Testing what you are maximally capable of on a given lift is important for a number of reasons: you can clearly see the progress you’ve made by watching your max go up over time, a coach can easily assign you a weight that is both safe and challenging in a workout if they know what your max on that movement is, and pushing your body to perform with a maximal weight forces it to adapt to your training in ways that other stimuli do not.
Despite the value in testing a max, there are also some common pitfalls. Let’s talk about them so you can be sure to steer clear!
Performing any lift should never be done “at all costs”. Instead of focusing on the absolute amount you can lift, think of max attempts as what you can do without your form breaking. If a coach ever tells you that something is wrong with your lift or offers a modification, it is only because we want you to practice perfection. Allowing for anything else is not doing you any services!
There are many factors that can influence your ability to either set a new personal record or leave you shy of a previous best. While training on a regular basis is great, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will automatically set a new record every time you test. Being tired or sore from a previous workout, suffering from a bad nights sleep, or just having a sub-par day can all influence your performance. Think of your max attempts as what you are capable for the day. If circumstances are right, you might just set a new best. But it certainly can’t be expected on every attempt (and that’s alright!).
If you picture a graph with all your numbers for a specific lift on it, it is only important that the line slowly rises over time. There will always be ups and downs, but as long as the overall trend is heading in a positive direction the peaks and valleys should be of no concern.