When it comes to your long-term development as a human athlete, strength is a major factor in your ability to move through life and sport effectively.
While resistance training is a valuable tool in the athlete toolkit, many athletes have a troubled past with resistance training. There might be a history of injury, pain, or a negative impact on a sport practice.
This leaves athletes with a slight aversion to resistance training or fear of progressing with the training. Add in some new movements to a training program and the discomfort continues to rise.
How can athletes approach resistance training in a safe and effective manner when trying to build strength? Using RPE is a great tool to aid in both of these goals.
What is "rPE"
RPE stands for the rate of perceived exertion of a task. While this a subjective measure, it can be dialed in over time and become a great tool to help adapt your training properly. When you search for information on RPE, you might see a graphic similar to the one below.
When it comes to resistance training, approach RPE with this type of mentality.
For example, if you have 4x6 @ 7RPE scheduled in your training, you should pick a weight where you could actually complete nine repetitions instead of six. You would still complete six repetitions as scheduled but there should be potential for three more repetitions per set.
How to use RPE
There are two main ways to use RPE as part of your training. You can either use RPE as a prescriptive or as a feedback measure. When starting a new training cycle with an athlete, I might program something with prescriptive RPE instructions similar to this.
"Start week #1 with a weight that has a feel of 7/10 in terms of effort. Then try to progress that weight by 5# each week. Feel free to add warm-up sets to work up to your 7/10 effort."
The flipside of RPE is to ask yourself, how hard a movement seems and rate it. For example, complete a set of a movement and then rate how hard that movement was or how hard the weight was.
Training for life
Now let's look at the long-term. Generally, I look for the RPE of a programmed exercise to be around 8 to 8.5 with the focus of building strength. This is a great spot to challenge yourself but also not push a maximal load. While maximal loads are definitely beneficial in some sporting endeavors, they are not as necessary when you are playing the long game and training for sport AND life.
I have found that an athlete who spends too much time in the 9-10 range battles more fatigue, flirts with improper form more than I would like to see, and might deal with more setbacks. The 8 to 8.5 range is a "sweet spot" for progress without pain. It means you are leaving a few repetitions still in the bag and not pushing to a complete redline. This is smart, progressive training that will continue much longer than redline approaches.
Implement this tip
Whether you are following one of my programs or doing your own thing, I recommend putting this tip to work for you. If you are starting something new or learning new movements, start on the lower end of the RPE scale and take your time learning the form. If you are more seasoned at the movements you are completing, start around a 6 or 7 RPE and then progress from there.
If something scheduled in your training seems to push well past that 8.5 range, make an adjustment to bring it back down on the scale.
These simple tweaks allow you to operate within your means and establish a long-term path forward.
Take your next step
When you begin the process as a Custom Training athlete, the whole experience is catered to you, your resources, goals, and availability. Our on-boarding process takes you through a tactical approach to design a training program best fit for your needs. The best part is that you can participate completely remotely and from anywhere in the world.
Step #1: Performance Questionnaire
To start your journey, we have you fill out a comprehensive performance questionnaire. This is going to help us learn about your goals, resources, and what you look to achieve from your training. Completing this form is the first step of your custom training process.
Step #2: Performance Assessment
This is where we get moving! The performance assessment is going to review your movement capabilities for both injury prevention and athletic performance. This will help us pinpoint strengths and weaknesses we can help you with and build out a foundational phase of training.
Step #3: Start Training
The final step of the on-boarding process is a kickoff phone call. During this call, we discuss your assessment findings, how we plan to help you improve, and answer any questions you have. We will also review your first phase of training and then you will be off and running! Not sure you are ready commit, you can complete the performance questionnaire, performance assessment, and phone call free of charge!
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