How to Use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale to Get the Most Out of Your Training

Knockout Training Club Member doing the TRXTo help dial in intensity and ensure you are utilizing the appropriate amount of weight for a given exercise we use the Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE scale.  This is a 1-10 scale with 1 meaning you could perform the exercise all day with no effort and 10 meaning it takes everything you have to complete 1 rep. For our training purpose we stay in the 6-8 range for most drills.  

Below you will find a guide to help you understand RPE Scale and how to use it during your training.

RPE 6 = You still have 5 reps left in the tank and the weight moves fast with minimal effort.  We typically are here for warm-up sets.

RPE 7 = You have 4 reps left in the tank and the weight moves fast with maximal effort.  We consider this our working sets.

RPE 8 = You have 2-3 reps left in the tank.  We are here for working sets.

RPE 9 = You have 1-2 reps left in the tank.

RPE 10 = You have no reps left in the tank.  It's your absolute max effort to get 1 rep.

* reps left "in the tank" means you could have done X more with same speed/intensity

Again most of our training takes place in the RPE range of 7-8.  This allows us to challenge ourselves but not over reach and crush our body in every workout.  It's okay to test yourself from time to time and work in the RPE of 9 range, but that should be used sparingly.  Our body likes a moderate, controlled challenge of a RPE of 7-8, where it can build strength without injury.  

Dialing in your RPE takes practice.  It requires you to focus on the exercise/movement you are doing and really hone in on your effort.  We don't want to base our RPE solely on if it "feels hard".  We need to be sure our form is on point, we are focused and our body has the right amount of tightness.  

Before you add more weight to increase the challenge and RPE of a given exercise ask yourself the fowling:

Am I focused enough on the movement and how my body feels?

Am I tight enough when I set up for this movement and for the duration of the movement?

Am I expending all the energy I can into the [dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell, ground]?

If you answer yes to all of those and increasing weight would still keep you in the designated RPE for that drill try adding some weight.  If you answer no to any of the above, hone in on what needs to be addressed (focus, tightness, effort/energy).  A movement that seemed easy can quickly become more challenging with subtle adjustments to your body position, mental focus, tightness and energy expenditure.