Articles  >  Mental & Emotional
Where Have All The PRs Gone?
Aimee Anaya Everett
April 24 2012

“Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves—to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today.” - Unknown

Do you know what weightlifting is? It is the worst bitch you could ever encounter. It frustrates you, makes you cry on the inside, doesn’t take yes for an answer, and fucks all your shit up. Mentally and physically. Weightlifting continually tells you no. It pulls when you want to push and it pushes when you want to pull.

You wrap your fingers around that bar and the bar already wants to work against you. Weightlifting takes your insides and puts them right on the platform for all to see. You want to make that barbell your bitch, but really it is laughing at you; all the while you are victim to its demands. The barbell runs the show.

You just have to be strong enough to fight it. Can you be strong enough? Some days you can come out the winner, and sometimes you will sit back on the bench between sets with your head held down in shame.

Let me tell you something about weightlifting. New people come on the scene, especially now with CrossFit pulling so much interest in to the sport—these folks PR every week, their lifts continuously go up week after week, and they are the fucking bomb! Their confidence is through the roof! Do we have the next World Champ? The greatest thing to hit weightlifting… they are thinking to themselves, well shit fire and save matches! At the rate I am PRing in my snatch and clean & jerk, 3-5kgs a week, I will be beating all these bitches, all these top 10 girls or boys, and I will be amazing! I will be an Olympic medalist for sure… as they are calculating what their lifts will be in 6 months at this 3-5kg per week increase.

And then reality sets in. You can’t PR every week forever. New people to the sport have a level of strength and a level of technique. Once those two things match up, they hit a wall. New folks PR every week because they are new to the sport, and they are going to naturally progress to where their limit is, based on their athletic ability. When they reach their limit, they find PRs are not coming every week. Or every two weeks, or maybe not even in a whole month.

Weightlifters who have been lifting for years fight for every kilo. ‘Elite’ lifters may not PR in one of the lifts for a whole year! They may spend six months not even close to their PRs. They may go backwards. I may snatch 88 for an easy double one month, and not even be able to snatch 85 three months later.

I am not saying this to discourage anyone; I am just being realistic. Aside from the fact that our sport has extremely limited resources, absolutely no monitary support for the athletes, no public recognition thus no real sponsorship opportunities, and that 99% of our nation’s best athletes work a full time job, have families, and limited availability to be an elite lifter (I made that percentage up but it probably close to true), I believe a lot of people quit our sport because they think that regular PRing is going to continue forever, and when it stops, so does their motivation. They look around to their teammates and see them fighting for every kilo, meanwhile they are PRing every training session. They may think to themselves, I won’t be like that! Look at how much more I can lift everyday! Maybe they believe they will defy the odds, that they are different. That they won’t hit a wall in which a lift 15kg below your max feels like you are lifting a house.

‘Veteran’ Weightlifters step on that platform every day because they love this sport. Because they love the feel of a beautiful, perfect lift, whether it is 50kg or 110kg. Because they want to chase the barbell… they want to chase the kilos… they want to chase their favorite lifter, their idol.

In this country we don’t lift for the money and fame. There is no money or fame. People think we are bodybuilders and get on a stage and pose in a bikini with our fake tan and huge calves for goodness sakes! Right now we are certainly not training for Olympic spots, and I am sure many wonder, will anything change in the future? Our lifters go unnoticed as we train our asses off: hurting, crying, working two jobs to save for plane tickets to Nationals. We raise our families, and train while our children are in school. We spend money we don’t have on massage and chiropractic and recovery so we can go take a beating again the next day. We take the negative comments on goheavy from a bunch of internet meanies who say ‘gee wiz, Joe Blow snatched 150 at Americans, and now only did 140, WHAT’S WRONG WITH HIM??? (mostly from people who also don’t understand why we can’t be PRing at every damn meet). We walk up to that bar day in and day out because we want to be close to our maxes again. We want to feel a 95kg snatch over our heads one more time in such amazing harmony. We literally fight for every kilo and every placing we can get.

Weightlifters don’t PR every day forever. Eventually it stops. Eventually you look around and wonder why am I doing this? Where did my PRs go? Why am I working so hard to only be moving backwards? Eventually you hurt. Eventually you get mentally drained and you get afraid. Eventually you fail.

Eventually the road turns around again, and the weights are singing to you as they fly over your head with ease. Eventually the good that turned bad turns good again. That is what we wait for. That is why we go to the gym every day. We wait for that ‘again’ to happen. And when it does the cycle may start all over again.

You have to be tougher than the bar. You have to be mentally strong enough to come in and take a beating on the worse of days. You have to believe that all the work you are putting in, even on the days where you are 4,037 kg away from your max, is going to pay off somehow someway.

You can’t do this for the instant gratification of a PR every week. You have to look down the road and understand that you may not PR for 8 more months, and you have to be OK with that and understand that you will have to love the road you’re traveling as much as the destination to which you come.

It will let you down. It WILL. But you still have to love it and when you don’t love it anymore, for all that it is and for all that it gives you and for all that you take from it, you have to walk away.

If you stay, you have to be in love. You have to commit to that barbell. You have to commit to your pain and your injuries. You have to commit to the negativity you will receive from your own mind. And you have to continue to train because you love it.

Not for any other person or any other reason, but that YOU want to be on that platform and YOU want that barbell to be in your hands and YOU want to find the better, whatever day in whatever month that may be.

If you don’t or can’t, then maybe you will never know what it is to be in love with weightlifting, to your core, unconditionally, every day through good and bad.
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Jeff B
April 24 2012
I misread the title of the article as "Where have all the PROS gone," but maybe that's a decent subtitle. As someone who's PRs are warmup weights for most guys my size, I'm forced to relish the lifting better more so than the lifting heavier. (Of course as I sit here with a well strained back even that is just pining for the fjords.)
Kyle Caldwell
April 24 2012
Thank You
April 24 2012
awesome post.
April 24 2012
Could be worse you could be starving in Sudan with no help. Truth is it's a sport if you donot enjoy it find something else you do enjoy.
I get that you are on a downer at the moment concerning weights. Maybe take a break and try something else PRs really don't matter it's consistancy. In fact i'm pretty sure that lesson was from Gregs Awesome book .
At the end of the day You are lifting way more then most people including me with fantastic technique, I always watch a video with you in because I know it's a lesson. Good luck By the way I wasn't been mean about the Sudan comment I was reiterating your point of the lack of publicity and funding put into the sport I agree it's true but there are so many critical things going on in the world at the moment and nothing is being done. I'm just saying it could be worse.
We play the cards we are delt, It's all anyone can do.
April 24 2012
Jake- Thanks for your thoughts.
However, I am not on a downer at the moment concerning weights, and in fact, am doing amazing. Everything in life can always be worse, and I wake up every morning so thankful and blessed for all I have in life.
This article is not for myself or doesn't necessarily portray the thoughts and feelings I have today about weightlifting.
I wrote this article for folks out there who have not been through the ups and downs of weightlifting and are standing there confused and lost and unsure of themselves. Sometimes it is through our own hardest lessons that we can then teach someone else something.
Jesse Malcomb
April 24 2012
Well written Aimee - you perfect described my (and anyone who has lifted for several years) relationship with the sport! You really gotta love Weightlifting when the days of regular PR's are far behind you, but you still continue (and enjoy) putting in work. When you lift long enough, you'll grind for months just to get back 100%, let alone a new PR.
sam Aguirre
April 24 2012
Awesome! Great read very though provoking.
April 24 2012
I've just gone through my first down cycle. After a year of PRs it amazing how negative and down I got in the course of a month. Now I am back, but I know a down cycle may bee looming.

Glad you wrote this to give me perspective!
April 24 2012
Best weightlifting article i've read, this encapsulates everything it means to be a weightlifter.
April 25 2012
I think I need to print this out and just hand it to everyone who tries to talk to me after a shitty training session, day, week, month, year....
William DeCoff
April 25 2012
Very nice Aimee.
April 25 2012
Thanks Aimee. I totally need this NOW. Havent hit my maxed in a while...feeling frustrated, mad, and fearful lately. Oh and old. LOL! You inspire me.
April 25 2012
Y'all are so awesome! Thank you.
April 26 2012
Awesome Aimee. This article will be understood differently based on where each reader is in his/her journey. It'd be a good one to keep around and revisit from time to time to see how it strikes you:)
Cuban B
April 26 2012
My mind was blown after I read this.
Geoff H
April 28 2012
Yeah, just had one of those crappie sessions today; clean down 40kg and squat down 40 kg, WTF, heck can't even type in the verification code below correctly :-)
Nic W
April 30 2012
Thank you for this article.

It's something that's certainly near and dear to my heart, after spending 10 months chasing a 100kg snatch pb...

Joe C
May 1 2012
Amazing. Thank you Aimee!
May 3 2012
Thank you for this! I'm no elite lifter, but I'm not bad for a gumby, plus I love it. The feeling when everything is perfect is irreplaceable! Anyway, I've reached my plateau, been injured, working backward....all that you explained. But I'm hanging in there, going through the motions, feeling the bar and I know it will pass. So glad to know I not alone. Thank you!
Michael K.
May 3 2012
I feel so much less alone now. Thank you.
Mike L
June 27 2012
If your training hard and not PBing then look at your training. To think you will PB forever is just dumb.Agree you can't lift heavy week in week out or you will flat line or as many of us have experienced may even decline. For those wishing to make gains keep challenging yourself, train smart, listen to your body , rest and most of all keep PBing. It's why we get better!!
Matthew Andre
April 27 2013
Greatest article in the history of weightlifting...
August 29 2015
Great food for thought! I don't compete in weightlifting. I'm 43, been training for 2½ years and have entered two strongman meets. Thus far I love it. I've trained to a 500+ deadlift and a 185 strict clean and press, which are not exactly elite numbers given my size (I'm 6'1" 250 lbs). Since I'm always cleaning the bar when pressing, I've naturally started to wonder how to improve my pull. I've recently realized that by putting my hips into it, I can easily clean 185 without any dropping. Now the bar brushes my hips instead of not touching at all, and it's a big improvement. As it comes to training, one of my biggest influences is John Davis. It's very old school, but one can do much worse than training in this style. My deadlift was stuck at 450 when I was training it once a week, and it quickly improved when I started pulling 3-4 times a week doing triples in the 315-365 range (with the occasional doubles at 405 or 425). When I come in feeling like crap, doing clean and presses at 75% for 10 triples feels great! Now and then, I work up to a heavy single (or a heavy 2-3). I've started doing power cleans, my latest session being 8 doubles at 205 lbs. I don't know when I'll be power cleaning 315, but I do know that I love the sport!
September 2 2015
Love this article, thank you
September 13 2015
I really needed this today, thank you Aimee. :)
Marvin Pepino
November 23 2015
thank you :)
Dominique Locas
December 3 2019
I don't understand the CrossFit mindset. I know a girl who is into it and she just PR'd with a Clean & Jerk at 72.5 lb… after failing to clean it 10 times. She seems to be working to her limit every time she lifts. I hope she is doing several ramp-up sets so she gets -- at least -- some quality lifts in. I told her she would be much better off doing 5-8 doubles at a weight she can safely handle (55-60 lb) plus some high pulling at 75-80 lb so she gets used to heavier bars without being all over the place.

This is the exact opposite of what John Davis did in his day. He became World champion in the 181-lb class in 1938 at 17 yo, and once back from the Pacific, he dominated his division until 1953.

He was Olympic heavyweight champion in 1948 and 1952. John Davis was very against trying oneself out in the gym. His heaviest training snatch was 280, yet he had the world record at around 330 lb. In the Clean & Jerk, he never went above 370 in the gym, while on the platform he became the first man to C & Jerk more than 400 lb in competition (with no body touch, no hook-grip and using a very stiff barbell, and doing so in a split style wearing Chuck Taylors). In the Clean & Press, his typical session prior to Helsinki was going up to 300 lb for 8-10 doubles. He went on to press 331 (150 kilos) for an Olympic record.

There is a difference between lifting more weight in the gym and actually getting stronger. I think a lot of people miss the point and tax themselves pointlessly.