it was pretty close to my PR, but light enough that I could crush it without batting an eye. It felt good. It was heavy enough to prepare me for the next attempt, which would be an eleven-pound PR. I went and found the biggest guy in the gym to spot me while my friends judged my depth. I brought the bar down slow and controlled, hit depth, and exploded up. I got stuck about half way. I tried to squeeze my glutes, drive my hips forward, all while squeezing the bar with all of my might. Miss.
" I focused, visualized, and got into the zone. I descended a little faster this time, but still had plenty of control."
I reevaluated the lift in my head and visualized myself hitting the squat with finesse. I’m an emotional lifter, as I’m extremely hard on myself. After my seven minutes of rest, I went and found the Hulk to spot me again. I focused, visualized, and got into the zone. I descended a little faster this time, but still had plenty of control. I hit the hole, exploded up, and drove my hips once more – except this time, it worked. 325, baby!
Bench Press Test
I rested ten minutes before warming up for the bench. My first attempt was 205lb, which was gravy, baby! Since I only had a few weeks of benching under my belt and since it’s my weakest lift, I decided to try to match my PR on the second attempt, and then go for a new PR on my third attempt. I brought 230lb down nice and controlled, paused like a champ, and exploded up. I got stuck in the middle for half a second, but I exploded up into my lockout without letting the bar dip.
I then went for 240lb on my third attempt. The bar came down clean and crisp, and the pause wasn’t excruciating. I exploded up, got stuck in the middle…and stayed stuck in the middle. Miss, but hey, I went for it.
I decided I might as well make it a full mock meet and pick some weights up off the ground. I waited ten minutes and warmed up for the deadlift. I hadn't trained the deadlift on Monday, but I did some speed work and got plenty of lower body work in with my squatting.
Since the form and commands for the deadlift are easy, I prefer to expend as little energy as possible on the first attempt. 315lb was a cake walk. Seven minutes later, I went for 360lb, which felt pretty heavy. I may have looked like a chalky mess, but I handled the second attempt. I decided to go for an eleven-pound PR on the third attempt: 380lb. I had missed 380lb a few weeks prior, but went for it anyway.
"I was satisfied with my performance overall given the time constraints, but I know when I test my max again in a few months, I’ll see some clear improvements."
The weight didn’t budge. It was almost laughable, but like Excalibur, it didn’t want to move. This has always been my weak point, so I’ll have to work on being more explosive from the bottom. Deficit deadlifts are the name of the game. Thinking back on it, maybe I should have been more conservative and gone for 375lb, a six-pound PR. Oh, well.
That was my max day. I was satisfied with my performance overall given the time constraints, but I know when I test my max again in a few months, I’ll see some clear improvements. Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year, so happy holidays and stay active!
Ryan Seaver is a novice powerlifter who found his love for the sport after six years of going to the gym religiously. Follow Ryan's journals to learn how to get started as a competitive lifter.