What Does PR Mean in the Gym?

In 2009, Usain Bolt ran the fastest time ever recorded for the 100m in Berlin, setting a WR – world record and a PR – personal record of 9.58 seconds. A gym PR means the …

In 2009, Usain Bolt ran the fastest time ever recorded for the 100m in Berlin, setting a WR – world record and a PR – personal record of 9.58 seconds. A gym PR means the same as it is simply your personal record on a particular activity in the gym. As a result, you can have your bench press PR, Lat pulls PR, pull-up, PR or a squat PR.

What is a PR?

taking personal record
taking a personal record

Personal records in the gym carry various meanings. It could be the amount of weight you can lift in one rep, the number of reps you can perform in one set, or the number of sets you can perform in a programme. Whether you're a gym rat, professional powerlifter, crossfitter, or simply someone who desires a better shape, PRs are a motivational force that can advance you to new weightlifting levels.

Here are interesting examples of what a PR is:

  • You previously could only perform five reps of bench press at 80 lbs, but today, you felt in very good shape, mentally and physically, and you decided to try an extra rep. If you successfully perform the sixth rep (in acceptable form), then you have yourself a new personal record. 
  • You could not lift past 170 lbs for your deadlift even after struggling with your form and stamina. However, after a few weeks of effort, you eventually break the barrier and successfully complete a one-rep deadlift of 170lbs. At this point, you’ve successfully set a new PR for yourself in a deadlift. 

How to Test Your PR?

testing pr with a trainer
testing pr with a trainer

Testing your PR in any activity requires that you are adequately physically and mentally warmed up. If the PR revolves around low reps or one rep, warm-up becomes more necessary to get your central nervous system and body ready to lift a heavy load. 

Similarly, avoid going from a set of eight reps at minimal effort to a two or three-rep PR attempt. Take your time warming up your body to prepare your muscles to be tested. Have a spotter present to offer support as you lift a volume you haven't attempted before. 

Your spotter may be a gym instructor, friend, or an available gym bro. Besides physical support, spotters can also offer psychological support, offering you motivation while you attempt the PR. You may also employ safety hooks or catches in some activities to serve as a fail-safe in case you can’t lift the weight.

Additionally, ensure that you are testing your PR on an activity that you are familiar with. This gives you a functional experience regarding the activity and can help you maximally lift the weight. Other than this, it can also offer you a measure of safety as you know what to do immediately you sense the test isn’t going correctly.

Testing your PR on unfamiliar activities also raises the likelihood of injuring yourself during the program or developing abnormal muscle soreness after it. As a beginner to weightlifting and fitness, you will probably be setting PRs relatively easily. However, setting PRs will become more challenging as you become more advanced. This is because your body can get used to carrying lighter weights faster than it can for heavier weights. 

Why It is Important To Hit New PRs

PRs are significant as they keep your training on track and in the proper direction. Exercises are such that you have to surpass your limits to get stronger constantly, otherwise, you may plateau. Plateaus can be psychologically draining and may often lead to training lapses or general discouragement. 

More practically, aiming for new PRs directly correlates with the primary principle of muscle development – progressive overload. As a result, besides the confidence and feel-good you gain, setting PRs also directly ties into developing your muscles, so long as you maintain a proper diet and rest adequately.

Testing your PR can also be an excellent source of motivation for you. For example, a PR can be a confirmation that your programs are effective and you are on the right track as a powerlifter. This is consequently useful for getting into the right headspace before a competition. Likewise, as a regular fan of heavy lifting, attaining new personal records in the gym can also give you confidence boosts.

Tips to Constantly Surpass your PRs

Get good timing 

Because humans are generally subject to circadian rhythms, our bodies tend to work better at certain times of the day. This period may vary across humans. However, athletically, many people tend to perform better in afternoons or evenings relative to their morning performance. As a result, it may be beneficial to time your PR tests around your body’s optimal performance period.

Similarly, timing also extends to when you go for your test during your gym session. As we already discussed during the importance of warm-ups, your body will reach its period of peak performance during a particular gym session. For some, it may be after a program or two, or for some, it may be 30-40 minutes into their workout. Discovering your body’s peak performance period and leveraging it may give you a better shot at setting new PRs.

Set Goals 

It may be challenging to break your PRs if you do not work with setting and realizing your goals. Setting goals will provide you with the necessary stimulus and motivation to attain new PRs, or the new PRs may simply be a side effect of reaching your goals. 

Get a home gym 

A home gym may also be essential if it is within your means. This is because a good chunk of breaking your PRs requires that you are in an excellent headspace. The condition of the gym you use plays an essential aspect in entering a proper headspace, and occasionally, you may require tweaking your environment to put you in a suitable headspace.

Setting up a home gym is a decent alternative for searching for an excellent gym. You only require setting it up with a few pieces of equipment. For example, you can get an Olympic barbell, weight plates (iron or rubber, depending on your budget), squat racks with pull-up bars, a flat bench, and perhaps a jump rope.