You may have seen RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion being thrown around in various training programs or workout videos, but what does it mean? How does it affect you or your training?

Typically speaking, RPE is thrown around most commonly when referring to strength sports.

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Why is RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) Important for Training?

rpe rate of perceived exertion
RPE 10

As you cannot train balls to the wall every time you go to the gym and training intensity must remain high, ways to ensure sufficient training intensity and volume are had to continue progressing.

When lifters gain more strength and lift heavier loads, the toll on their bodies also increase.

Experienced lifters will take something call a “deload” week to destress their bodies and to allow for a fuller recovery for their muscles, connective tissue, joints, and central nervous system (CNS) in order to keep making gains.

Even less experienced lifters will burn out if they attempt to break personal records every time they go to the gym.

RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion is a subjective map that allows lifters to train at a higher intensity while considering the state of their bodies.

For example, lifting 500lb on the Deadlift for a single might be RPE 6 one day and RPE 9.5 the next.

Why?

Because of a variety of factors including muscular and CNS fatigue.

You may go to the gym with a goal, say Deadlift 440lb for 3 sets of 5 at an RPE of 8. But after warming up and attacking the weight, you feel a little weaker than expected. So you lower the weight to hit your goal RPE.

As a metric, it is subjective and will take honesty from you as a lifter as well as practice to perfect.

However, when the going gets tough, RPE is a great way to determine whether you are training with sufficient intensity when the going gets tough.

Conversely, RPE is a great tool to prevent you from ego lifting.

Sometimes you feel strong AF, so you want to try to break PRs. RPE stops you from making rash decisions that may interfere with your training.

You may feel exceptionally strong one training session, but over-exerting yourself to break a new PR may have a knock-on effect that negatively impacts your training for days to come.

It is also a way to remained disciplined and focused when pursuing your training goals.

Remember, training is a marathon and not a sprint.

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RPE Scale

RPE is a scale from 1-10 to determine your training intensity and your ability to handle a certain weightload on a certain day.

Please see the scale below.

RPE Scale (Rated Perceived Exertion) - The Fit Tutor

In lifting terms, most coaches will require you to train between RPE 6-9.

RPE 10 is a true one rep max where even 2.5lb a side would make you fail the lift.

Between 7-9 is considered to be a “hypertrophy” muscle building and training range.

4-6 is generally reserved for speed work and warm ups.

Anything lower is to be practically sedentary or standing.

Many serious strength athletes also have to bear in mind that they are peaking for a competition rather than maintaining superhuman strength year round.

RPE is a useful guide that enables them to train towards competition in a way that won’t tank their progress.

Sometimes the above scale is referred to in deciding how to plan a deload week to take some of the pressure off the body.

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