The Steep Hill of Setting PR’s

I hit my first PR (Personal Record) on clean yesterday in over a year. Did it worry me that I hadn’t PR’d in a year? Nope, not at all.  Am I happy that I hit it? You bet. I know most people would be infuriated and banging your head against the wall if it took you over a year to PR on a movement you do all the time.  Keep in mind I’m performing cleans anywhere from 4-6 times per week as part of my training.  The thing to realize is that the heavier you lift, the fewer and further separated your PR’s will be.  Furthermore, always remember: Setting PR’s are not the only indicator of progress.

Think of progress as a steep hill. If you start out going as hard as you can, you’ll eat up ground incredibly fast. PR after PR after PR will be reached with seemingly no difficulty, but how you feel half way up the hill? Probably very tired, and slowing down a bit.  Still moving, without a doubt, but the steps are slower. You aren’t hitting as many PR’s, but you’re happy.

Now, fast forward to the last 10% of that hill. You’ve been pushing so hard for so long. The steps are barely moving and your legs are pumping battery acid at that point. Maybe you even slip and fall back a few steps. You may need to stop for a second as the razor blades tear apart your lungs. Your progress seems non-existent now. Just one step after the other without getting any higher.

This is what lifting is like. The higher up the hill, the more you have to work for even the smallest amount of progress. And those of you that have been lifting for a long time, think about how taxing a one rep max really is. Your body takes more and more of a beating the heavier you are lifting.

This is why super heavyweights rarely “max out.” They don’t want to clean and jerk over 500 lbs in training and then be too beat up to train for 3 days after that. It just isn’t worth it on a regular basis.  Think about how your last one rep max deadlift went. Your body has to be prepared, and then you know you’re going to be damn sore after.  If you aren’t recovered and ready to get after it in the first place, it’s already a steeper hill.

The more you train, the tougher it will be to continue making that “PR” lift.  It will still happen, but with increased specialization comes and increased demand.  Technique, sleep, diet, training, stress, work, etc.  All of these things are going to contribute to how you feel that day.  There are many ways to measure improvement, but setting a PR isn’t the only indicator of progress.

About Wes Feighner

Wes was an All-CIF and All County athlete in both soccer and track in high school, and went on to play four years of Division I soccer at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. At Cal Poly he earned All Conference and All Far West Region honors as the team’s first three year captain in the school’s history. After his last season at Poly, he was drafted by the Seattle Sounders in the 2012 MLS Draft. After deciding not to pursue soccer any further, he received his Bachelor's Degree in Kinesiology and then returned to Orange County and founded the Brea Barbell Club. He now coaches full time in addition to competing in weightlifting, and has coached lifters across all levels from CrossFit to national champions in weightlifting. He currently is a strength and conditioning coach at Virtus Strength, as well as the weightlifting coach for CrossFit Brea and CrossFit Whittier, all the while managing his weightlifting team and training.

Visit My Website
View All Posts