Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) – Resistance Training

In a previous article I discussed how we can use RPE to monitor the intensity of cardiovascular training. This article explains how we can also apply a similar RPE scale to resistance training.

Behold the RPE scale for Resistance Training!

RPE for lifting

As you can see the numbers on the left and the emoji’s are the same as the cardiovascular training version but the descriptions refer to how many reps you have left in the tank.

How do I use it?

Remember the 2 for 2 rule which you can use to indicate when it is a good time to increase the load? The RPE scale can be used in conjunction with this. So if you are hitting a 7-8 on the RPE scale on the last set of an exercise for two consecutive training sessions it is time to increase the load. By all means if you are experienced then feel free to hit a 9 or 10 on the last rep of your set but just remember going to failure is great for character building and feeling the burn but it isn’t necessarily the smart way to train.

Why should you not go to failure?

When we lift to failure we produce fatiguing waste products that affect our performance. If you still have more sets and more exercises on the same muscle groups then you probably won’t lift as much if you begin in a pre-fatigued state. This will result in a workout with less volume overall. If you aim for an RPE of 8 instead of 10 then you can keep lifting. More volume, more strength and size gains.

Why does every training magazine tell me to go to failure?

Look, to put it bluntly, if someone is juiced up to the eyeballs then I expect they can go to failure on every set of every exercise of every workout and keep coming back stronger. There may be some unique individuals that can do that without the juice too. Although, I’m not so sure. When I first started training at around 18 I did train like that and got some good gains but I plateaued pretty quick.

Now I train a lot smarter and think about the long game!

Quality over quantity guys 👍