You’ve no doubt noticed we assign a Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE) that you should work at during an aerobic or strength training session.
RPE is a way to measure your intensity level and there are two different methods – a 6-20 scale and a 1-10. We use the simple 1-10 scale in determining how hard you feel your body is working. One is minimum effort, while 10 is an all-out sprint or a maximal weight.
Being accurate with your RPE takes some experience in listening to your body. Things to pay attention to include:
- heart rate
- breathing rate
- muscle fatigue
This is a subjective measure and your RPE will be different than someone else’s, depending on levels of fitness and strength.
Say for instance in an aerobic workout, we assign an RPE of eight, think to yourself “on a scale of 1-10, am I a few notches below an all-out effort?” And, in doing so, take note of your pace on the monitors.
In strength training, an RPE of eight would be quite heavy, but you still have a little in the tank to move more weight.
If you are a fitness newbie, it can take time to really get the hang of successfully working in the appropriate RPE. Don’t be discouraged and remember some of these points:
- If you’re working on correcting your movement patterns on a particular lift, err on the side of a lower RPE to establish good movement patterns first. You can increase the RPE of a light lift by going slow and making a light weight feel heavier.
- In aerobic training, the higher the RPE, the more impossible it becomes to hit that same intensity over and over. If you’ve miscalculated, no problem…consider it a learning experience.
In summary, RPE is an effective tool that requires lots of awareness. Check out the graphic below to understand it a bit better. The graphic related the RPE scale to aerobic activity, but the concept is similar for strength training.