Lifters who are smarter about their training and want to keep the intensity intact should plan to use RPE in their routines.
What is RPE? It stands for the rate of perceived effort, and in short, it is a scale system that helps lifters to consciously regulate their intensity without overloading too fast.
Here's how it works: Three Sets of Three Repeats of Squats at 250 Pounds For example, run each set and grade it at a difficulty level of 1
The next time you work out in the gym, add five or ten pounds to those sets. If your RPE reaches the range of 9.5 to 10 on the first of three sets and you are struggling over the last two, your RPE is likely to be too high and you need to lower the weight. So if you stick to an RPE of 8 or 9, this is probably your best bet.
RPE is essentially a way to monitor the intensity of your workout yourself. This allows you to train yourself and get the most out of your training session. However, this happens in an efficient way. This is in comparison to repetitions of failures that could cause you to exhaust the first set with little production for the duration of your workout time.
"RPE keeps you away from this fatigue point," says Brandon Smitley, who has been competing for powerlifting for seven years and has been training clients for more than a decade. "It can make the customer work hard, but he's also safe because he does not get the maximum every time he comes to a training session. The # 1 that teaches you is how to listen to your body.
While Smitley is an attorney for RPE for all lifters, Pat Davidson, a Ph.D. and strength coaches from New York City, see the value of seasoned hardcore powerlifters to keep their joints fresh. Otherwise, he calls RPE "completely unusable" for beginners and argues: "Most new people who lift weights have no idea what it means to work at the maximum level" and would therefore be inaccurate with the measurement system. That being said, Davidson would opt for the latter if he wanted to focus on RPE or not.
"I do not think it's really necessary, because I do not think we've really gotten better at weightlifting or muscle growth in the last decade, the last two decades quite honestly," said Davidson. "I do not know if we really have that much evidence that RPE is better or worse than anything that came before it."
Anyone interested in RPE can start using an activity scale like this one.