One of the most common terms you will hear when you first join a gym or get into the world of lifting is PR.
Well, what does PR mean in gym terminology? PR meaning gym terminology stands for “personal record.” It is also commonly referred to as a PB, or personal best. All of these terms mean the same thing and simply refer to your own personal record in any given exercise or activity.
In this guide, we will break down all of the different types of personal records (PRs) in the gym and how best to track and test them.
What Does PR Mean In Gym?
PR stands for personal record. In the gym, setting new personal records can refer to a number of different things:
A one rep max on any particular exercise like a squat pr of 315 lbs
Beating your previous maximum reps with a given weight. Last time you got 10 reps with 225lbs, but this time you got a new personal record of eleven reps.
Beating your previous mile tie
As you can see, a personal record is a metric to track your own progress. If you are performing better than you did before, whether that be in terms of strength, volume, or time you are setting personal records.
Different Types Of Personal Records In The Gym
As we have already established, there are several different ways in which you can challenge your own personal records in the gym.
Each of them is described in detail below:
One Rep MAX (1RM) PR
The most common type of PR that you will hear about in the gym is the one rep max or 1RM. A one-rep max is the heaviest weight you can lift for one rep in any lift.
Now I will be the first to admit that one rep maxes are fun to test and keep track of, but they should not be the focus of your training. The reality is that going that close to absolute failure with no real volume provides very little benefit. If you are trying to gain strength, you are better off doing some low rep sets or a 5×5 to improve.
There is also the fact that the injury risk with one rep maxes is very real. The amount of strain on your muscle with your maximum weight can be enough to cause a tear or other type of injury.
To get a rough estimate of your one rep max in a much safer way. you can use our one rep max calculator. Just enter your most recent set with the number of reps you did and with how much weight. The calculator will return your 1RM.
One Rep Max Calculator
Your actual one-rep max may be slightly higher or lower, but this should give you a safer way to estimate where you stand.
A competition PR refers to the personal record you have in competition. The most common types of competitions in lifting are powerlifting competitions and Olympic weightlifting competitions.
You would think that your competition PR should just be equal to your gym PR, but that is not true. For example, you can get away with not reaching full depth on a squat or bouncing the bar off your chest in the gym to get a new PR. In competition, the judges ensure that you reach the proper depth and pause the bar on your chest
There is also the fact that competition equipment is up to a certain standard. The bar and plates weigh almost exactly how much they say within a few grams. Meanwhile, plates in your local gym may be off by a few pounds.
That is why, generally, most competitive lifters will have higher gym PRs than competition PRs. For this reason, many people do not consider a heavy lift valid unless it has been done in a competition setting.
Rep Max PR
A rep PR refers to your personal record reps with the same weight. This is a much safer way to test both your progress and strength. If you can get your bench press up from 225 x 6 to 225 x 12, this is clear evidence that you have increased your bench press. You do not need to constantly test your maximum and put yourself at risk to know that.
There are a number of rep ranges that you can work in, but the established consensus is that low reps (4-6) tend to work better for strength gains, while higher reps (10-15) tend to be the hypertrophy sweet spot.
Of course, you will see both strength and size gains for either rep range, but it is a good distinction to make. A quality program like MAPS Anabolic will have you working in every rep range so that you become a well-rounded lifter.
You can also set personal records in terms of your total volume. For example, if you consistently do 3 sets of 10 with a particular lift, and then come in and 4 sets of 10, this is a volume PR.
I do not tend to go after Volume PRs that much because my basic thinking is that if I can do an entire extra set, I should have just added more weight in the beginning. This way I could save time and just stimulate my muscle with less wear and tear on my joints.
However, a high-volume training program does have its place for some people. Many people respond well to higher volume and use it to increase their overall work capacity. If you can do high reps for lots of sets with squats, you will have a higher work capacity to go after PRs in lower rep ranges.
Crossfit routines generally consist of a series of resistance and endurance exercises performed back-to-back. If you can do the same routine with the same weights in a faster time, this is another form of PR. So PRs do not just apply to weight or reps, but they can also apply to times as well.
These time-based PRs can be used for any circuit-type training program. CrossFit is just one of the more popular options.
What Does PR Mean In Fitness? Cardio Personal Records Explained
The heart is a muscle as well, and it can also set personal records. Cardio PRs can be for both time and distance. On one side, you can be trying to get a faster mile time. Or you can also try to increase the time that you last ran at a certain speed.
You can also set a PR in terms of distance. If you ran 3 miles this week and then run 5 miles the next, that is also a new PR.
Generally, PRs outside of the world of weight lifting tend to be more fluid with more ways of setting personal records outside of weight, reps, and sets.
How Can I Track My PRs?
There are several ways, you track your personal records. The important thing though is that you are tracking progress in some way that you can look back on. This way you can know definitively if you getting stronger or look back over certain periods to see what you were doing that worked.
An App On Your Phone
I know plenty of people who track all of their workouts on their phones using their Notes app. This works well because you can simply copy and paste your workouts and change the number of reps and weights.
Personally, I use an app called Gravitus. It is free and works really well. You can add your workouts in and it will notify you when you beat your PR. What I like best about it is that it isn’t based solely on personal maximums. It uses an internal 1RM calculator to so that even if I am using a lighter weight, I can get overall PR if I do more reps.
It also has cool graphs where you can track your strength on a lift or a combination of lifts over time.
I am sure there are plenty of other apps like Gravitus but it is free and I have been using it for years with no issues.
If you want to be more traditional, you can just use a pencil and notebook. Personally, I have never been a fan of this since it is just an extra item you have to bring to the gym. Usually, you already have your phone on you.
Also, you have to consider that the notebook could easily get wet or lost and you can lose months of worth of training data. Most apps have you create an account meaning that you access your logs from any device.
How Can I Test My One Rep Max Safely?
As we already discussed, testing your one rep max really is neither the safest thing to do nor the most optimal for your overall progress. However, we understand that any serious lifter will want to test their maximum weight at some point. So if you are going to do it, here is how you can do it as safely as possible:
How To Test One Rep Max
Slowly work your way up to the weight you can think you can hit for one rep. Do not rush this and go up in small increments. Do not worry about tiring yourself out for your max effort lift, it is better to warm so your muscles are ready to go.
Set up fail-safes
Depending on the lift you are trying, failing a one-rep max can be very dangerous. If you are benching or squatting, be sure that you have a spotter and safety arms in place.
Wear The Right Equipment
If you are going for a heavy lift, there is no shame in using lifting straps, wrist wraps, squatting shoes, or a lifting belt. If you think it will make the lift safer, go ahead and use it.
With everything now in place, go ahead and lift. If at any point you feel any pain, try to get the weight off you as quickly as possible. If you succeed well done, if not, at least you know where you stand.
What Do I Do When I Plateau?
Eventually, as you get more advanced in your weightlifting career, you will find that setting new personal records week after week becomes very hard if not impossible. This is what is known as a “weight-lifting plateau.” To get back to setting personal records, there are a few things you can do:
Assess Your Diet, Training, and Lifestyle
If you find that you are not making progress in the gym anymore, it is a good idea to take a step back and examine your diet and training.
For your diet, look at whether or not you have been eating enough food to fuel your training. If you are on a cut, some strength loss may be expected. For your training, examine whether or not you are pushing yourself hard enough or allowing enough time for recovery.
Also, what you do outside of the gym and kitchen is also important. Have you been getting enough sleep? Have you been drinking too much? Are you stressed out? These are all factors that can impact your gym performance.
Change Your Exercises
When I plateau, one of the easiest fixes I have found is simply changing the exercise. I ensure that the new exercises still work the same muscles, but provide a new stimulus for me to make progress. There are plenty of ways you can modify exercises :
Try A Different Angle
If you have not made progress on your flat bench in weeks, maybe try switching the angle. An incline or decline bench is still going to work your chest and shoulders, but a slight change in muscular activation may be all you need to ignite some progress.
Try New Equipment
Specialty bars are great tools because they allow you to do the same basic lifts with slight tweaks. This way, you can bounce back and forth between the barbell and the specialty bar version of a lift to make steady progress.
Setting a new PR or personal record in the gym is a great feeling and one of the key signs you are gaining muscle. But do not forget, that there are a number of different ways you can set new personal records besides your one rep max.
As long as your making progress in some way and implementing the principles of progressive overload, you should have no problems setting new PRs month after month.