When personal bests become few and far between

When you first start training, you can pretty much expect to hit a personal best nearly every day you show up, and sometimes theyre huge PRs.

Two years later, personal bests might only happen once a week. A year after that, once a month. By the time youre 5 years into training, you may only be celebrating a meager 1-lb increase.

The reality is, the better you get, the harder it is to PR. Its not uncommon for world-class weightlifters to go a couple years or more without seeing a single gain in their numbers.

And if youre at all interested in personal improvement, its only natural to feel discouraged when it seems like youre not improving anymore.

If youre at that point, theres hope for you. The answer: Shift your focus to quality versus quantity PRs.

Here are four examples of what I mean by Quality PRs”:


4. You can move a higher percentage of your 1RM for more reps

Often times people measure strength improvements based entirely on their 1 or 3-rep max. Even if your 1-rep max hasnt improved, it doesnt mean your relative strength hasnt improved. Have you thought about how your body weight or composition has fluctuated? If you’re 10lbs lighter, and can still lift the same amount of weight, then guess what…your strength relative to your body weight has improved!

What about your 5, 10 or even 15 rep max? Being able to hold a higher percentage of your 1 rep max for multiple reps is asor even moresignificant than improving your heavy single. If you used to be able to do 5 back squats at 225 lbs, but now you can hold 225 lbs for 10 reps, thats a significant improvement worth getting excited for!


3. You move better

Lets consider a gymnastics movementbecause improving gymnastics is about so much more than just numbers.

Lets say your best consecutive muscle-ups is 6 and you have been chasing 10 consecutive muscle-ups for two years to no avail. You might feel like youre stuck and havent improved.

Although you still havent hit your goal of 10, maybe you can hold doubles and triples and quads with less rest at an easier perceived effort. Maybe youre catching your muscle-up higher because your kip is more efficient. Maybe you can do them without a false grip now. Maybe youre better at muscle-ups when youre fatigued and your 30 muscle-ups for time has improved considerably.

How about that commonly referenced back squat again…Yeah, big deal that you’ve plateaued a little bit…but what’s your movement quality like? Are you sitting deeper in the squat with a more upright torso position, and not feeling any range of motion restrictions with a weight that would usually give you trouble? Well, chalk that up as a movement quality PR also!

There are so many ways to measure improvement than just looking at hard numbers.


2. You’re less injured

This is a big one, especially for people who have had ongoing and repeated injuriesthings like a shoulder that used to flair up every time you snatched, or that nagging knee that would bother you during a high volume METCON.

Now, you move more effectively, your mobility is better and you have ironed out muscle imbalances that were contributing to your chronic pain and you no longer deal with those issues. Though its hard to celebrate this like you would a personal best, its probably a much more valuable improvement to your life than adding 10 lbs to your clean.


1. You’re more conditioned

This is a big one. Lets say, for example, a 3-minute Fran used to obliterate you. Though your best might only be 2:52 now, you can complete it, not feel crushed, and even continue to train afterward.

At a certain fitness level, it gets hard to continue to shave off time. The difference between your athletic potential and your current fitness level becomes less pronounced. That’s just the way it is and our bodies can only do so much, but if your old 100 percent effort is now your 80 percent effort, then you have improved your capacity even if you feel like its a marginal improvement.


Even if youre not on a plateau yet, if you stay the course and commit to fitness for life, you will hit a plateau one day. We all do, but when it happens, take the time to note your QUALITY improvements: Theyre as valuable as any!