PRs are something that every lifter should know about. It determines if you’re training for a specific purpose or you’re just working out to “be fit”.
If you’re reading this, you probably do not know what a PR actually is.
Luckily, it’s pretty simple.
PR is short for “personal record”, also known as PB or “personal best”. These terms are used interchangeably and basically mean the same thing.
Whenever you achieve anything fitness related that is better than your previous attempts, that is a personal record.
The simplest examples are lifting more weight on a certain movement, running a set distance faster, and even jumping higher than you ever have before.
If you want to learn more about PR’s; such as how to track them, the different types, as well as how to calculate something such as your 1RM, then let’s get started!
Different Types Of Personal Records
Obviously, there are different personal records depending on the type of training you’re doing.
If you’re an Olympic Weightlifter you want to do more weight on the snatch and the Clean and Jerk.
Whereas if you’re a cross-country runner, you probably want to improve how fast you’re running certain distances or even just increase the distance you can run overall.
I’ll go more into depth on each of these Personal Records now!
PR In Gym/Lifting
In the gym, the main thing that people want to improve upon is getting bigger, stronger, or losing fat.
Luckily, by improving how much you can lift over time, you’ll build muscle, get stronger, and stay leaner overall.
Which is why strength training is one of the most important things you can do to improve your overall fitness levels.
Here’s a few of the different personal records that people track!
1RM – ONE REP MAX
This is the most notorious one that many people pay attention to, your 1RM or One Rep Max.
This one is super easy to figure out and track.
Let’s say you’ve done 200 lbs on the Bench Press and you can’t do another rep, 200 lbs would be your one rep max!
Over time, your goal would be to improve how much you can lift for a single rep.
Of course, do this as safely as possible.
Always make sure you have a spotter or if you’re alone in a home gym, set up your safeties on your power rack.
The worst-case scenario? Don’t use collars and turn the bar to one side so the weights slide off, repeat on the other side, and then just sit up with the empty barbell.
This is obviously the most likely to cause injury, so don’t do it if you can help it.
Also, when testing your 1RM, realize that you’re just testing, it’s not a suitable way to train for strength.
If all you do is work up to an all out single each workout, that’s not enough work to get stronger.
If this was the case, those guys that max out on bench every Monday on international bench day would get stronger and stronger.
Unfortunately, these are the guys that get injured and tell you years from now that the bench press is bad for your shoulders, chest, elbows, etc.
Bottom line – work on getting stronger over time in all rep ranges to build muscle and strength.
Testing your 1RM is for your ego, no matter how you slice it. If you aren’t a powerlifter, knowing that information is just going to let you know if you’re getting stronger or not.
So instead, check out the next section to see what you should do instead!
Rep maxes are far more beneficial to track and concern yourself with.
The reason for this is pretty simple!
Testing your 3, 5, 8, 10+ rep maxes is much safer with lighter loads than a true one rep max that puts your joints at risk.
If you’ve ever seen a man snap his pec tendon straight off the bone, you know how awful that type of injury is.
WARNING – THIS IS WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU AREN’T LIFTING SAFELY WITH EXCELLENT TECHNIQUE!
You’re better off training with lighter loads and tracking those rep maxes instead.
The major distinction is that even heavy weights with your 3 Rep Max are stimulative enough to drive progress, get stronger, and even build some muscle.
So you can actually do training cycles where you do multiple sets of 3 at heavy weights and get stronger without all the strain of maximal loads.
If you go into even lighter training like your 5, 10, and even up to 20 rep max for some exercises; you’re going to build a substantial amount of muscle and strength with that!
The best way to put it is this, if you go from 200 for 1, to 250 for 1; you got stronger, of course. But maxing out every time, trying to beat 200 every single workout, is going to beat up your body a lot more than lighter weights.
On the flip side, if you can do 200 for 10 and you get strong enough to do 250 for 10, that’s a way more substantial increase in strength and I guarantee you’re going to be bigger because of it!
You’ll probably be able to hit 200 for 20 reps, which is another huge PR as well!
Taking your 5 rep maxes to 10 rep maxes, and your 10 rep maxes to 20 rep maxes is going to do more for your strength and muscularity than just trying to beat your one rep max.
Volume PRs are another way to track your progress.
This one is pretty simple to understand as well, though.
Let’s say you do 2 sets of 10 reps on the squat with 300 lbs.
If you come in the following week and add another set of 10 with the same rest periods, that’s a volume PR!
I definitely think that this type of PR is only useful if you’re training with high volume.
I don’t recommend high volume training programs but I know a low of people do very will with them.
This is just another way to track your progress, so if you find a use for it, use it.
If not, then just stick to standard weight and rep PRs as those are the bread and butter you should try to beat!
PR In Fitness
In general fitness, there’s a couple of different Personal Records that people usually keep track of.
One of them is distance, where you can improve how far you run or how high you can jump.
These are important records you need to keep track of, especially if you’re an athlete that is trying to improve your performance.
There’s also time PR’s where you can improve how fast you can run a certain distance or even in CrossFit where you try to beat the clock on your WOD.
Running, jumping and gliding from a million Guardians without taking a laser to the knee is a special kind of PR for sure!
Keeping track of these personal records and improving upon them is what fitness is all about.
If you always know what you did the previous week and what you need to do to beat it, that’s a great way to stay motivated and prevent yourself from being average.
Gym PR Vs Competition PR
There are major differences between a gym PR and a competition PR.
With a gym PR, usually you’re well rested and don’t have the stress of competition potentially holding you back.
After all, not everybody reacts to stress the same way.
Some people thrive off of it while it crushes others.
That’s why in powerlifting, people routinely say that Gym PRs don’t count.
They only count when they’re done on the platform.
Those people have a point, as gym PRs are definitely much easier to accumulate.
As for a competition PR, you’re usually required to do more than you’d ever do in the gym.
In Powerlifting, you have three attempts on the Squat, Bench, and Deadlift.
These are all done on the same day, which is definitely much harder than working up to just one lift for the day to test a new PR.
Regardless, if your gym PRs get stronger over time, your competition PRs will get stronger right along with them.
I picked this calculation up from Jim Wendler back in his original 5/3/1 book over a decade ago.
It’s a really simple formula and allows you to determine what your potential one rep max should be.
This is much more accurate in the 2-10 rep range, but it still works somewhat up to 20 reps.
Here’s the equation used to calculate your 1RM!
Weight Lifted In Lbs x Reps Done x 0.0333 + Weight Lifted In Lbs = 1RM Estimate
Here’s an example in action!
- 200x10x0.0333+200=266.6 1RM
- 66.6+200=266.6 lbs
Easy as that!
I like to use this for big multi-joint exercises, as these are the only ones that matter for your 1RM.
The way I’ve used this for training in the past is to track progress with different weights and reps.
If I do 150 for 10 on the Overhead Press, what do I need to do the following week to beat this rep wise?
Let’s find out!
First, we plug in the weight and reps into the equation for this week’s set.
So my goal is to do around the same amount of work to ensure I’m on track to beat this performance the following week.
Usually, dropping one rep the following week is enough intensity to match or improve my performance on this set.
So let’s plug it in with 5 extra pounds added.
As you can see, as long as I hit 9 reps with 155 the next week, I’m on track.
This is just a tool you can use that allows you to track your one rep max without actually performing a 1RM.
The number being perfectly accurate doesn’t matter as much as seeing it improve.
How To Keep Track Of Your PRs
There’s two ways I’ve used to track your personal records to ensure you’re getting stronger!
The first is a simple training notebook. This is the most important book you’ll ever own if your goal is to get better.
You simply write in your notebook the weights you’re using, the reps you did, and even your energy levels/other notes you feel like tracking.
I have 4 or 5 training notebooks on file that allow me to look back and see old records I’ve smashed.
It also lets me know what training methods have worked for me and others that might not have agreed with me as much.
The other way you can track them that makes it easy to organize your training data over time is to simply use your phone with a note-taking app or even excel if you want to get fancy.
This makes it easy to copy and paste your previous training week, add weight, or make a note of what reps you need to beat.
Not having to write everything out by hand every single week for the rest of my life is pretty nice.
This also allows me to save my entire training notebook on my google drive, which I can search through when I need to.
Either of these methods work but what matters the most is that you actually track your personal records.
Beating the logbook means consistently beating your reps, adding weight, and getting stronger.
If you aren’t stronger now than you were 6 months ago, then what’s the point?
Track your workouts and beat the logbook! Your progress depends on it!
Questions People Also Ask!
What does PB mean in the gym?
PB stands for Personal Best.
It’s literally the same thing as personal record, just a different acronym and the word best instead of record.
What is a Max PR in weight training?
A Max PR is referring to your maximum record with a certain weight.
This can be any PRs with your 1, 3, 5, 10 and other rep maxes.
Different words, same meaning mostly.
How Often Should You Do A PR Set?
This is going to depend on what you’re training for and what type of PR it is.
If you’re talking about your 1RM, I think every 6 weeks should be fine as far as recovery goes.
As for any other PR where you’re trying to do more weight and reps, I recommend you do this every training session.
Especially if you just want to get bigger, intensity and proximity to failure are the most important factors for muscle growth.
If you aren’t getting close to failure for those, it’s junk volume.
Plain and simple.
Now I turn it over to you!
Now that you know what a PR is, which personal records do you plan on tracking for your own workouts?
Let me know in the comments section, right now!
As for me, doing more reps and weight than last time is the name of the game and I’m a player for life!
Until next time,