All About PR Sets

What is a PR?

Personal records (PRs) are when you break your previous best performance on any given lift. A common misconception is that a PR must be using more weight than you’ve ever lifted before, typically for 1 rep. While it’s a perfect valid PR to hit a new 1-rep max, it’s only one way of PRing. You have a PR opportunity for any rep amount or any load you’ve ever executed/used on every exercise you’ve ever performed in the gym.

The two most common ways to PR is: 
  • Lifting the same amount of weight for more reps than you ever have
    • ex: Doing your 5-rep max for 6 reps
  • Lifting more weight for a given number of reps than you ever have
    • ex: Adding 5 pounds onto your 5-rep max 


For compound exercises in particular, keeping track of your PRs can both help predict how much weight you should be using in future months and  ensure you’re progressing over the long-run. Even if your goals are physique-oriented in nature, hitting PRs is a requirement for continual progress; you can think of this as a way of keeping the effort (proximity to failure) high in response to neuromuscular adaptations.



What is a PR set?

A PR set is intended to be pushed at max effort. There’s no defined rep range or percentage of your 1-rep max, which gives you the freedom to break any PR of yours. Whether that’s setting a new 1 rep max, doing a 20-rep max with more weight than you have, or anywhere in between. If you have a good sense of what your PRs are for a variety of rep amounts / loads, use your intuition to break whatever PR you think is most plausible.  
If you’re unsure where to start, use week 1 to set a baseline, selecting any weight you feel comfortable with and doing as many reps as possible (AMRAP) with it. There’s no “wrong” answer for how you decide to PR – what’s critical to getting the most out of this style of training is to push as hard as you’re able to.
If you’re still lost, do as follows (use the 1-rep max calculator if you're unsure of what your max is): 
  • Week 1: 80% of 1RM for AMRAP
  • Week 2: 90% of 1RM for AMRAP
  • Week 3: 85% of 1RM for AMRAP
  • Week 4: 93% of 1RM for AMRAP



Pushing sets to max effort will require a bit more diligence than the more “standard” level of 1-3 reps in reserve (RIR). While you want to avoid actually failing on a rep, it’s very much within the realm of possibility. To start, ensure you have the safety pins appropriately set up on the squat, and a spotter readily able to assist if you happen to fail on bench press. Deadlifting tends to lead to technical failure (form breakdown) before mechanical failure (muscular failure), so be aware to brace properly and end the set when you feel your form is breaking down. Hip thrusting has a significantly lower injury risk since if you happen to go too heavy or push for a bit too many reps, you’ll either not be able to nudge the bar off the ground, or you won’t be able to lock the bar out (in which case, you should end the set).