January 15, 2024

What does PR mean? Gym Beginner Guide

Fit Results Team
What does PR mean? Gym Beginner Guide

You might've seen the words PR on social media as fitness influencers proudly shout the words after their 225 lbs bench press, running 8 miles on a treadmill, or even on their 365th consecutive day hopping in the ice bath.

Achieving a new PR might take days for some and for others; it can take months or even years, depending on your specific goal.

But why should you care about setting a PR? And what strategies should you employ to achieve any PR in your life? Let's guide you through it, step by step!

What is PR?

PR' stands for 'Personal Record.' It's the best performance you've achieved in a specific exercise. 

This might be the heaviest weight you've lifted in a particular exercise or the most repetitions you've done at a certain weight.

For instance, if your record for a squat is 325 lbs for one rep, and you manage to squat 330 lbs, that's a new PR. 

Similarly, if you've done five reps of 225 lbs on the bench press and later achieve six reps at the same weight, that's also a new PR.

PRs are often associated with major exercises like bench presses, deadlifts, and squats. 

However, they can apply to any exercise or fitness activity. They're a way to track your progress and can be a great source of motivation to continue improving.

Types of PR

Weightlifting PR

This refers to the heaviest weight you've successfully lifted for a specific exercise.

For instance, if you're a weightlifter, your weightlifting PR could be the maximum weight you've squatted, deadlifted, or bench-pressed. 

It's a clear indicator of your maximal strength in that particular lift.

This could also be considered your One Rep Max (1RM) which is a measure of strength and power, representing the maximum amount of weight you can lift in a single repetition of a given exercise.

I will elaborate on the differences between 1RM and PR later in this article. So stay tuned.

Repetition PR

Unlike the weightlifting PR, which focuses on the weight lifted, the repetition PR is all about how many times you can perform an exercise with a given weight.

This could mean doing the most number of push-ups, squats, or any other exercise at a specific weight before fatigue sets in. It's a useful metric for gauging muscular endurance and stamina.

Volume PR

This is a broader measure encompassing the total amount of work done in a single workout session. It calculates the sum of all sets and reps across various exercises. 

For example, if you do three sets of ten squats, two sets of twelve bench presses, and four sets of eight deadlifts in a workout, your volume PR would be the total of all these sets and reps. 

It's a comprehensive way to assess overall workout intensity and endurance.

Time PR

This PR is about achieving the best time or the highest number of reps within a specific time frame. 

Commonly used in bodyweight exercises, this could mean doing as many burpees, sit-ups, or push-ups as possible in 30 or 60 seconds. 

It's a great way to test and improve speed, agility, and muscular endurance.

Cardiovascular PR

This type of PR focuses on the ability to perform aerobic activities for extended periods without excessive fatigue. 

For instance, it could involve measuring how long you can sustain a high-intensity activity like cycling, swimming, or running. 

The goal is to work out longer and more efficiently, enhancing overall cardiovascular health.

Running PRs

Specifically for runners, these PRs track the best times achieved in different running events, like a 5k race, a marathon, or a sprint. 

It's a critical measure for runners to gauge their speed, endurance, and progress over time.

Personal Records (PR) That Go Beyond the Gym

PRs aren't just about doing better in a workout. They can also be about getting better at anything you decide to focus on.

Consistency Streaks PRs

This is about keeping up with something every day. It could be anything from going for a run each morning, taking a cold shower daily, to sleeping at a specific time every night. 

The idea is to pick a habit that might be affecting you negatively and work on improving it through regular practice. 

For example, set a goal like going to the gym every day for 30 days or meditating for 5 minutes each day for the same duration. 

It's all about building a positive habit through consistent action.

Nutritional PRs

This method focuses on making better food choices or cutting out a bad eating habit. Say you have a habit of snacking on Pringles while watching Netflix. 

You could challenge yourself to go 21 days replacing those Pringles with a healthier option like carrots and hummus. 

You could also do a 21-day challenge to eat budget-friendly foods for a month.

This is just a couple of ways to do it, but the idea is to make a healthier swap in your diet and stick with it for a set period.

Mental Health PRs

The aim here is to improve your mental well-being. 

This could include various activities like listing three things you're grateful for every night before sleeping, committing to journaling for 30 days or deciding to stop scrolling through social media for two weeks. 

These are just examples, and you can tailor them to fit your lifestyle and what you feel is impacting your mental health

The key is to choose activities that positively influence your mental state and commit to them for a set period.

How does PR differ from 1RM?

A PR is the best performance you’ve ever achieved in a specific exercise or even an activity that goes beyond fitness. While the 1RM is the maximum amount of weight that a person can theoretically lift for one repetition of a given exercise. Let me explain the differences in detail:

PR (Personal Record)

  • What It Is: PR is your best performance in any exercise. It's not just about weight; it can be about how many times you can do an exercise, how fast you can run, or how long you can swim.
  • Use: PR is used in all kinds of exercises. It's used for tracking how you're improving over time, whether you're lifting weights, running faster, or doing more in your workout.
  • Flexibility: It can be used in different exercises and fits various fitness goals. Whether you're a runner, swimmer, or weightlifter, you can track your PR.
  • Measuring: Measuring your PR can vary. It depends on what your fitness goals are. It could be lifting a certain weight, running a certain distance, or doing a certain number of repetitions.
  • Who Uses It: PR is for anyone interested in fitness. Whether you're into general fitness, endurance sports like running or cycling, or even weightlifting, you can track your PR.
  • Goal: The goal with PR is to keep getting better at different aspects of fitness. It encourages you to set personal goals in various areas, not just lifting weights.

1RM (One-Rep Max)

  • What It Is: 1RM is the heaviest weight you can lift for just one time in a specific exercise. It's a way to measure how strong you are in that exercise.
  • Use: 1RM is mostly used in strength training. It helps you know the most weight you can handle, which is important for planning your weightlifting workouts.
  • Flexibility: 1RM is more focused. It's all about that one time you lift the heaviest weight possible. It's a specific goal for people who want to increase their strength in weightlifting.
  • Measuring: Measuring 1RM is straightforward. It's the maximum weight you can lift in one go. It's a clear and specific number that shows your strength level in that lift.
  • Who Uses It: 1RM is mainly for people who are into weightlifting or strength training. It's a key measure for athletes in sports like powerlifting.
  • Goal: The goal with 1RM is to increase your strength to the maximum in a specific lift. It's about pushing your limit on how much weight you can lift once.

The Epley Formula to Convert PR to 1RM

This is a widely used formula. If you know your PR (the maximum weight you can lift for a certain number of reps), you can estimate your 1RM using the formula:

1RM = Weight Lifted×(1+0.0333×Number of Reps)

For example, if your PR is lifting 100 lbs for 5 reps, your estimated 1RM would be:

1RM=100×(1+0.0333×5)=116.65 lbs

There are other formulas like the Brzycki formula, the Lombardi formula, etc., each with slight variations. However, the Epley formula is one of the most common and simple to use.

NASM One Rep Max Calculator

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers tools like the One Rep Max Calculator. These tools typically use similar formulas. 

When using the NASM calculator, you input the maximum weight you can lift for a certain number of reps (your PR), and the calculator estimates your 1RM.

For example, if you input that you can squat 150 lbs for 6 reps, the calculator will use a formula (like the Epley) to estimate your 1RM for the squat.

Why is PR important?

It Helps Track Your Progress Over Time

Let's say you started running and initially, the maximum you could run was 15 minutes at 9 miles per hour, with a goal to eventually run 30 minutes at 10 miles per hour. 

To get there, you need to set personal records along the way – first running for 18 minutes, then 22, then 25 and so on, until you reach your 30-minute goal. 

Each of these milestones, beyond 15 minutes, becomes your new personal record. 

Setting a PR helps you track your progress, showing you the point at which you were able to run for 18 minutes, and how many days or weeks it took you to reach the 20-minute mark after that. 

So, PR is not just about setting a record; it's a valuable tool for tracking your journey.

It Can Motivate You to Work Harder

When you have a specific goal, like quitting processed foods, you might need to refrain from the junk foods you're used to snacking on. 

This could involve replacing them with healthier options or avoiding them altogether, depending on your situation. 

Changing deep-rooted habits isn't easy and might take weeks or months. But every day you go without processed foods sets a new personal record. 

From a point where you ate these foods daily, you might decide to go 7 days without them. 

Once you achieve this, you realize it's possible, and you set another goal – maybe 15 days, then 30. 

Each PR you achieve motivates you to work harder towards your health goals.

It Builds Confidence

Knowing deep down that you can achieve something you previously thought impossible gives you a great sense of confidence in your abilities. 

For example, some people might think, 'Gym workouts aren't for me, I'll stick to walking,' until they join a gym due to health reasons. 

Then they realize their preconceived notions about gyms were incorrect, and it's actually easier to exercise with professional guidance than to follow random workouts they saw or read about. 

So for people like this even enrolling in a gym in itself is a personal record.

PRs Can Give You a Sense of Purpose and Commitment

When you set a PR, like doing 30 repetitions of ab crunches, starting from a point where you could barely do 15, it doesn't seem like a huge leap. 

But it gives you a sense of purpose, showing that your body is capable of reaching that goal as long as you stay consistent and put in the hard work every day.

PRs Can Push You to Levels You Didn't Think Were Possible

Nelson Mandela once said, 'It always seems impossible until it's done.' 

This is incredibly relevant in the context of PRs. Take Eliud Kipchoge, for example, who is a marathon runner. 

Before he did it, everyone in the running world thought completing a marathon of 26.2 miles in under 2 hours was impossible but he finished it at 1 hour 59 minutes, and 40 seconds. 

Setting a goal and striving to achieve it with all you've got can reveal strengths and capabilities you never knew you had. 

This could be training for a 5k marathon, which might seem impossible if you've never exercised before or only done light workouts. 

But setting and achieving PRs can help you change limiting beliefs about yourself and what's possible.

How to Hit Your PR?

Here are strategies that will help you set and achieve your PR regardless if it's a gym-related goal or something that you want to improve in your overall health.

Put a Number On Your PR Goal

If you're looking to improve your 5k marathon time and your current best is 50 minutes, then set a new PR goal of finishing in 48 minutes, instead of just saying you want to improve your marathon timing. 

Avoid being vague with your goals. Having a clear, measurable goal in mind means you know exactly what you're working towards, making it easier to track. 

Similarly, in the gym, if you're aiming to improve a particular workout, set a specific target. If your 1 rep max at bench press is 250 lbs, then aim for a PR of 260 lbs.

Make it Possible

Your PR shouldn't be something completely out of reach. 

For instance, if you're aiming to lose 20 pounds and you've just started working out, setting a goal to lose it all in a month isn't realistic. 

The goal you set has to be appropriately measured in terms of the time you need. 

Realistically, a person can lose about 0.9lbs a week, so you'll need around 5 months to reach that target. 

So you need to measure and calculate how long it will take and what you need to do every day to get there.

Customize it to Your Individual Lifestyle

What works for one person won't necessarily work for you. Some people have a routine of waking up at 5 am and hitting the gym 7 days a week. 

Others might take cold showers in the morning before going to the gym. 

Maybe you don't need to do all that. Perhaps you can only train 4 days a week because of your busy lifestyle. 

The point is, whatever PR you want to achieve, the routine around it has to be based on your own lifestyle, which you can figure out with your personal trainer to see which schedule works best for you.

Create Discipline

To achieve any PR goals, you need to develop healthy habits and discipline. If you rely on willpower and sporadic motivation, it will be extremely hard to stay consistent, let alone reach your PR. 

Studies show that a part of the brain known as the Anterior Cingulate Cortex grows when you do things that you perceive as difficult. [1]

This is important because this shows that you can train your brain to do the things you initially perceived as difficult.

For example, staying consistent with your exercise schedule can be challenging for many people, especially when starting out. 

But studies show that when you do it enough times, it becomes a habit, which can take anywhere from 18 to 251 days. [2] Once it's a habit, you don't need to use willpower to do whatever it is you want to do. 

So, with any PR record you want to achieve, there has to be discipline and consistency. 

For some, this could mean refraining from eating or drinking something for a few weeks, and for someone training for a marathon, this could mean months of training. 

So, it's up to you and your goals; however, the method remains the same.

Be Prepared for Setbacks

Know that failure is bound to happen. Just because you thought you would do that 400lbs squat because you felt like it doesn't mean that you will for sure. 

There could be times when you train, eat well, sleep well, and yet find it difficult to reach your personal record. 

It could simply mean that you need more time than you originally thought, or maybe you need to change something nutritionally or talk about your workout schedule with your trainer. 

But the point is that these kinds of setbacks are bound to happen. Instead of looking at yourself as a failure, just prepare for it with a commitment that you'll do whatever it takes, for however long it takes. It's a long-term commitment.


There you have it. A PR, or Personal Record, is just that – reaching a level you've never been to before.

It could be anything, like doing better in the gym, swimming longer, cycling faster, or even managing to go a few days without eating that muffin you really love.

PR is about having the strength, willpower, and commitment to push yourself further than before. 

It's also about changing the way you think about what you can achieve, getting past those thoughts that tell you 'I can't do this’ because most of the time, they're wrong. You got this!


  1. Miró-Padilla, A., Adrián-Ventura, J., Cherednichenko, A. et al. Relevance of the anterior cingulate cortex volume and personality in motivated physical activity behaviors. Commun Biol 6, 1106 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-023-05423-8

  2. Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998-1009. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674

Fit Results Team

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