Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE, is an auto regulating method to keep our stress in the gym controlled, within reason. Finding the appropriate effort is crucial. If you work too hard and exert too much stress on the body, the risk of injury could be increased. Grinding out hard efforts all the time does not produce strength. On the other end of the spectrum, if you don’t stress the body enough you will not see results and will not see progress. The dosage of stress is key.
Lifting and strength training is used in this setting to elicit a general strength response. We use barbells, dumbbells, bodyweight, kettlebells, etc…to create generally strong athletes. A stronger athlete can be a more resilient athlete, can aid in injury risk reduction, and can transfer general strength to sport.
Now, there is a huge misunderstanding with many as they equate strength to getting bigger. This is not the case, that is a nutrition and calorie intake conversation. Our programming is designed to increase strength but not increasing mass. If you don’t pay attention to your calories and food, then there is always a chance of increasing weight.
Throughout this program you will see a rep scheme given or bodyweight given. Next to it you might see RPE-8, RPE-9, or RPE-7. We never prescribe RPE-10, that is a max effort. We are not powerlifters, olympic lifters and this is not a Crossfit gym so there is no need for a max rep effort or max weight effort. We save max efforts for sport outside the gym. Getting the right effort is challenging at first, but it will get easier and easier. We usually work in the RPE-8 range. A way that some think about RPE-8 is that whenever you finish the lift you need to take an evaluation.
How do I feel?
How did that lift feel?
How was my bar speed or speed of the lift?
Did I grind that out too much?
Was it really easy?
Easier than last week?
Harder than last week?
How many more reps could I have done, of that weight?
If I am trying to achieve an RPE-8, then I want to be around 2 reps left in the tank.
An RPE-9, would be close to one more rep left in the tank, so close to failure.
RPE-10 is a max effort, you could not do a single other rep. Again we don’t do RPE-10, but if you accidentally go to an RPE-10 you will know what I mean.
You need to pay attention to the details, pay attention to your weights, and write your weights down. No guessing.
The goal is to increase weight if possible, but do not put too much emphasis on the weight. The weight is pretty arbitrary, the stress is not. I have not increased weight in 2 years on a few of my lifts, but life stress, injuries and overall goals have changed. I have moved from racing to retirement, so that is expected.
Read these articles or watch these videos below to get more explanation on RPE.
Here are some links:
Here is a video: