What is RPE?
Before we talk about what RPE you should train at, we need to establish what it is.
RPE stands for rate of perceived exertion. RPE is a SUBJECTIVE difficulty rating of a set you performed.
RPE was originally conceived by Dr. Gunnar Borg decades ago. It’s original form ranged 6 to 20. 6 representing no exertion and 20 representing a maximal effort. Everything else is somewhere
between these numbers. 6 to 20 might seem like a weird range to use. It was inititally designed to represent the normal range of heart rates (around 60 to 200 bpm).
Mike Tuchscherer, a well-known and extremely respected powerlifting coach modified the RPE scale to run from 0-10. This is the scale that is used by the vast majority of lifters today. RPE is judged by considering how many more reps you could have gotten in a specific set if you took that set to failure. Often also refferred to as Reps in Reserve (RIR).
The most common interpretation of the RPE scale is RPE = 10 – (RIR)
10 – Couldn’t have done any more reps and wouldn’t have been able to add any weight to the bar on the last rep (MAXIMAL EFFORT)
9.5 – Could possibly have done 1 more rep or been able to add weight to the bar for the same reps.9 – Could definitely have done 1 more rep8.5 – Could possibly have done 2 more reps8 – Could definitely have done 2 more reps7.5 – Could possibly have done 3 more reps7 – Could definitely have done 3 more reps6.5 – Could possibly have done 4 more reps6 – Could definitely have done 4 more reps
and so on.
Sometimes you’ll see people group all RPE below 6 into one group (SUB6). When we start to get 5-6+ reps away from failure, being off by a rep won’t really affect the hypertrophic (muscle building) stimulus or the fatigue generated by performing that set.
On rarer occasions I may specify an RPE 5-5.5 (usually in a deload) but I don’t specify anything lower than that.Trying to judge exactly how many reps you are away from failure when you’re 6 or more reps away is pretty difficult anyway, even for advanced lifters.
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