Train like your trainer: Rate of Perceived exertion


When it’s time to workout nobody likes being confused. This series is designed to give you a look at what is going on in a trainer’s head while they are working out. As we review concepts, you’ll be able to understand why your trainer does the things that they do and work on doing them on your own workout. The benefit to you is that you will be able to do your work just like your trainer.   

What it is 

We’re all familiar with doing three sets of ten reps on each exercise, whether it is bicep curls or squats. Here, we won’t discuss why that many reps or sets but rather, how much weight you choose for the exercise. Your trainer is typically looking to perceive your rate of perceived exertion (RPE); or how you are being impacted by the weight and reps through the set.

The rate of perceived exertion can be measured on a scale of 1-10. 10 signifying, that the max has been reached. For example, on a set of 10 bicep curls, if I curl 20 pounds and on my 10th rep I am out of energy to do any more reps after that, then there I have found an RPE of 10 or maximum exertion on a set. The scale works down from there, so an RPE of 9 would mean after 10 reps, I felt as if I could have done one more repetition (an RPE of 8, two more repetitions left in the tank, and so forth). 

How to use it 

Now that we understand the rate of perceived exertion, the question comes of how we can use it. This is where it becomes too important to have a focus on each and every workout. Sometimes we can choose to focus on intensity, volume, calories burnt or time spent working out.

For example, if we are working out and focusing on gaining muscle strength, then we would want our compound lifts, the exercises that will work the most muscles to be challenging at a tough RPE, and the following exercises after that to be lighter. A workout that is focused on intensity would have a string of movements that can all be performed at the same RPE, for numerous rounds. The goal wouldn’t be to exhaust yourself on the first exercise and then have no energy left for the remaining exercise. The chart below depicts the difference between the two setups. 

A great part about working out is that no two workouts feel exactly the same. Choosing your rate of exertion should also take into consideration, your current stress levels, how much sleep you got the night before, and the time of day. On days when you’re really feeling great try and push yourself for the challenge, then there are the other days where you program to push yourself with lighter exertion to get the workout done and move on to the next one. 

Train like your trainer, by learning how to use your rate of perceived exertion. It is a useful scale to help you listen to your body and challenge yourself during your workout. 

Strength Workout Intensity (like HIIT) 
Bench Press 4-6 reps – RPE: 8-10DB Bench Press 8 reps – RPE 5 
Tricep Extensions 10-12 reps – RPE: 6Dips 10 reps – RPE 5
Chest Flys 10-12 reps – RPE: 6Jumping Jacks 15 reps – RPE 5 
Incline DB Press 10-12 reps: 6Ab Crunches 15 reps – RPE 5

If you want to learn more about the rate of perceived exertion, do not hesitate in contacting us. Email us or check out our social networks.