What Are PRs in the Gym? (And Why It’s a MUST to Track Them)

What Are PRs in the Gym?

Perhaps you’ve become a newly passionate gym goer or maybe you’re training for a 10K race. However, you feel like your progress has stalled and you recently notice some people in the gyms with notebooks writing down information about their lifts in between sets, overhearing the two letters “PR”. What’s all this about and how can this pertain to my fitness journey?

A PR, or personal record, is an excellent way to keep track of your progress in the gym and can be applied to other fitness activities such as running or cycling. Tracking your workouts week to week along with proper form, consistency and nutrition can help you achieve PR’s and meet overall fitness and strength goals faster.

Ready to learn more about PRs and why you should track them? Let’s dive in!

What Are PRs? 

PR means “personal record.” It’s your own personal best that you have accomplished in your fitness journey, and it is something to celebrate!

Side note: There are a lot of acronyms in the gym!

Some others used are “reps” or repetitions of an exercise. As well as “sets” which indicates how many times you will complete that specific exercise.

The wording sounds something like “3 sets of 10 reps of bicep curls.” This means you will complete 10 reps of bicep curls, rest, 10 reps of bicep curls, rest and 10 reps of bicep curls, for a total of 3 sets.

What Are PRs in Weightlifting?

A PR in weightlifting refers to how much weight you can lift or how many reps you are able to accomplish at a given weight. For example:

  • You are currently able to deadlift 150 pounds for one rep. A new PR would be reached when you can deadlift 160 for one rep, or; 
  • Your personal record for shoulder press is 8 reps at 20 pounds. When you hit 10 reps at 20 pounds, that is considered a new PR.

What is Max PR in Weight Training?

A Max PR, or 1 rep max (1 RM), is defined as “The maximal weight that can be lifted for only one repetition with correct technique.” (1RM Testing).

It is a scientifically studied method that reliably predicts the max amount of weight one is able to lift.

Warming up properly and maintaining correct form is imperative to max PR training. Having a personal trainer or a spotter present would be the best idea when trying out your Max PR.

What Are PRs in Fitness?

A PR in fitness can refer to your best time for cardiovascular activity. For example:

  • You can run a mile in 10 minutes. when you are able to run a mile in less than 10 minutes, let’s say 9 minutes and 50 seconds, you have reached a new time PR for running

The same goes for distance:

  • You used to be able to cycle for 10 miles. Now you are able to cycle for 11 miles. That is a new distance PR.

What is ER in the Gym?

ER stands for exertional rhabdomyolysis. This relates to the muscle breakdown in response to strenuous exercise. It is seen often in the military, those who perform extremely intense exercise, or strenuous exercise in someone who has not exercised.

Symptoms include severe muscle pain, weakness, swelling and the rise of a lab blood test marker called creatinine kinase. 

It can be severe resulting in hospital admission or damage to the kidneys.

To be sure to avoid this, stretch before workouts, take rest days, hydrate, and know your max limits of exercise to be able to push yourself, but not to the point of consistent failure.

How to Track Your PRs

One of the best ways to build muscle and get stronger is to gradually increase the weight you lift over a period of time. Tracking your PR’s is one of the best ways to accomplish your fitness goals.

Tracking your lifts/fitness week to week is a reasonable option. You can jot this down in a notebook or on your phone at the gym. This can also show you how much you progress in your lifts or fitness over time.

This is what tracking your lifts/fitness week to week can look like.

4/22: Squat1258
4/28: Squat1258
4/4: Squat12510Felt strong today! New rep PR!
4/8: Squat1354New weight PR!

How Often Should You Do a PR Set?

While there are absolutely excellent benefits to completing PR sets such as increased muscle and overall strength, completing them too often can lead to injury.

Our bodies must recover to build muscle and we do not want to experience injuries in our strengthen training or fitness journey.

For example, runners who are training for a half marathon will complete 2 miles one day, 4 the next day, rest, then run 8 miles, have a rest day, then back down to 3 miles. They will not run a half marathon every day to train!

For strength, some say hitting a PR every 8-12 weeks is reasonable, and some say 3 weeks, though this is for competition weightlifters.

An indicator to go up in weight can be when 10+ reps start feeling easy at that specific weight, try going up a dumbbell size and do 4-8 reps and see how that feels. Always consult your certified personal trainer to know what the best training plan is for you.

Tips for New Personal Records

  1. Staying consistent with your workout plan and showing up to reach you goals will be one of the most important things to help you achieve PR’s.
  2. With that being said, don’t forget to add in a rest day, like mentioned above. Any type of workout you do stresses muscles. Letting them have time to repair and recover before your next workout will set you up for success rather than trying to hit a PR every day.
  3. Keeping a log of your workouts, lifts, runs, and of course PRs, will actually help you achieve new PR’s. This can be a motivating factor to see how far you’ve come.
  4. Keeping a balanced diet and fueling your body with the right foods for training will help you reach your PR’s as well. The body can’t function at its peak without peak nutrition!

PR Gym Equipment

PR’s can be reached with any gym equipment, not just free weights, dumbbells and barbells!

Leg Press Machine

This leg press machine has great reviews. You can hit a strength or a rep PR on a let press machine. Don’t forget to purchase plates for this one, if you choose it!

The Rower

With over 15,000 reviews and 4.4 out of 5 starts, this is one of the highest rated, reasonably priced rowers on Amazon. You can hit a PR on the rower for time or for distance.


For the winter months, getting a treadmill can allow you to meet PR fitness goals in the comfort of your own home. You can train for a summer race in the winter, or hit your PR mile time morning, afternoon, or night.

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