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Updated On: March 03, 2023
The fitness world is rife with acronyms and abbreviations, and sometimes, it's tough to keep up with them all. One of the more common phrases you might hear is "what's your squat PR?". PR means personal record in the gym. It can be the heaviest weight you've lifted for a particular exercise, or it might be the maximum number of reps you lifted a certain weight. Whether you're a professional powerlifter, a gym rat, Crossfitter, or just someone looking to get into better shape, PRs are a driving force that can propel you to new heights. Read on for tips to set new a new PR and how they differ from 1RM.
The meaning of PR in the gym is the same regardless of the type of exercise. PR means personal record in the gym (or any kind of fitness activity). Your personal record or PR is the best (most) weight you've lifted for the given parameters. People usually toss around the acronym when speaking about big lifts. Still, it can refer to other isolation exercises such as biceps curls, a distance of a jump, sprints, or even the length of time it took to run 1 mile. However, we're here to answer the question, "what does PR mean in weightlifting"? Let's look at a few examples of how PR can be used in the gym:
This means that a PR in the gym can describe you lifting more weight than you have in the past, or it could be you've managed to do more reps with the same weight compared to your previous maximum reps.
To test your PR in any exercise, you should be appropriately warmed up, physically and mentally ready while having an idea of the PR you're trying to set.
If the PR is based on low reps or one rep, you should warm up as mentioned above so that your central nervous system and body can lift a heavy load. Don't go from a set of 10 reps at 50% to a 3 rep PR attempt. Take your time, letting your muscles get prepared to be tested. Have a spotter present to help support you as you're trying to lift a volume that you haven't attempted before. You can also use safety hooks or catches in some exercises to act as a fail-safe if you can’t get the weight up. A spotter or training partner could also add some motivation and encouragement.
If you're trying to set a new PR in the hypertrophy sweet spot of 6-12 reps, then your warmups don't have to be as long and drawn out as the amount of weight you'll be lifting isn't as impactful on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. Do a 5-10 minute dynamic warmup, then a few warmup sets of the exercise you're focusing on. Once you feel loose and mentally ready to go, then go for it! It's also important to stay safe and have a spotter help out, as you should be pushing yourself to near failure.
Note: As a beginner to fitness, you will be setting PRs left and right, but as you get more advanced, it'll be a difficult feat. We don't recommend trying for an all-out one rep max too often (we don't need to tell you this if you are advanced, as you already know, but for those who are in the intermediate territory, it's something to be aware of). The actual one-rep max is for the Olympics, competitions, and advanced lifters, as there are some risks involved when pushing yourself to the absolute limits.
PRs are significant because they help to keep your training moving in the right direction. To get stronger, you have to continue pushing your limits; otherwise, you'll plateau. Plateaus can be mentally taxing that lead to lapses in training or discouragement. Aiming for new PRs is directly aligned with progressive overload, the core principle of building muscle. Setting a new PR will give you a boost of confidence, somewhat of a lifter's high. Please don't take our word for it; try it for yourself!
Use Variety of Exercises: It may sound counterintuitive to use a variety of exercises to set a new PR for a specific exercise. Have your primary focus be the exercise you're trying to break your PR be your main focus but make sure that you're performing lifts that recruit similar muscle groups to make your overall strength more well-rounded. For example, if you're trying to hit a new PR for bench press, you should try to incorporate some incline/decline presses, pullovers, close grip press, and shoulder presses into your workout program.
Proper Warmup Sets: Don't ever try to hit new PRs without doing a proper warmup. A proper warmup should be enough volume to get you ready to attempt a new PR but not too much volume where you're fatigued before trying to hit your new goal.
An example of a warmup before trying for a new PR might look like this:
PR FOR ONE REP:
PR FOR MULTIPLE REPS:
(Let's use bench press as an exercise while trying for a new PR of 8 reps)
Set Goals: It's hard to break your PRs if you don't begin by setting goals. Weightlifting revolves around the concept of progressive overload. You will get stronger over time if you increase the volume you're lifting. The best way to set goals is to have a specific goal that can be measured and is realistically possible to achieve. For example, if your squat PR is 185 lbs for one rep, you can't expect to have a goal of 350 lbs PR a month later. The last component of goal-setting should include a time range that will keep you motivated and on track. Don't set goals that are too far out and will be hard to stick with. Short timeframes of 1-3 months usually work best when setting new PRs in the gym.
Try Often: Although we just said you should set realistic goals, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try more often to hit new PRs. You won't always hit a new PR when attempting one; that's reality. So, if you only try to hit a new PR once a month, that means in one year, you only had 12 attempts. Some of those attempts might be failures which result in even fewer chances of breaking your PRs. We think you should try to hit new PRs almost every workout. These PRs shouldn't be based on one rep but rather to increase the reps lifted of that exercise in the previous workout. For example, if you workout tomorrow and can do 10 reps of deadlifts at 200lbs, you might want to try the next workout for 11 reps at 200lbs or even 205lbs at 10 reps.
Track Progress: Tracking your progress in the gym enables you to see where you started and how much you've achieved with your hard work. By keeping records of your workouts, you can hold yourself accountable while getting motivated to see what you're capable of. Tracking progress includes marking down successes and failures. Having a complete picture of your weightlifting journey will help you stay focused and see that victories likely follow failures in PR attempts.
Stay Positive: Don't get discouraged if you fail to hit a new PR. Failure is part of life and fitness. You will succeed with a positive mind frame and a good work ethic. Health and fitness aren’t a 100-meter sprint; it is a lifelong marathon with ups and downs. Positivity and consistency are two of the keys to success in life and fitness.
Supplementation: Supplementation can support you to smash your PRs. We stick to the supplements that are safe and proven to be effective. When trying to set new PRs in the gym, you might want to consider taking the following:
Diet: You are what you eat. The more science studies nutrition and diet, the more we understand how important diet is to our overall health. Assuming you're here because you want to set new PRs, you should try to eat a well-balanced diet of protein, fat, and carbs. If you're cutting or in a caloric deficit, setting new PRs is less likely as your body might not have the fuel to push you past the finish line.
Sleep: Quality sleep is essential to muscle and strength gain. Poor sleep can lead to poor performance in the gym. Sleep allows our bodies to recover and is vital for muscle protein synthesis and growth hormone release. Try to get 7-9 hours of shut-eye every night!
Although gym PRs and competition PRs share a common goal of setting your new personal record. The main differences are the competition PRs have strict rules and regulations that must be abided to.
Specific equipment might not be allowed, such as certain straps, wraps, belts, shoes, clothes, or bars. For example, in the gym, if you're going for a deadlift PR, you might use wrist straps, a belt, and a deadlift bar. These pieces of equipment might not be allowed in competitions. Each competition and federation might have different rules, but they will all have referees and judges that will be much stricter on equipment and technique. Therefore, it's much easier to set a gym PR than a competition PR while doing the same lift.
Alongside the PR stands the 1 RM or one-rep max. Although many people may think these are one and the same, they're not.
Let's have a look at the two terms side by side:
Your PR covers both present and previous periods. Your PR can be applied to one or more reps. Your 1RM is the heaviest weight you can lift currently for one rep.
Where these two terms might be confused is in the following situation:
You've been lifting for six months now, and the heaviest squat you've ever done is 200lbs. Then one day, you watched Rocky, had a great night of sleep, and you walked into the gym and squatted 210lbs for one rep. Congrats, you've just set a new PR and a new 1RM!
Then, the holidays came, and you took a hiatus from the gym from Thanksgiving to New Year. It's now January 1st, and you want to start the New Year off right by going back to the gym. At the end of the month, you decided to try for that 210lb squat again, but you couldn't do it. You ended up squatting 195lbs for one rep. NOW, your current squat PR is still 210, but your 1RM is 195lbs.
Another scenario regarding your 1RM and PR could be that your untested 1RM is higher than your personal record, but you don't have an exact number because you never actually performed it. Let's follow the same example, now you've been back in the gym for three months, but you haven't tried for a one-rep max squat. However, you're currently doing three reps at 205lbs. This means your one-rep max is most likely higher than your current PR of one rep at 210 lbs. There are plenty of online 1RM calculators that use various formulas to calculate your one-rep max based on how many reps you do at a certain weight.
Note: We don't recommend you attempt a one-rep max often. You might want to try for a one-rep max at most once every macrocycle. In between, you can try to increase your PR in rep ranges from 3-5, which will still lead to strength and power gains. Genuine one rep max attempts are more geared towards competition lifting. Attempting a one-rep max in the gym could lead to possible injuries; use caution.
Tracking your PRs and progress in the gym is vital to help you stay on the right path and recognize where you're excelling or slacking. To track your PRs, you can use the old school method of pad and pen, Excel spreadsheets, or even choose one of the many APPS available.
What does setting a new PR mean in the gym? It means you've scored a small victory in becoming stronger. Striving to achieve new PRs constantly creates a purpose for all the hard work you're putting in.
When's the last time you hit a PR? Let us know in the comments below!
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