You've probably heard of AUTOREGULATION before but the most common terms in strength training are:
RPE - Rate of Perceived Exertion
RIR - Reps In Reserve
WHAT IS RPE?
RPE is a form of autoregulation in your training (individually adjusting your training based on how you feel on that day).
RPE is used to measure the intensity of an exercise. It's applicable to strength training to gauge the effort of a set/rep.
The RPE scale ranges from a number of <5 to 10:
PROS AND CONS OF INCORPORATING RPE INTO YOUR TRAINING
If we only use percentage based we assume that the lifter's 1RM is always stable in each training session.
If we apply a targeted RPE with a given load it will be easier for the athlete to adjust his working sets and modify the load to match the prescribed level of effort.
I've seen so many times lifters using percentage based only and missing lifts because they were having a bad day or they weren't recovered enough.
I definitely think that giving a specific load and percentage to beginners will help them to adhere to the program and to get used to rate their level of intensity, as well as to learn how to push themselves and listen to their body.
Let's make an example:
Your session today consists of 5x4 87.5% of your 1RM
If you follow the program based on a giving percentage you might feel:
1. Very fresh and recovered - weight is actually easy!
2. Challenging enough to recover well and complete all the sets and reps
3. Feeling fatigued, didn't sleep well and had long hours at work - feeling beaten up and find it hard to stick to this load
Your 1RM can change slightly each session depending on how you feel on that day. On good days you'll take advantage of it and increase the load because you feel great. On bad days you'll modify the load to make sure you recover well and don't feel crushed at the end of the week (as well as decreasing the risk of getting injured!).
HOW TO USE RPE?
RPE is commonly used in powerlifting but it can be used in bodybuilding, power, endurance, etc.
With strength and hypertrophy it's best to stay in the range scale from 6 to 10, also depending on which phase of your program you are in. For example:
Volume/Accumulation: 6-8 RPE
Intensity: 7-9.5 RPE
Deload/Restoration Week: 5-7 RPE
(If you are not familiar with these terms please read this article)
You can use RPE for the main lifts, but also for isolation exercises. Here it's an example of a training session during an accumulation phase (with % and RPE):
"HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM READY TO USE RPE?"
It takes time to understand the concept of autoregulation.
It also depends on your level of experience and how familiar you are with different training systems.
Spend a good amount of time running a percentage based program but try to measure the intensity of the exercises, from your last warm up set to each working set.
Once you are more familiar you can implement RPE alongside your current percentage based routine (as the example above) so that you know what intensity to expect each session.
When you feel completely confident try to run your training routine based solely on RPE.
Be sensible at first and don't let your ego take over too much! Don't lie to yourself thinking you can push for an extra rep when clearly you have nothing left in the tank. Take a look at bar speed and efficiency of the lift.
If you've been given a top single at 8 RPE and it feels smooth don't work up to your 1RM just because you are meant to perform a top single!
RECORD A VIDEO
Record a video of your lifts to help you gauge the effort better. Sometimes the load feels heavy on your back but then looking at the video reps are smooth and speed is good.
Understand and learn the concept of autoregulation / RPE and slowly implement it into your training alongside a given percentage and load.
The more you practice the more experienced you become at using autoregulation in your training and nutrition, as well as being adaptive.
Be honest with yourself, record videos for a more objective point of view.
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