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What Does PR Mean in The Gym? HomeGym101

Signing up to the gym and trying to get back into shape is one of the best decisions that you can make for your health and fitness.

But it can sometimes be quite a confusing practice, with many obscure phrases and acronyms coming out of the woodwork. PR being one of them.

So, what does PR mean in gym talk?

This article will teach you exactly what PR means, and how useful it can be for gym goers.

PR is used often in CrossFit and weightlifting when a lifter performs a feat that was previously beyond their abilities. It is a more general term than the common gym phrase “rep max” (RM) because it covers different forms of achievement, such as a faster time to complete an exercise, or a longer duration of endurance (for example, a plank). 

Personal best (PB) has the same meaning and is used more often in other English-speaking countries such as the UK. 

Hitting new PRs is an indication that your training program is effective and that it suits your abilities. If you are not hitting new PRs, then this could be down to bad programming (not difficult enough) or bad recovery practices. A common sign of overtraining is poor results in the gym. 

It should be noted however, that the more you train, the harder it is to hit a new PR. Usain Bolt never managed a new PR after breaking the World Record, because he had hit his personal limit. It is unlikely that you will ever be in that specific situation, but if you are not seeing new PRs over a 12 week period, this may just be because you are close to your potential. 

There are three terms that are commonly used: RM, PR, and PB. All three terms are used interchangeably among gym goers, but there are slight differences. There is no difference between PR and PB, they mean the same thing. But RM can is often used for very specific achievements while PR and PB are more general. 

  • RM = Rep Max. This is used to denote the maximum weight that you can lift for a certain number of reps. For example, your bench press 1 rep max would be the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one rep. It would be a heavier weight than your 10 rep max, which is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for ten reps. People use their RM to calculate what weight they should lift (60% of 1RM for 10 reps).
  • PR = Personal Record. This can be used for the bench press too. If you had previously only managed to lift 100lbs for 3 reps, and then managed to lift 105lbs for 3 reps, this would be a new personal record. But PR can also be used for a new fastest 100m time or performing 4 more reps of burpees in a row than you did last time. 
  • PB = Personal Best. PB has exactly the same meaning as PR and can be used interchangeably. It is more commonly used in English-speaking countries outside of the US.

Bottom Line: PR is used for all types of exercise achievements, whereas RM is used specifically for weight training. RM has very specific uses and is ideal for increasing strength and power. PR can be used for motivation, but also to denote progress in different activities.

It should be noted that you can make amazing gains in the gym without acknowledging PRs or RMs, just being consistent and ensuring that you finish each session feeling fatigued and like you’ve really pushed yourself. There are many people with amazing physiques who have never heard of either term. 

That being said, keeping records of your achievements and knowing what the maximum amount of weight you can lift is, can help you to get better results in a shorter period of time. 

Rep Max is used almost exclusively in strength and hypertrophy training programs, particularly strength. The goal for these programs is progressive overload. This is where you continually try to increase the weight you lift or the reps you perform incrementally. 

The idea being that your body will adapt to the new challenge and your muscles will grow stronger as a result. Strength training rarely uses a 1 rep max any more, but 2-3 rep maxes are very common. Once you know your 3 rep max, you can then use that to calculate your 10-rep max, or your 8-rep max. This can then be used to calculate what weight you need to lift for your hypertrophy training program or your strength training program. 

RM is incredibly useful for this but has little use outside of strength and hypertrophy training. If you are performing a plank, then your 1 rep max is not applicable, because there is no weight involved. 

For things like planks, runs, or bodyweight exercises that are based around endurance, using a PR is much more effective. This is why PR is so popular in CrossFit. You can also use PR in strength and hypertrophy training. It’s less specific, but in some ways it is more applicable. 

Performing 12 reps instead of 10 reps at 110lbs would be difficult to translate into rep maxes (your previous 10 rep max would now be your 12 rep max, and you would need to find your new 10 rep max). But as a personal record it works perfectly. 

Yes, you should use PR, particularly for endurance-based activities, or when the goal is to perform more reps rather than a heavier weight. PR works well for CrossFit, circuit training, boot camps, plyometrics, running, and any form of sports coaching. 

Yes, you should use RM when following a strength training program, or when following a hypertrophy program. This will allow you to pick the perfect weight for progressive overload each session, speeding up your results, and giving you a more efficient workout process. You can find RM calculators online such as this one

Here are some examples of a personal record, to help you understand what the term means, and how it can be applied to your training. 

A deadlift personal record could involve lifting a heavier weight than last time (200lbs for 10 reps rather than 180lbs for 10 reps). Or it could involve lifting the same weight for more reps (180lbs for 11 reps rather than 180lbs for 10 reps). 

Theoretically, it could also mean performing more reps using the same weight in a certain amount of time (20 reps in a minute rather than 18). But the deadlift does not lend itself well to this form of training, and personal records rarely apply here. 

A squat personal record involves either performing more reps than you had previously at a certain weight, or it can involve lifting more weight for the same reps. If you are performing as many reps as possible in a certain timeframe, then a squat PR could involve increasing the number of reps in that time. 

If you usually run 10km in 52 minutes, then running 10km in 51 minutes would be a new PR. Alternatively, running 11km in 52 minutes would also count as a new PR. 

There are many ways in which you can keep a track of your PRs, the most common method is just to remember. But this has some obvious downsides and is not recommended. Writing your workouts down in a workout log is ideal, you can then keep a note of your PRs in the logbook. You can then upload them to an online PR log (or just use Excel). 

This is one of those, “how long is a piece of string?” questions. The answer is that there are way too many factors to give a specific answer. New gym goers may see new personal records every time they walk into the gym, in the same way that it is very easy to level up at the beginning of a computer game. 

More experienced lifters/exercisers may find that they take 3 months to see an improvement in their bench press PR (for example). While experienced athletes may not see a PR for 2 years. The trick is to know when you are not making progress because your training plan is bad, and when it is down to you approaching your genetic potential. 

PR means personal record, and it is used to note when you have surpassed a previous achievement. Running a 10km race at a faster pace is a PR. As is deadlifting a heavier weight than ever before. PRs can be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of your training and/or recovery. They can also help to guide your future training programs. 


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