Why Are You Chasing PRs and Personal Bests?

DeShawn Fairbairn

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Brooklyn, New York, United States

Personal Training, Fencing, Karate


Welcome to Ego Lifting 101 this is your bro coach speaking. Social media never fails to astound us with the tomfoolery that demonstrates the fitness community's finest lifters. Instagram is riddled with trips to snap city on a deadlift or a demo of a knee-jerking quarter squat or a bicep curl that looks more like a cardio session on an elliptical.


We have become obsessed with breaking a personal record (PR) without paying much attention to the fundamentals of smart programming. We are stuck with a group of persons that have embraced PR syndrome.



The point I'm making here is that training is a slow and arduous process. PRs aren't going to be set every week or every month—especially as you advance as a lifter. It’s far more important to be injury-free and only increase per phase by 5-20lbs than place yourself in an orthopod's hands due to poor judgment. Let’s look at how PR syndrome began and determine what we can do about it.


PR Syndrome

PR syndrome was invented because most people want to lift more than anyone else. Sorry to break it to you but there are things that we can aspire to train to be able to do based in good methodology.


However, some advanced methods should not be attempted by your average gym patron. We look at the magazines of strongmen and bodybuilders lifting three or four times human body weight and aspire to replicate this without considering the process of programming.


According to the OPT Model by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, there should be a progressive method from stabilization endurance to power in your training. However, the human body doesn’t always work this way. Instead, it’s hybridized to work on all facets of lifting if done correctly. There will be periods where the body requires more strength or more stability.


Through appropriate coaching there will be a plan for manipulating training intensity, volume, focus/stress, cardio, tempo and the like; this provides a much more specific way of training in comparison to cookie-cutter plans.



For the beginner, the cookie-cutter plan may prove useful because there doesn’t lie a proper foundation. After the initial preliminary stages of training, we need to continue to focus on weaknesses and improve the strengths in such a way that isn’t counterproductive.


In order to best gauge if you’re suffering from PR syndrome, perform a test week by looking at your form, weight lifted, recovery time needed between sets, and how well you recover overall each day. Furthermore, what lifts provide the most issue? You will want to engage any issues directly.


For example, a test day and a processing mechanism for programming looks like this:




  1. Perform the programmed exercise as intended.
  2. What was difficult?
  3. What was easy?
  4. What recovery time was needed between sets?
  5. What was the overall recovery time from the exercise in general?


In order to understand this concept, think of a week of seven test days happening a month from now. During every workout, if you notice a change note it and work on improving things such as activation, power output, and conditioning by having regular rest period intervals for struggling body parts.


In my philosophy of relative strength, the ultimate goal is becoming neurologically much more efficient and having a well-rounded approach to training. If we can track power leakages through markers such as poor stabilizers, taxing the prime movers to force secondary muscle groups to become just as strong, concentrating on the stretch, contracting reflexes instead of weight, and drilling proper biomechanics to prevent injury, the better we will become at adapting and growing.



On the seventh day of test week, make sure to take a rest day and focus on nutrition and life balance. I evaluate how to recover better through food and address things that are harder to control like autonomic responses and other life imbalances


 As a bodybuilder, I take this seriously day very seriously because of my hectic schedule and tendency to become overwhelmed as contest day nears. Our individual personalities play a big role in how we work through issues, however, so remember to work intelligently to yield intended results.


Ego Lifting, the Greatest Sin

There is a large difference when you test a heavier weight out of expectation based on previous performance or curiosity than if you lift to stroke your ego. Stay away from ego lifting—it is a sin.


It is also a transgression against the laws of proper biomechanics, neuromuscular science, and is not proper gym etiquette. So, why does this still occur? We often chalk this up to temptation but in reality, it is only to impress others.


In China, I was humbled and during a few instances saw examples of ego lifting causing a trainee to fail needlessly. I urge anyone to set your game plan before you enter the gym and accept failure in a calculated and non-emotional way.


If we learn to fail it teaches us to respect the weight and respect our bodies as temples of love for lifting. If we carry out protocols that are individualized and work on our most hated weaknesses, we can improve them to magnify our strengths.


In the words of Lee Haney, stimulate don't annihilate. If we are not creating an environment for growth, we are simply creating one for constant catabolism and ultimately injury. The best way to uplift your ego is by putting in the proper work.


Lift with love my friends!

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