What does PR Mean in Gym Settings? A Whole Lotta Weight!

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Are you a gym newb?

Think there are too many weird gym acronyms thrown around by big dudes in sliced up tank tops?

@gymclothingcompany

Unfortunately, I can’t help you with exposed…skin these beasts are showing. However, I can help you with one of the most (the most?) common gym-related acronyms.

The mythical PR

So what does PR mean in gym settings?

What does PR mean in working out?

What does PR mean in fitness?

In simple words – it means “personal record”.

But there is a bit more to it than that

Thankfully, I did a deep dive on the subject, so you don’t have to. We’ll talk about everything you need to know about the meaning and types of PR. I will even throw in some tips on how to test it and set up a new personal record.

So without further ado…

What does PR mean in Gym Settings?

As previously stated, the meaning of PR in the gym is simply a personal record.

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It refers to reaching a personal milestone in a particular exercise. For example, you can achieve a personal record by hitting a rep at a weight you’ve never been able to lift before (ex. “Yeah, bro; I finally hit 225 on bench last night!”)

It can also refer to completing a set for a number of repetitions (ex. “I got it for 8 reps!”) or at a weight (ex. “Yeah, man; 200 for a set”) that you have never been able to do before.

Depending on the exercise or workout, the PR metric will differ. A powerlifter’s 550-pound deadlift PR has the same meaning as the rower’s 6:50 2K row PR. Both athletes just achieved their own personal records for their respective exercises.

However, if you plan on setting up a new personal record for the same exercise, the metrics should be set up in a way you can repeat the exercise in the same terms.

But, more on that later. For now, let’s dig into why you would want to set a personal record in the first place.

Why is Setting a PR Important?

Pushing your limits is extremely important if you want to have results in the gym.

Why?

One word: motivation.

If you’ve hung around any globo gym for any period of time, you’ve probably noticed some of the same people…doing the same thing…every…single…day.

The same exercises, the same weights, the same repetitions.

And that’s cool for them, if that’s what they want to do.

However, taking this approach really starts to weigh on your motivation…even after a short period of time. How you do know if you’re actually getting stronger (or really accomplishing…anything?)

PR goes hand in hand with progressive overload. Progressive overload means gradually increasing the metrics of your exercise, such as:

  • weight
  • repetitions
  • frequency

With a progressive overload, you avoid stagnation or the dreaded “plateau” (no real measurable or visible progress) in your workout routine.

You don’t need to set a new personal record every time you hit the gym (although newer gym-goers and CrossFitters, oftentimes experiencing “newbie gains”, just might for the first weeks and months!)

@matt_foddrill

However, attempting PR lifts at regular intervals can help you to assess your progress and to plan future workouts. The good news (bad news?) of setting new PRs means more weight, higher reps, or greater frequency of workouts.

Joy!

Additionally, hitting new PRs make you more confident in yourself and your selected training program. Just try to stay out of the garage or basement after standing up that heavy squat clean attempt!

How to Test Your PR?

Convinced that you need to start testing and finding your PRs? Great! But hold off on loading up that barbell for minute. A few steps to take before you get after it.

  • Warm-up: I hope I don’t need to remind you why a proper warm-up is essential. If you are planning to lift a heavy load and set up a PR, you need to do an exercise or movement-appropriate warm-up first. Doing so will decreasing the risk of injuries and “activate” your body for the stresses to come.
  • Set the metrics: This means choosing the exact terms of exercise that you will set up the PR for. For example, the exact weight you will be lifting, number of reps, time, etc.

I had been chasing a sub-7:00 PR in rowing…hit it in April, 2023!

I track my stroke rate and wattage, but my total time to complete 2,000 meters is the metric here.

When I set a new squat PR last month, the ~336-pound single attempt was the metric.

  • Track your progress. Be sure to keep track of these items somewhere (in a WODBook notebook, app, etc) so you can monitor progress. I’ll admit, I’ve actually “set” the same PR multiple times (heh…) by not recording my progress and not realizing I had hit a particular weight before.

(It’s not nearly as fun when this happens!)

Types of PRs

There are many ways to set a PR.

We’ve talked about high-weight PRs and low-time PRs. If you attempt a WOD like Cindy, you can find fitness-level PR standards for the total number of reps completed in the workout.

I understand these different types of PRs can be a little confusing at times so let’s break things down a bit more clearly.

1 Rep Max (1RM) PR

One rep max (or 1RM) is the most popular PR. This refers to the maximum weight you can lift for one rep in an exercise.

It’s simple: you load the weight (with more weight than you’ve ever loaded before, I might add) and attempt the lift. The maximum weight you successfully lift for one repetition is your personal record.

Here I am, awful camera and all, setting a PR in my squat recently. The weight was loaded, I squat (and groan!) and (barely) complete the lift.

What does PR mean in gym settings? A new 1RM PR for me!

AMRAP PR

AMRAP stands for “As Many Repetitions As Possible” It simply means reaching the highest number of repetitions for a certain exercise.

For example, this could be an all-time high number of repetitions for a bodyweight movement (ex. “I did 20, unbroken strict pull-ups!”)

You can also set a PR by hitting an all-time high number of reps at a specific weight for a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell movement (ex. “Finally hit 225 for 10 (reps)!”

Finally, you can go for a high number of repetitions in a certain time domain. Like…I don’t know…51 strict pull-ups in one minute

This dude’s PR is better than mine…I can assure you!

Gym PR vs Competition PR

Yeah, I know. A PR is a PR, right?

Technically, yes, but like anything else, environmental conditions can have a huge effect on your PR attempt.

Also, like it or not, the specific setting will have an impact on how others perceive the attempt.

Step up to your favorite bench at your gym and grab your trusty, rusty barbell. Call your gym bud Hal over for a spot and crank your headphones up to 11.

Your butt may have slightly come up off the bench and maybe your pause wasn’t quite long enough, but whatever. Nobody is going to take your gym PR bench press 1RM away!

Think your bench pressing abilities are ready for prime time? Take your skills to a local powerlifting meet! However, before showing up on competition day, be sure to review the 872346.5 rules that you will need to follow to ensure your lifts count.

Image Source: https://www.facebook.com/powerliftingsavez.crnegore/photos/a.986275538091106/4209958592389435/?type=3&theater

Depending on the meet and the sanctioning entity, you might also need to leave the wraps or knee sleeves at home.

On meet day you’ll be using a totally different bench, with a totally different bar, totally different plates, and a totally different spotter(s).

With all of the additional nuances that go into competition lifting, the competition PR is generally perceived to be the more “legitimate” as well as the more “difficult” PR to set.

However, competitions do bring out hundreds of screaming spectators to cheer you on that you just don’t have in your gym, garage, or basement…

If you can’t get hyped for this, check your pulse.

Tips for Setting A New PR

So, you want to set up a new PR? Of course you do. Here are some tips to help you with that:

  • Make a plan: Planning is an important part of setting up a PR. If you’re on a 12-week lifting cycle, you might shoot to attempt a PR during the last week. However, don’t feel constrained to the confines of the programming; planning ahead is great, but if you wake up and just know that today is the day, don’t be afraid to give it a shot!
  • Warm Up: As I already mentioned, a proper warm-up is essential for any kind of PR you want to set up.
  • Regulate your diet: As you probably know, food is an essential part of getting stronger and fueling your performance. Your commitment to your body’s necessary nutrition requirements is going to impact your training as well as your performance on PR day.

…..To include training and PRs

You Have to Set a New PR Now…

No excuses

Now that you know the answer to “what does PR mean in gym settings” and why setting a PR is important for your gym goals, it’s time to get after it!

Setting new personal records will help you increase your strength, track your progress, and program your workouts moving forward.

You’ll also increase your confidence and can dunk on your friends by saying things like “I bench 315” or “I have a sub-3:00 Fran

(as we all know, the dunking on friends is the most important part!)

Whether your down in the basement or at the US Nationals competition, going for a new 1RM or trying to beat your best 5K running time, start thinking of that next PR sometime soon.

Want to push your limits even more? Check out the hardest CrossFit workouts out there.

(If you’ve tried any of these before, you of course need to attempt to PR that WOD tomorrow!)

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AUTHOR

Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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