- PR stands for Personal Record and is the heaviest weight you have ever lifted.
- 1RM stands for one-rep max and is the heaviest weight you can currently lift for one rep.
The definition of a PR (Personal Record) is that you lift a weight you have never lifted before.
Hitting a PR in the gym means that you’ve become stronger, or at least that you have never attempted that weight and rep number before.
As gym lovers, we often like to measure how much weight we can lift in a given exercise. This is sometimes referred to as a PR (personal record), PB (personal best), or 1RM (one-rep max).
But what is the difference between these terms, and when is it important to keep them apart?
Since plenty of our strength training programs are based on your 1RM, I thought I’d take this post to clarify the terms.
1RM and PR Definition
Let’s define the terms:
- PR stands for Personal Record, and it is the heaviest weight you have ever lifted. A common synonym is PB, or personal best, which carries the same meaning.
- 1RM stands for one-rep max and is the heaviest weight you can currently lift for one rep. Note the word currently.
Your 1RM can both be higher or lower than your PR.
And in contrast to your PR, your 1RM has nothing to do with whether or not you have actually ever lifted it.
Let me explain by using examples: one where your 1RM is lower than your PR, and one where your 1RM is higher than your PR.
Example 1: 1RM Lower Than Your PR
Let’s say you have never lifted more than 90 kg in the deadlift. That is until you have an awesome workout in which you lift 100 kg for one rep for a PR. It was terribly heavy, and you are absolutely certain that you couldn’t have lifted another kilo. In this scenario and on this day, 100 kg is both your PR and your 1RM.
But then, let’s say that you take a break from training for a few months, and your strength deteriorates. On your first day back in the gym, you decide (against better judgment) to max out in deadlifts again. You pull gradually heavier weights, and finally manage to lift 80 kg for a single rep, but you fail at 82.5 kg. On this day your 1RM is 80 kg, even though your PR is still 100 kg.
If you’re planning your training based on your 1RM moving forward, you should plan based on 80 kg.
Example 2: 1RM Higher Than Your PR
Let’s stick with the same example.
You get back into the habit of deadlifting regularly again, and you stick to this routine for several months. In all your training, however, you never use a heavier weight than 100 kg.
You keep working out to the point where you can do ten repetitions on 100 kg in one set. Now: what is your PR, and what is your 1RM?
- Your PR (in a single rep) hasn’t changed. It is still 100 kg. You have never lifted anything heavier in your life, and that is still your personal record.
- Your 1RM, on the other hand, has most definitely changed and is likely far more than 100 kg. Just because you haven’t measured it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just in the same way that you have a body weight and a body temperature, even if you would never measure them.
If you were to test your 1RM on this day, you could maybe lift around 130 kg for a single repetition. If you were to do so (and you couldn’t lift any heavier), then 130 kg would become your new personal record, and you would also know that your 1RM that day was 130 kg.
If you don’t test your 1RM that day, however, your PR would still be 100 kg, and you wouldn’t know what your 1RM is on that day. Your 1RM would still be 130 kg – you just wouldn’t know.
Your PR is your historically best performance, but your 1RM is a measure of strength that constantly varies up and down, just like your body weight or temperature. And, just like your body weight and temperature, you don’t have to measure your 1RM in order to have one. It is perfectly possible to have a 1RM of 130 kg even if you have never lifted heavier than 100 kg in your life.
A stranger on the street that has never deadlifted has a 1RM in the deadlift (but no one knows what it is), but he or she does not have a PR.
1RM is a constantly varied, fleeting measurement of your current strength in a single rep. Your personal record is the heaviest weight you have ever lifted. These are not necessarily the same thing.
My personal record in the deadlift is 260 kg, but if I were to go out in my garage gym right now and max out, I don’t think I would have been able to lift more than 240 kg. My PR is 260 kg, but my 1RM is 240 kg.
Another example comes from a study where three participants (two powerlifters and one weightlifter) maxed out in squats every day for 36 days. Meaning, they tested their 1RM every day and got different measurements that varied from day to day.
So what do you do with this information?
The most important thing is probably to use the right weight (1RM vs. PR) when you follow a 1RM-based training program or workout.
Let’s say you’re going to follow our popular deadlift specialization program Deadlift Disco, which is based on different percentages of your 1RM.
If your two-year-old PR is 200 kg, but your current 1RM is closer to 180 kg, entering the latter when you start the program will likely give you a far more productive training cycle.
So, when you are about to start a new training program, and it calls for your 1RM, think about what you could lift now or perhaps within a week of preparation.
If you are experienced, you might be comfortable adjusting this number up or down depending on what you think will give you the most productive training cycle.
1RM and PR are two separate things. Sometimes they will be the same number, but this is often only the case during very short periods of time.
Your PR is your historically best performance, but your 1RM is a measurement that varies up and down in the same way as your body weight or temperature.
If you plan your training based on your strength, then it is mainly your 1RM you should base it on. That is your current strength. Don’t base your training weights off of a one year old PR.
One way to estimate your 1RM without maxing out is to use our 1RM calculator, available for free both in our workout app and on the link below. Based on how many reps you can do on a given weight, it will calculate an estimate of your 1RM, as well as your 2–10RM.
Link: 1RM Calculator: Calculate Your One Rep Max
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s wrap up by answering some frequently asked questions regarding personal records.
Is PR One Rep? How Many Reps is a PR?
A PR can mean any number of repetitions. The most common meaning, however, is to talk about your PR in one repetition.
But you can have personal records for all rep ranges and weights, and you can track these in our app StrengthLog for free.
For example, two of my personal records in the bench press is 162.5 kg in a single repetition, and 130 kg for ten repetitions. Both are personal records, but for different rep numbers.
Does a Gym PR Count, or Only a Competition PR?
Of course a gym PR can count!
But it depends on you and what you want to compare yourself against.
If you’re only training for your enjoyment, you can set any rules you want for yourself.
If you want to be a competitive powerlifter, and you want to keep track of your strength development, then maybe a squat PR done in the gym where you didn’t reach squat depth, and your buddy had his hands on the barbell isn’t as good a yardstick as a competition lift performed in front of judges.
Almost everyone count their gym PRs, but if they are competitive, they also have a mental list for what they’ve lifted in competition.
How Often Should I Attempt a PR?
Well, it depends.
As previously mentioned, a PR can be any number of reps. So if you, for instance, follow our beginner barbell workout plan and do three sets of five reps at increasingly (+2.5 kg / 5 lb) heavier weights every workout and you have never trained before, then every workout is a PR.
If you have been training for several years, then your progress rate will have slowed down and you will have to train for weeks or months before you have increased your strength enough to hit a PR.
In the latter case, attempting a PR before you’ve done enough training to actually get stronger is perhaps not the best use of your time. Instead of a failed PR attempt, you could have done another productive training session.
“Train, don’t test” is good advice when it comes to maxing out in the gym. That said, if you want to attempt a new pr occasionally, then by all means, do so.
To give you a rule of thumb: about every 4–6th week of hard training might be a good interval to go for new records for the intermediate lifter. Many of our training programs are six weeks long, so after one of those is a good time.
The advanced lifter might need 6–12 weeks of training before a new PR attempt is meaningful, and the beginner lifter doesn’t have any business going for one-rep PRs at all. Just work out with increasingly heavier weights, which will, by themselves, be PRs (just for other rep numbers).
How Can I Increase My PR?
You increase your PR with training. The better suited your training is to your current strength level and experience, the faster you will gain strength.
You will need to practice the specific exercise which you wish to improve and implement some form of progressive overload to stimulate adaptation. If you want to hit a PR for a single repetition, you will want to practice lifting heavy weights. It can also be helpful to do some assistance exercises to promote muscle growth and further increase your potential for strength gains.
We have a big list of training programs available on this site and specialized powerlifting or bench press programs. Check out the lists of programs below to find one suited to your current level.
If you don’t want to try lifting a one-rep max in the gym, you can estimate your 1RM using our 1RM calculator.