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RPE for Weightlifters
by Mash Mafia Coach Matt Shiver (to find out more about Matt check out this previous article:
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Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a tool that can be used to gauge effort of training sessions. The most common used RPE scale is a Modified Borg Scale (0-10). A rating of 0 is no work, while 10 is max effort, leaving nothing in the tank.
Weightlifting coaches normally program either off of percentages of repetition maxes or they program their athletes to go for daily rep maxes. Here at Mash Elite our coaches use both methods based on the athlete and training cycle. The use of rep maxes is a great tool because it allows the athletes to train off how they feel that day. Everyday 85% snatches will feel different. Some days they may feel fast and snappy. Other days they feel slow and heavy.
With that, it can be very helpful to pair up daily rep maxes with RPE values. If you are doing rep maxes every day at maximal intensity of a 10 RPE and training 5-6 days per week, you are going to get burnt out pretty fast. The chances of being burnt out and becoming injured are substantially increased. It can be very beneficial to assign an RPE value to your daily repetition max for a given exercise.
Weightlifting and strength movements can be very difficult to assign RPE values for. If you are training in the 8-12 rep range, it is much easier. You can think of RPE from a repetition standpoint. If you have 1 left rep in the tank, you are around a 9 RPE. If you have 2 reps in the tank you are about an 8 RPE. If you go to failure, that is a 10 RPE. Because weightlifting training mostly takes place in the 1-5 rep range, it is not as easy as counting how many reps you have in the tank left. It revolves more around going off the feel/smoothness of the lift. Below is a guide to help you find your RPE based off feel starting at an RPE of 7.
A 7 RPE should feel fast! If you are prescribed a 7 RPE on a rep max, you want to focus on doing the set with good technique. This prescription is used to get athletes used to the total volume of the training cycle. It is used on the first week of a training program or the start of a deload/peak week.
An 8 RPE should feel solid. Here we can work on strength, technique, speed under load, and confidence. The sets hear should look good and feel good. It should be hard but you know that you are not going to have any misses. This is where you should spend a large percentage of your training sessions.
A 9 RPE should be very challenging. You are pushing yourself extremely hard but really limiting yourself on your misses. You should have just a few kilos left in the tank after your set. You will need a full 2-4 minutes of rest between attempting another set at that weight. This RPE should be done right before taking a deload week. You are pushing this 9 RPE with multiple exercises and multiple sets. The volume and intensity will take a toll on your recovery.
A 10 RPE is absolute max. You should be able to hit this for just one set and that is it! This is done at the end of a training program to test for progress.
Quick RPE Guide:
7 – fast and snappy
8 – challenging but solid set, felt good, looked good
9 – I’m pushing myself but keep a few kilos in the tank
10 – MAX OUT, may have some misses
Prescriptions are often written in-between two different RPE values. 7-8, 8-9, or 9-10. This gives the athlete even more control on that session. They can choose to either stay at the lower RPE or ramp up to the higher RPE based on how they feel that day.
Programing the RPE values on daily repetition maxes can be an easy way to allow athletes to train off feel. This type of training helps them learn to listen to their body. Most importantly, it allows them to train safe and gives them room to progress each week.
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