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The Complete Guide to the RPE Scale (and How to Use It)

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If you want to know how to use the RPE scale to safely gain muscle and strength faster, then you want to listen to this podcast.

One of the most important aspects of weightlifting is progression.

This is the difference between exercise (moving your body to burn calories and improve health) and training (exercising according to a plan designed to produce specific long-term outcomes).

This is the key to avoiding stagnation in muscle and strength gain, and to breaking through the many plateaus that will occur throughout your fitness journey.

There are a number of ways to progress in your weightlifting workouts, but many of the most practical and effective ones share this in common:

They involve prescribed levels of difficulty in individual sets.

In other words, some sets are supposed to be moderately challenging, while others are supposed to involve near-maximum effort.

For example, one of my favorite progression models is known as double progression, and it works like this:

You work with a given weight in a given rep range, and once you hit the top of that rep range for one, two, or three sets (depending on the programming), you move up in weight, and work with it until you hit the top of your rep range again for the required number of sets, move up, and so on.

In this way, you first progress in your reps with a given weight, and then progress with the amount of weight you’re lifting. Hence, “double progression.”

Here’s a key question though:

How difficult are these sets supposed to be?

Well, if you want to get the most out of double progression, you want to end your working (heavy) sets one or two reps shy of failure.

In other words, you want your working sets to be pretty damn difficult.

This way of looking at the difficulty of exercise (in this case, weightlifting), brings us to the topic at hand: the RPE scale.

As you’ll soon see, the RPE scale is a simple but powerful tool for workout programming, and especially for strength training, because it can help you gain muscle and strength faster while simultaneously reducing the risk of injury or overtraining.

Let’s start by defining exactly what RPE is.

Would you rather read about how to use the RPE scale? Then check out this article!

TIME STAMPS

5:28 – What is RPE?

9:43 – Why do people use RPE scale?

13:47 – How do you use RPE to make progress and avoid overtraining?

14:49 – What is anchoring?

15:42 – What are Reps In Reserve (RIR)?

17:17 – How can you know how many reps you still have in reserve?

21:13 – How can you use RPE to get bigger and stronger faster?

References

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306039034_Borg’s_Perceived_Exertion_And_Pain_Scales

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1888754617300278

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0165010

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22873691

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21346333

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8781857/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4033492/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25028958/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27941492

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18545186/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22873691

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4332174/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27787474

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22873691

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4961270/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26049792/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4961270/

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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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