Bench press PR rituals


CM reports that when he and his friends work out, the way to “PR,” or to get a personal record, while using the bench press machine, is to go through a mental checklist of things to do, typically in a particular order. For example, one might check the position on their feet on the ground, then their back and shoulders, and then how they are holding the bar, in that order. When asked what happens when one does this out of order, he says that it makes it more likely that one won’t get the PR. He didn’t describe this as a strict superstitition, but that it would really affect him if he didn’t go through this checklist in order.

When asked if he has any special rituals or food that he does before attempting a PR, CM reported that he eats sour patch kids. While he doesn’t strictly adhere to the idea that he needs to eat sour patch kids in order to get a PR, he says that he kicks himself if he fails at a PR and he didn’t have any sour patch kids beforehand.


CM is a male college student at USC. For this interview, he was asked to describe good luck charms for sports and exercises he does.


CM’s PR ritual illustrates the impact of superstition within secular settings. Despite lacking religious or spiritual connotations, CM’s adherence to pre-performance rituals reflects a human tendency to seek psychological comfort and a sense of control in uncertain situations. Since there is still much unknown about bodybuilding as a discipline, despite bold assurances by many trainers and influencers to have scientifically proven methods on the best ways to work out, it makes sense that many people trying to bodybuild will rely on superstitious rituals to some degree. These rituals are reinforced in failure, confirming CM’s bias, as well as his peers’ bias, that these practices will lend themselves to a PR. The magic is performed through the body, whether through the positioning of body parts or the consumption of sour patch kids, but the effect is on the mind, which is considered the ultimate obstacle when working out.