What Is RPE-Based Training & How Can You Use It?

RPE-based coaching is the most recent development to hit the health group, promising superior exercise outcomes. We’ve seen this 100 instances earlier than, and whereas many of those developments are a health fail, RPE could be the exception.

RPE stands for Rating of Perceived Exertion, and in a nutshell, it is a type of self-regulation wherein your coaching is guided by how you are feeling. And no, we’re not speaking feelings like glad or unhappy right here. We’re speaking muscle fatigue and bodily sensations.

Studies have proven it may be extraordinarily efficient when used correctly, so immediately we’re masking all issues RPE.

We’ll go over:

What is RPE-based coaching?
Benefits of utilizing RPE in your coaching
Drawbacks of utilizing RPE
How to make use of the RPE scale for positive aspects

Can you actually use an RPE scale primarily based on subjective measure to get robust? Let’s see.

Why We Need To Monitor Intensity

One of the best detriments to health club tradition is simplistic memes that painting a false or exaggerated message. Perhaps the worst is: “No Pain, No Gain.”

While skilled lifters perceive the underlying message of this saying, we do not love phrases that suggest you should push your self till you really feel ache. It’s not good, or crucial.

Case in level, frequent questions typed into search engines like google and yahoo contain issues equivalent to googling whether or not DOMS is critical and if it is important to be sore after figuring out. But over-training to the purpose of ache can result in damage and burnout, which is precisely why it is essential to observe how you are feeling and your exercise depth.

The Primary Focus Of RPE

This brings us to the first focus of RPE coaching. We’ll delve into the main points under, however the RPE scale is used to observe depth and fatigue when lifting weights and through normal exercise.

In a perfect world, we’d all be centered on good sleep habits and our diet could be on level 100% of the time. But that is clearly not how actual life works.

The proposed variables talked about above can drastically affect how we’re feeling on any given day. So a lot in order that our energy and power ranges can fluctuate day by day. As a outcome, a weight that’s usually simple to carry could be tougher on a day after we’re drained or have low power.

Instead of simply going house as a result of you’ll be able to’t carry out the prescribed reps and cargo out of your percentage-based coaching exercise cut up, RPE takes these variables into consideration. Basically, it means that you can alter your coaching intensities primarily based on how you are feeling.

It’s clearly extra difficult than that, so let’s dive a bit deeper.

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What Is RPE Training (Rating Of Perceived Exertion)?

RPE stands for “Rating of Perceived Exertion” and is a technique of coaching that makes use of subjective emotions to guage train depth. The unique concept of utilizing perceived exertion to fee depth was constructed by researcher Gunnar Borg in 1982¹. So, in actuality, it has been round for some time however has solely turn out to be standard in energy coaching up to now decade or so.

Its unique goal was to supply a common scale that people might use to tell apart the depth of bodily exercise. Some of the makes use of Borg supposed it for embody medical, occupational, and sports activities functions.

Borg created the unique RPE scale to permit for a extra exact clarification of how arduous bodily exercise was and to permit sufferers to speak extra successfully in medical settings.

Why Does The Original Borg RPE Scale Range 6-20?

The Borg scale makes use of perceived exertion scales of 6-20 to tell apart coaching depth. Here’s a have a look at the ranges and the exertion stage every represented.

Borg score 7= Very, Very Light
Borg score 9= Very Light
Borg score 11= Fairly Light
Borg score 13- Somewhat Hard
Borg score 15= Hard
Borg score 17= Very Hard
Borg score 19= Very, Very Hard

As you’ll be able to see, this enables an individual to supply a way more correct description of the depth of an exercise. So, we would fee a heart-pounding, excessive depth assault bike exercise as a 17, near maximal exertion, and a gradual stroll across the block as a 7.

A standard query is why 6-20?

The Borg scale score scale was presupposed to align with an elevated coronary heart rate¹. For instance, the exercise could be very simple in case your coronary heart fee is at 70BPM. While good in idea, Borg decided this wasn’t a concrete technique as individuals have totally different techniques.

Regardless, it proved extra complicated when launched to most people, and a brand new modified RPE scale was launched that used a 1-10 vary and 0.5 increments.

The Further Modified RPE Scale For Strength Training

We lastly get to the RPE scale that is most used within the health group. This scale additionally ranges from 1-10, however the 0.5 increments are not often used. Further, you’ll principally solely ever see 5-10 used.

The simplest way to consider the energy coaching RPE scale is by its vary matched with train depth ranges. For instance:

RPE scale of seven equals the depth of 70%. This is a moderate-intensity exercise that requires slight effort however will not be taxing. Typically for those who’re coaching for muscle hypertrophy, you may be nearer to the 70-80% vary.
RPE scale of 9 equals an depth of 90%. It’s extraordinarily arduous, with a sooner respiratory fee, and also you doubtless can solely carry out a number of reps. If you are enhancing energy, you may doubtless be nearer to this RPE.
RPE scale of 10 equals coaching intensities of 100%. This would characterize a real most effort or one rep max.

what does rpe mean

How To Calculate RPE

Many individuals ask learn how to calculate RPE. In actuality, you needn’t calculate it.

Remember that RPE is totally separate from utilizing percentages. In different phrases, you’ll not have to calculate an approximation each session. Or any session. Ever. Just fear about crushing your leg exercise – no math equations crucial.

That mentioned, we’ll offer you some examples of what it appears to be like like. This will allow you to affiliate some frequent rep schemes with RPE.

A standard rep scheme used for energy coaching is 3 units by 3 reps at 90%. If you utilize a 1-rep max chart, you can find that you could carry out 4 reps with 90% of your 1RM. Therefore, for those who carry a weight 3 instances when you’ll be able to carry it 4, that is about an RPE 7.5-8.5.

Now let’s take 3 units by 8 reps at 80%. Using 80% 1RM ought to enable 12 reps max. Therefore, you are round an RPE 7-7.5.

With this in thoughts, more often than not, you’ll use an RPE 7-8 in your lifts for hypertrophy. On event, you could go as much as 9 or 10, however that is normally if you’re both doing high-rep quantity work for muscular endurance or performing most effort.

Another Perceived Exertion Scale: Reps In Reserve Training

Reps in reserve is a latest evolution of the RPE scale that makes use of subjective measures for regulation. However, as a substitute of asking, “What’s your perceived exertion?” it asks, “How many more reps do you have in the tank?”

Reps in reserve, or RIR for brief, is far simpler to clarify than the Borg RPE scale, modified or not. It merely makes you guess what number of extra reps you may doubtlessly do.

For instance, for those who have been advised to carry out a 225 pound bench press with a 2RIR, you’ll carry out as many reps as you may till you felt you may do 2 extra till failure.

RIR Vs RPE: What’s Better For Strength Training?

This begs the query: Which is healthier? If you ask us, they’re pretty equal. Both use subjective emotions to measure totally different intensities primarily based on how your physique feels. This means there’ll naturally be some errors no matter which you utilize to find out your effort throughout your upcoming chest and shoulders exercise.

Some have tried to correlate a 1:1 ratio between utilizing an RIR scale and an RPE scale. For occasion:

1RIR= 90%
2RIR = 80%
3RIR= 70%

This solely works in case your most effort would enable 10 reps. For instance, in case your maximal effort solely allowed 6 reps, a 2RIR could be very simple and really feel lighter than an RPE 7.

However, there may be some proof that lifters are higher at predicting RIR than RPE². Further, there’s most likely the next quantity of people that favor RIR just because it is simpler. But once more, its effectiveness comes right down to figuring out your self. The longer you’ve got been lifting, the better this will likely be so that you can estimate.

That mentioned, on the finish of the day, a lifter will not be actually calculating his subjective emotions after each rep. It’s extra of an concept than arduous science. So, for those who discover that one tends to be pretty correct in comparison with the opposite, use it.

rpe exercise

How The RPE Scale Is Used To Write A Program

Using RPE is straightforward. You principally write out the identical program (we advise utilizing the FITT precept to information you when placing collectively a routine), besides you utilize RPE as a substitute of weight.

It’s as much as you for those who favor the modified RPE scale or wish to keep old skool with the Borg scale. As lengthy as you perceive it and are constant, it does not matter.

RPE-Based Training For Strength Training

Using RPE for energy coaching vs. hypertrophy could be very easy as if you’re coaching for energy, you’re working with heavier weight and low reps (1-6). In different phrases, you’ll be able to’t be that far off.

Strength coaching is the place RPE’s capability to find out fatigue shines. For instance, fake you wish to work within the 3 rep vary with 90% of your estimated 1 rep max being 100 kilos. A conventional rep scheme could be written as: 3×3 at 90 kilos. Using RPE coaching would merely forgo the 1 rep estimate and seem like: 3×3 at RPE7-8.

Now once more, that is simply displaying how the share appears to be like totally different. In actuality, you are able to do this for any rep you wish to use within the energy spectrum of 1-6. For instance:

3×3 at RPE7
5×1 at RPE8
4×6 at RPE8

So you see, the load is detached. You simply have to resolve what your energy coaching program requires.

Using RPE For Building Muscle

Using RPE for constructing muscle is not all too totally different, besides you’ll use a rep scheme that enables greater reps of 8-12.

Again, aside from particular circumstances, research present that utilizing an RPE7-9 is ideal³.  While this ought to be what you goal for, don’t stress an excessive amount of about being actual, particularly if you first start. Your capability to precisely choose bodily sensations will enhance the extra you carry.

That mentioned, do not forget that RIR tends to work higher when judging the depth of upper reps as seen in hypertrophy coaching.

rpe stands for

Benefits Of Using RPE Or RIR In Your Training

The wonderful thing about RPE coaching is that it is primarily based on peer-reviewed research. So let’s take a look at the advantages of RPE when utilized in an precise coaching cycle.

1. Uses Self-Regulation:

As talked about, RPE is a sort of self-regulation as you’re employed by way of your 6-day exercise cut up. As an entire, we love self-regulation because it permits our coaching to adapt to how we’re feeling. It principally permits us to carry out optimally on any given day.

Many individuals will speak about how self-regulation is nice for mitigating fatigue or adapting to a nasty day. All of that is true, and we’ll speak about that subsequent.

There’s additionally one other approach to take a look at this. Self-regulation means that you can rip it if you’re feeling good! We’ve all had these days after we get to the health club, the load feels mild, our pre-workout is working extra time for us, and the bar pace is quick.

RPE permits us so as to add extra weight and make the most of these days! This doesn’t imply you’ll be able to go for a one rep max. It simply means you must carry some heavy weights inside the prescribed rep scheme.

2. It’s A Cheap Tool To Effectively Manage Fatigue & Prevent Injuries:

The most helpful advantage of RPE is to successfully preserve fatigue in verify. When used accurately, a lifter has a a lot decrease likelihood of exerting himself or herself too arduous.

For instance, when utilizing a load share, the lifter is locked into that rep scheme, whether or not it is 4×4 at 85% or 3×15 at 70%. Maybe they’ll deal with this on a great day, however nobody has good days 100% of the time.

This signifies that if a lifter has an off day on the health club, they have to full their program no matter how they’re feeling. Doing so places the lifter at a higher likelihood of damage or lacking the prescribed scheme, which may additional demotivate them (we have all been there). Even in the event that they hit the load, it may be an excessive amount of and additional improve their fatigue, which isn’t superb for muscle restoration.

However, if utilizing RPE, they are not pressured to make use of a particular weight. Of course, the athlete must put within the acceptable effort, however they’ll carry in keeping with their power ranges. Not solely does this assist preserve this system a “success,” however it additionally prevents the build-up of pointless fatigue and accidents.

But this is not simply idea, as scientific analysis backs it up and exhibits it does so on the physiological stage. Studies present that athletes can successfully use RPE to progress whereas enhancing markers of fatigue equivalent to blood lactate⁴.

Oh, and it is free!

3. You Don’t Need To Do 1RM Testing Or Percentages:

If you will have ever run knowledgeable program that makes use of percentages, you understand how complicated they’ll get. Not solely do it’s essential know your 1RM and private health club file, you could additionally do a bunch of calculations for every session.

With RPE, you do not want any of that. You merely carry out an train inside the acceptable rep vary. Keep doing this till you hit the suitable RPE stage.

4. It’s Flexible:

Some lifters merely like the pliability that self-regulation gives. This is very true for the lifter who’s busy or is not emphasizing the significance of sleep as they’re extra liable to fatigue.

Again, it’s essential have that health club maturity to know if you’re really fatigued or simply lazy. However, figuring out you will have a structured program that enables you freedom could make lifting extra fulfilling as you do not have to make use of a particular weight.

From our private expertise, guys who use RPE are usually very structured and prepare arduous. They’re simply sensible about it.

rpe 10

Drawback Of Using RPE In Your Training

No technique goes to be utterly excellent. Here are a few the setbacks generally seen with RPE coaching.

1. Requires A Strong Understanding Of Your Ability:

The key element of RPE coaching requires a self-reported evaluation of physique sensations. So straight away, we’ve the human variable on the forefront, which ensures some inaccuracy.

While lifters who’ve been round some time can report pretty precisely, novices might wrestle with this. It’s not that they are mendacity about how arduous an train is; fairly, they only do not know what arduous is.

If a trainee has not routinely accomplished a real one rep max, how can they use a scale primarily based on that sensation? Further, if a trainee has by no means seen what number of reps he can do till 100% muscle fatigue, how are they capable of precisely choose?

This is definitely the most important motive new lifters ought to get a certified coach. Multiple research have proven that when left to their very own gadgets, novice lifters decide lighter weight and carry out fewer reps when lifting alone than if that they had some assist.

Plus, trainers are normally nice at providing different sound recommendation, equivalent to what the very best protein powders are, and which meals ought to be eaten submit exercise, all of which can assist new lifters succeed.

2. Less Accurate Than Using Percentages:

Regardless of who’s utilizing it, RPE remains to be much less correct than an goal measure equivalent to a share. People are individuals, and so they make errors. It occurs. That mentioned, will it make a lot of a distinction?

Mehhh. Not a lot, if any, particularly within the long-term.

For theoretical functions, take into account {that a} good share of individuals carry in a health club with solely 2.5 pound weight will increase. This means they’ll solely make 5 pound jumps when implementing progressive overload. In this case, it is inconceivable to make use of the proper load utilizing percentages, no less than on a constant foundation.

While that impacts RPE, the purpose is that solely a portion of lifters even have the proper tools to be exact.

3. Perceived Exertion Can Be Influenced:

It’s clear that an individual’s state of fatigue can affect perceived exertion. This is predicated on a real physiological relationship. However, a number of stimuli generally seen within the health club can artificially alter our notion.

For instance, one of many primary advantages of caffeine is that it could actually lower ache notion and may decrease RPE responses⁶. This appears to be seen extra in taking pre-workout for cardio coaching, however we will additionally see this play out within the weight room.

Music can also be one other frequent stimuli within the health club, and it could actually additionally decrease the RPE response to training⁷.

This will not be supposed to criticize RPE, as we expect it is nice. Rather, we’re highlighting this to additional illustrate its vulnerability, so that you could be conscious as you are utilizing it.

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Who Shouldn’t Use A Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE or RIR)?

While we like utilizing RPE and discover it very helpful, it doesn’t imply everybody ought to use it of their health routine. As talked about above, the first disadvantage is that it requires an individual to have an excellent grasp of how arduous they’ll really push. Further, it is simply not completely crucial for some populations. Here’s who ought to keep away from RPE.

Beginner Or Novice Lifters:

There’s no want for a novice lifter to make the most of the RPE scale for 3 causes:

Their hundreds aren’t heavy sufficient to trigger main fatigue.
Progress comes really easy that they’ll add a small quantity of weight to every session.
They do not absolutely perceive their full functionality but.

Even if this group does turn out to be too fatigued, it is due to unideal programming, and RPE will not assist. Beginners ought to preserve it good and easy and deal with including weight and perfecting their type as they work by way of an efficient program, like this nice 3-day exercise cut up.

High-Rep Hypertrophy Training:

There is nuance to the topic, however RPE coaching is normally seen in energy coaching fairly than with bodybuilders. The greatest bodybuilders attempt to construct up quantity with a big portion of units taken to near-failure.

In different phrases, a bodybuilder might use RPE, however each train could be prescribed RPE9. While these coaching for hypertrophy can nonetheless use RPE, it is not likely wanted more often than not. In these conditions, it could be helpful to only use RPE for the primary couple workout routines.

Who Should Use A Perceived Exertion Scale

Now, let’s take a look at who ought to use RPE-based coaching.


A non-lifting athlete’s coaching normally emphasizes managing fatigue, particularly round their sports activities season. Their lifting routine is designed to assist their athletic efficiency so their health club objectives look totally different than these of leisure lifters.

Therefore, utilizing a system that’s constructed on managing fatigue makes excellent sense.

Intermediate And Advanced Strength Lifters:

Intermediate and superior energy coaching packages is the place RPE-based coaching actually shines and is used most frequently. These lifters not solely have the energy required, but additionally a great sense of health club maturity.

Mixing RPE-Based Training With Other Methods

A wonderful thing about RPE-based coaching is combining it with different coaching strategies. In reality, good packages will combine RPE with percentage-based coaching. For instance, search for a hypertrophy program that prescribes a particular rep scheme for the primary couple of workout routines, that are sometimes a very powerful ones, with the remainder of the coaching primarily based on RPE.

When the large strikes are completed, you then have some freedom with the load and rep scheme for the remaining workout routines. Of course, you continue to have to fall inside the given vary.

For instance, it could seem like this:

Bench Press: 4×4
Sitting OHP: 4×6
Close Grip Bench Press: 3×8-10 RPE8
Cable Chest Fly: 3×10-12 RPE9
Lateral Raise/Tricep Pushdown: 3×8-12 RPE9
Push-Ups: 1xRPE10

As you’ll be able to see, a goal rep vary remains to be prescribed. However, as a substitute of weight, an RPE stage or vary is used. Again, the purpose is that it is getting used to explain how arduous a lifter ought to carry for profitable hypertrophy coaching.


hypertrophy program

Prepare to maximise your positive aspects with our unique 12-week hypertrophy coaching program. Choose between a 4 or 5 day coaching cut up and acquire 2-12 kilos of muscle over 90 days…

You Must Still Use Progressive Overload With RPE

In conjunction with the above part, whereas the RPE could be very efficient in managing fatigue, you could nonetheless progressive overload! This simply means that you will want to proceed to observe your hundreds and steadily improve the depth.

This could be performed in numerous methods. Some will take note of the ultimate rep to calculate if they’ll add extra. Others will use periodization coaching fashions.

Just do not forget that RPE is a instrument to make use of at the side of progressive overload. Be certain to observe your coaching log to make sure you’re progressing over time.

Using The RPE Scale: Our Summary

We love RPE and self-regulation normally. And developments within the energy and conditioning world recommend we’re not the one ones. This is probably going because of elevated consciousness of the results of fatigue.

While goal, the usage of monitoring bar pace in velocity coaching is one other non-percentage technique to prescribe hundreds. If something, this tells us the significance of preserving fatigue in verify and restoration on level. With these taken care of, your positive aspects will soar.

If in any respect , we extremely recommend all certified lifters attempt RPE or RIR throughout your subsequent barbell again day. You’ll most likely dig it.

Related: How to Use Velocity Training For Maximal Strength Progress

rpe scales


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Hackett DA, Cobley SP, Davies TB, Michael SW, Halaki M. Accuracy in Estimating Repetitions to Failure During Resistance Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2017;31(8):2162-2168. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000001683
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Fusco A, Sustercich W, Edgerton Ok, et al. Effect of Progressive Fatigue on Session RPE. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology. 2020;5(1):15. doi:10.3390/jfmk5010015
Dias MRC, Simão RF, Saavedra FJF, Ratamess NA. Influence of a Personal Trainer on Self-selected Loading During Resistance Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2017;31(7):1925-1930. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000001663
Killen LG, Green JM, O’Neal EK, McIntosh JR, Hornsby J, Coates TE. Effects of caffeine on session scores of perceived exertion. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012;113(3):721-727. doi:10.1007/s00421-012-2480-z
Potteiger JA, Schroeder JM, Goff KL. Influence of Music on Ratings of Perceived Exertion throughout 20 Minutes of Moderate Intensity Exercise. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 2000;91(3):848-854. doi:10.2466/pms.2000.91.3.848

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