Testing your maxes basically involves doing one rep, adding more weight, and repeating until you can't go any higher. It gives you a sense of what you could do in competition, and for me it is a nice opportunity to benchmark my progress.
We did the lifts in the order they would be done in competition: squat, bench press, dead lift.
Here's a video of me squatting a new PR of 175 pounds. To give a sense of how much strength I have gained since I started lifting, the first time I squatted out at the strongman gym, the heaviest weight I could do was 100 pounds, and I thought that was astonishing. A little over a year later, 95 pounds is my warmup.
After successfully squatting 175, I tried 185 and failed. Watching the video now, it doesn't actually look like I was struggling as much as I thought I was at the time. You can hear Frak yelling at me to push out my knees, and I think if I had focused on that, I might have been successful. Frak explained that since it was my first time doing this, I'm not used to struggling to complete the lift. As my comfort with being on the edge of failure improves, I should get better and be able to push through more. Although she also said that a lot of the time, your max will feel relatively easy, and then adding just ten pounds will make the next lift impossible, which is indeed how my failures felt.
I want to show my failure video because I think it's important to show that nothing terrible happens to you when you fail a lift. As you can see, I just kneel back down and let the safety catch the bar. Easy peasy:
After squat, I got a PR of 95 on bench press and failed my attempt at 100 pounds. Then came the most exciting part of the night: dead lifts. I have a complicated relationship with the dead lift. It's probably my favorite lift, but it also scares me the most because it took me awhile to learn the proper form, and I hurt my back last year while I was still learning. Last week, I managed a PR of 220 pounds, which is 35 pounds more than I had ever done before. Frak was encouraging me to add more weight. She showed me the video and said as fast and "easy" as the bar came up on 220, she was sure I could do more. I decided to stop, though. I was trying to be cautious and not hurt myself. Now I kinda regret that I didn't keep going, but it's probably just as well that I didn't.
Here's the dead lift PR. So exciting!
After I was done, Frak sent me these weightlifting performance standards, which show how much a person should expect to lift based on how long they've been training. It's useful to see these charts because it's easy to lose perspective when you're in the gym surrounded by gigantic dudes and women like Frak, who weighs about 20 pounds less than I do but who can lift way more. (She tested her maxes last week, too, and got 300 on her dead lift!)
It is pretty exciting to see that my squat and dead lifts are right in the middle between intermediate and advanced for my weight class. (I weigh 155 currently, so I'm looking at the 165 weight class.) My bench press is novice level, but hopefully my new program will help bring that up a bit.
It was a year ago this month that I started lifting. I've come a long way since then, and testing my maxes was a good way to remind myself of that.