Rate of Perceived Exertion
By: Coach J
Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE is a scale used to gauge how hard you’re working.
This 1-10 scale can be used when prescribing exercises / workouts to ensure the individual or group is getting the correct intended response from the training at hand.
0-1: You’re barely moving
2-3: Very easy effort – Could do this for an extremely long time
4-5: Easy to moderate effort – You can still talk here but getting warmer and probably starting to sweat
6-7: Moderate to hard effort – You feel like you’re pushing yourself but still able to focus on the movement you’re performing
8-9: Very Hard effort – Talking would be challenging here – Movement quality is degrading as you wish this was over
10: Maximum effort – All out, emptying the tank, as hard as you can push
As you can see, there are several ranges of effort that you can be working in – now I want to go over some common ‘parts’ of the training you see here at Reviver and which RPE level is most appropriate for each.
- Warm-Up: This should be done between 2-5 RPE level. The goal of the warm up is to practice movement quality, activate muscles, increase blood flow and breathing, and get warm, duh!
- Accessory Work: Think Trap 3 Raise, Good Mornings, Bent-over Rows, etc. This stuff should be performed in the 3-6 range.
- Strength Training: You’re money will be made in the 6-8 range when it comes to the bigger lifts (i.e. Deadlift, Back / Front Squat, Pull Ups, Olympic Lifts, etc). You want to push yourself, but insure you can still pay attention to your movement quality. Remember, you’re only as strong as the range in which you train!
- Conditioning: Very similar concept to strength training – looking for the 6-8 range here and for the same reasons. Generally speaking, the longer the workout the lower the RPE level should be and vise versa.
Another way to break this down is in these four categories:
- Warm Up – We already discussed this
- Practice – This is when you’re learning a new movement / exercise / skill or trying to improve upon the movement quality of a skill you already know. During this type of training you’ll want to make sure you’re staying in the 2-3 range – you should not be breathing heavy, you should not be gritting your teeth, you should be able to focus 100% of your efforts on the movement.
- Training – This is when you’ve already gotten damn good at a particular movement and you’re trying to increase your strength for that movement. 6-8 range is appropriate here.
- Testing – Pretty self-explanatory, a 10. You’re maxing out or trying to test your abilities with a particular lift or workout. It should go without saying, but you should NOT be testing a lift or workout that you have not already put in the time to learn and can perform it consistently well.
One last thing – lets say the workout calls for 5×5 Back Squats. This would be considered Strength Training and the intended effort would be 6-8 on the RPE scale. But lets say you’re not very experienced with the Back Squat and haven’t quite perfected the movement. You have two options:
- Do the Back Squats, but stay in the 2-3 effort range so you can practice the skill
- Choose a different movement, one that you do have experience with, and then train that movement at 6-8 effort.
I hope this helps – please feel free to reach out with questions or comments!