Whether you’re a competitive lifter or an amateur gym-goer, attempting a new personal best calls for adequate preparation. A proper lead-in can significantly improve your chances of a great performance, and it starts way before you step foot in the gym. Here are a few tips for making the most of your PR attempts.

1. Inactivity is the enemy.

Though it may seem advantageous to take a day off before your PR attempt, rarely are the best results yielded after these measures. Instead, some light movement and activity on the preceding day can help your body prepare for the strain you are going to impose on it in the following 24 hours. Similar to the way sports teams often do ‘walk-throughs’ the day before competition, these light sessions can help you get mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming endeavor. 

2. Routine, routine, routine.

We are probably all guilty of giving a new piece of gear, supplement, or equipment a try when yearning for a few extra pounds on a lift. If you anticipate wanting to use knee sleeves, a belt, or any other addition to your normal routine, do your best to anticipate when your next PR attempt falls. Practice wearing gear throughout the training phase, not just the performance phase. To go back to the sports analogy, no one wears a new pair of cleats for the first time on gameday.

3. Patience pays off.

There are several applications to this phrase when it comes to going for a personal best. For one, a slow build of warm up sets into your attempts is going to set you up for success. Resting for at least three minutes (up to five) between each set, along with manageable jumps in intensity, will ensure proper restoration of phosphocreatine (PCr) for energy and clearance of acetylcholine (ACh) waste from the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). These two substrates are crucial to high-intensity performance, and allowing them to optimize will pave the way for peak performance.

Secondly, if you realize during your build that today is not going to be your day, listen to your body and build responsibly. Allow yourself to be open to the possibility of an attempt on another day in the next week or two when you feel like a million bucks. The mind is a powerful tool for performance, and if you’re convinced you will not do your best in that moment, it’s nearly guaranteed that will come true.

The circumstances under your control surrounding your PR attempt will vary on a case by case basis; certainly, if participating in competition, you cannot decide when that falls on your personal timeline. However, honing in on what you can control can make a huge difference in your performance when the time comes. Take note of what works well for you during training, what common threads exist on each of your ‘good days,’ and do what you can to replicate them ahead of the big day. Take a deep breath, brace, and go for it!