T Nation

Setting PR Goals


I am a bit confused about setting my goals for new rep records. Let’s say I started my first cycle and did 10 reps @ 5’s week, 8 @ 3’s week, and 6 @ 5/3/1, all of which were new records that surpassed the previous week. On the first week of the next cycle, which is again the 5’s week, should I;

a) Try to break my record on the first 5’s week, or;

b) Try to break my record on the previous week, which was the 5/3/1 week?

The reason I ask is I don’t think anyone can keep adding weights and continue to hit the same reps. In that case, even breaking the PR of the first week is pretty tough, since I need to get again approximately 9-10 reps with the increased weight, let alone breaking the PR of the last 5/3/1 week, which was obviously more than the first 5’s week?

In short, is the logic to break the record of the last week, cycle after cylce, or is it just breaking records WITHIN a cycle?

I hope I am clear enough and thank you for your time.


You try to break the record with that weight.

So let’s say you have a TM of 100 lbs. On the first cycle week one, your final set would be 85 lbs for AMRAP. The next cycle you increase your TM to 105 lbs. Your final set for the first week would be 90 lbs for AMRAP.

How many reps you got in previous cycles with a different weight are of no importance.


Thank you for helping. So my goal for cycle 2 week 2 is to break the record of 90 lbs x AMAP with 95 lbs x AMAP and what I did in the first cycle is irrelevant?


For C2W2 you would do an AMRAP with 95 lbs, and try to beat your previous best with 95 lbs.

How many reps you got the previous week, with a different weight has no effect on how many reps you try and get.

So your rep records might look something like this.

C1W1 85 lbs 10 reps
C1W2 90 lbs 8 reps
C1W3 95 lbs 6 reps
C1W4 deload

C2W1 90 lbs 11 reps
C2W2 95 lbs 7 reps
C2W3 100 lbs 4 reps
C2W4 deload


Thank you for the help


Another way to do it would be to use the rep max calculator from the book to figure out how much your calculated max is for a certain weight. Whatever that is, figure out how many reps of the new weight you would need to hit in order to match or beat the estimated rep max from the previous weight.

Depending on the lift, I use both methods. I keep my training log on my phone so it’s easy for me to look back to the last time I lifted that weight and try to beat it.

Hope that makes sense.


I like to use the calculator to help set goals. I’ve also capped my sets at 10 regardless of the week and have had some pretty good success with that. Can’t go that route as long, but it sets a very clear goal for the day.


Using the formula is precisely why I asked this question. I have always done it that way, but you can’t just keep exceeding your estimated max every single workout. It can be done within a cycle, but not every single workout or cycle after cycle. Because even though the weight increases, the reps you can do decreases and this decrease eventually overpowers the increase in weight, which gives you lower estimated maxes using the formula.


That’s why you reset your TM. 5/3 is a good way to do it and takes a lot of the questions out of it and allows you to back off and continue to make progress.


These are just goals to shoot for. Expecting to be setting PRs every time is ridiculous, as you mentioned. It’s just good to have a rep goal before grabbing the bar. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know how far to try to push your set.

Also, the use of the TM allows you to have bad days and still get in the required work. You clearly already know this.


Exactly. You set goals, you push to hit them. If you don’t, you still pushed yourself and doing that consistently over a long period of time leads to big gains. It’s also one reason why it’s recommended to rotate between templates.


Thank you both, really appreciate it.


So -
The rep formula is key - like a few of you mentioned -
I find this to be key to this equation.

weight x reps x .0333 + weight.

It’s talked about I know in the first book and i think in all of them.
So if you bench 100lbs x 10 on your 5’s week - the formula suggests you have a max of around 133 pounds. The goal is to beet that.
So, if your 3’s week is 110, and you hit it 7 times - that calculates out to 135 -
You have yourself a PR.

Why this is important is because it gives you several options/ opportunities to hit a PR at different weights - the formula - the .0333 specifically - remains a constant and calibrates the whole thing - so to speak.

Some people are stronger in some lifts at lower weights - i.e. they can hit more reps than others. Others can’t rep out period - but they can push there singles and triples.

The point is - breaking a rep record at 85% means you got stronger - just like setting aa 1 rep max record.

There are many weeks where I do not hit a PR - I might fall just short, or I might choose Jokers, etc.

The point is I have options.


The key for me after hitting a wall has always been this -
Hit the required reps on the last set and hit PR’s on your FSL -
Eventually - it gets started again - 1 way or another


I know what the formula is and how to use it. This was my point and the reason I asked my question; it is impossible to keep setting records based on the formula. Eventually the decrease in reps you can do catches up with the increase in the weight and the numbers the formula gives fall.


Using the formula for setting PRs is one big part of what makes this program so awesome (at least for me). It gets harder and harder as you get stronger, but thats how its supposed to be. The more you need to work for hitting PRs, more rewarding it is when you do. I take the PRs any day or week I can and appericiate the work that lead to those sets, which is always the average, unsexy grinding days and following the plan.


That’s the point. The weight catches up over a few cycles and your reps build back up. That’s building strength. It just takes longer and harder, the stronger you get. It’s not linear. It’s like chasing a wave. The further you are away from 5 reps, the better. Just because you aren’t setting PR’s doesn’t mean you aren’t getting stronger.


And that’s why you lift weights, eat, recover - so you get stronger. And progress slows down and stops and you keep plugging away, decade after decade.


Thank you Jim and badboy69cancer for the straightforward answers. I wasn’t looking for a new method to set records but just wanted to know if it was okay to not being able to set records sometimes, since it is one of the core principles. I knew the weight would eventually catch up and reps would fall – obviously –, and that it is not linear, but since we use a formula with multiple variables, I was wondering if the increase in weight-decrease in reps should balance each other and give a higher number as a result. Anyway, thank you again.


They always have for me so far.

Absolutely. Especially, with certain lifts. My first 9 cycles for overhead press didn’t make much progress hardly at all. I would PR one cycle and be back down to a few previous cycles numbers. Over and over several times, until that 9th cycle mark and it just flew up and continues to at a faster pace than it has ever before. The biggest mistake I made with the program is jumping the weight up thinking that reps in the mid to high teens warranted a bigger increase than the 5 and 10lbs that the program recommends. I would kill to be able to nail 15 or 16 reps on squats and deads in the 1’s week again. That’s why it doesn’t bother me at all to drop back a few cycles. Sometimes, you just have to go back and pay a few more dues at those lighter weights in previous cycles. When I first started it was all about the PR. They came so frequently in most lifts that I almost took them for granted. I don’t even chase the PR anymore. The wave is where it’s at for me, because I know when it starts peaking PR’s are right around the corner anyways.