When training, it is important to have some form of measurement for intensity. This allows us to draw comparisons between different workout sessions and progress from week to week, month to month, year to year, in a purposeful manner. An easily accessible way to do so is with the RPE scale, or rate of perceived exertion. This is a 1-10 scale that indicates how difficult an individual effort or set should be, 1 being minimal effort and 10 being maximum effort. Here are a couple reasons this scale is useful:
Its ease of use. One major benefit of RPE lies in its simplicity; It quantifies subjective feedback, making it usable data. Of course, it can be difficult to know exactly how to rate the intensity of an effort or set. However, this doesn’t need to be exact, especially when you are first learning RPE. Over time, you will become more tuned in with your body and better understand how to use this scale.
Its scalability. Another benefit of RPE is that it can be adhered to even when you don’t feel your best. Unlike a prescribed percentage, RPE only indicates how difficult the set should feel. If you are having a less than ideal day or week, you can still stay on track with your training and get some hard work in. There’s no need to feel set back when you fail to lift a certain weight because you can still achieve the prescribed intensity.
The RPE scale is a very useful training tool. Still, if you haven’t used it before, you might not know where to begin. To make things even simpler, the majority of training will take place between RPE 6 and RPE 9. Here are some descriptors to help give you a general idea of these intensity levels:
RPE 6 - Moderately challenging, like your last warm up set before a working set.
RPE 7 - Challenging. Could have done 3 more reps.
RPE 8 - Hard. Could have done just 2 more reps.
RPE 9 - Very hard, but not quite max effort. Could have done only 1 more rep.
We will be making regular use of the RPE scale in our upcoming training block, which starts on September 12th. If you are still having a hard time understanding or implementing this scale, ask a coach for help and they will be happy to assist!