The 5 Rules of Targeting a New Personal Record

Many of us who’ve been doing CrossFit long enough know that you can’t rely on beginner gains – the improvement in muscle size, fat loss and strength you see in the first 18-24 months – forever. If you’ve been training hard and it’s finally time to re-test your lifts, you should have a game plan. Here are a few rules to follow so that you’re triumphant!

Rule No 1. – Don’t spend too much time in the lower percentages of your maximum lift. I’ve tried many different ways to approach a new personal record. The one that seems to work best is 5,3,1,1 and then attack!

  • Set 1 is 5 reps at 65-70%
  • Set 2 is 3 reps at 75-80%
  • Set 3 is 1 rep at  85-90%
  • Set 4 is 1 rep just below or just above your current PR (why hit a weight you’ve already hit?)
  • Sets 5, 6 and 7 are budgeted for your new personal record.

When I lift, I usually go off “feel” and how good (or bad) the movement looks. If I hit my 1 rep max deadlift on set 4, and it could have looked better, I take about 3 minutes and only add about 5-10 lbs.

Rule No 2. – Make aggressive and calculated attempts on your lifts. If you stay true to rule number 1 then you know that you can ramp up rather quickly. Time between sets should be around 3 minutes given how you feel. As you ramp up towards your new PR, you may need more time to recover.

Rule No 3. – Three failed lifts at any weight and the attempt is over. Don’t beat yourself up over spilled milk, or spilled weights for that matter. If you miss a lift, make a realistic assessment of what went wrong. My personal rule is that if you’re stuck at a weight – and you miss it 3 times – then chalk it up to a bad day and let it go for the day.

Rule No 4 – Stay safe and train to train another day. Learn to bail from a lift safely! There is no shame in bailing from a lift; it means you’re attempting something hard.  If you’ve already hit your PR, be smart and know your limits.

Rule No 5 – Whether it’s a 1/4 lb or 50 lb PR, it’s still a new personal record. Celebrate and record PRs, whatever they are.

Most importantly, if you’re feeling stuck on or have questions about your lifts, the staff here are all great resources for you! I encourage you to reach out to me at to set up a free goal-setting session any time.

If you think you may benefit from some in-depth coaching on the more complicated lifts, custom coaching can help you get to that new PR.