Today is PR day for me, so I thought I would write a post about it!
What? PR stands for personal record, so simply put, PR day is when an athlete tests their limits for a given exercise to see if they can make a new record for themselves. For example, a powerlifter might build up to a new record for the most weight they can deadlift for a given number of reps. Most of the time a lifter will go for a new 1RM (1 rep max) on PR day, or the most weight they can lift for 1 repetition. You can really go for a new record in any exercise though – from a new best time for running a mile to the max number of pullups you can do in 2 minutes. Personally, I usually test my pushups, 1RM deadlift, and/or pullups. Since I don’t yet have a squat rack, I can’t test my squat except for how many reps I can do with 100 lbs (the amount I’m comfortable cleaning to a front rack position).
Why? Setting a new record for yourself is one of the best ways to measure your improvements in your fitness levels, and it’s a great way to motivate yourself to keep going.
How often? I personally like to go for a new PR once or (rarely) twice a month. Everyone’s body is different, but if you push your limits too often, you will end up weaker in your regular workouts because of it. When I was a real newbie to lifting and fitness, I used to schedule a PR day every week. That was way too often for me and my training suffered because of it. After all, it takes weeks to really improve strength, so you can’t expect to have a new record too often. I’ve finally found what works for me. Once every few weeks is enough to keep me motivated, but see steady improvement in my strength.
How to? When you are going for a new personal best, you don’t want to do a complete workout and then test yourself. You need to be as fresh and strong as possible to really get an accurate assessment of your best. So it’s best to do a few warm up sets to wake your muscles up, and then go for your new record. For lifting, I like to do 3 warm up sets (building), and then build up to my 1RM within 3 additional sets. For pushups, I will do some dynamic upper body stretches and a few sets of half pushups to loosen up my joints and get the blood flowing. For pullups, I do dynamic stretching and some hanging work. I can’t do too much warming up of my lats before pullups though because they get worn out more quickly than my other muscle groups.
Self care afterwards… When you make your body give you it’s all, it’s important to take care of it afterwards. Going for a new PR is tough, but it is different than a regular workout. If you’re as much of a fitness addict as I am, you may feel the need to do another workout afterwards, but I would encourage you to let yourself rest. Do a nice long cooldown and stretch, and roll out your muscles with a foam roller. This reduces the risk of injury, can help prevent soreness, works out knots, and relaxes your muscles.
My PR for Deadlift, Pushups, and Pullups on 2/4/17:
Deadlift: 235lbs (1.8x my bodyweight)
Pullups: 8 (strict, on rings)
A couple of weeks ago I tried 235# for the first time for deadlift, and I couldn’t get it by pulling conventional, but I was able to barely lift it with good form in a sumo deadlift stance. Today it felt a LOT easier and I was able to lift it conventionally. Unfortunately though I made the mistake of adding too much weight after that and burned out my muscles before I could find a weight to beat my record. I’m going to try for 240# and then (if I get that) 250# later this week, because I really should have been able to get one or both of those.