What Is RPE In Exercise?

In the world of exercise, one of the most important factors for success is the intensity of a workout. In order to see results, you need to push yourself to a level that challenges your body and forces it to adapt. But how can intensity be measured?

What Is RPE In Exercise?

For years, fitness enthusiasts have relied on metrics like heart rate, weight lifted, and distance covered to gauge the intensity of their workouts. However, another useful tool has emerged in recent years – one called RPE.

RPE stands for “Rate of Perceived Exertion,” and it’s a measure of how hard you feel like you’re working during exercise. This makes it a useful tool for athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all levels, as it can help you adjust the intensity of your workouts to match your goals and abilities.

In this article, we’ll closely examine what RPE is, how you can use it, and when it won’t be useful for you! 

How Does RPE Work? 

RPE is a scale that allows you to rate your level of exertion during exercise. The most common RPE scale ranges from 0-10, with 0 being no exertion at all (i.e., sitting down) and 10 being maximum exertion (i.e., pushing yourself to the point of extreme difficulty or failure). 

You can use the RPE scale to rate your perceived exertion during any type of exercise, from weight lifting to cardio. There are a few main benefits to using RPE in your workouts. 

First, RPE is subjective, which means it takes into account factors like fatigue, hydration, and other individual factors that can impact your workout intensity.

This can be especially helpful if you’re recovering from an injury, or illness, or if you’re new to exercise, allowing you to personalize your workout metrics. 

Secondly, RPE can help you match the intensity of your workout to your goals. For example, if your goal is to build endurance, you may want to aim for an RPE of 7-8 during your cardio workouts.

If your goal is to build strength, you may want to aim for an RPE of 8-9 during your weightlifting workouts.

How Should I Use It?

To use RPE in your workouts, you’ll need to become familiar with the RPE scale and how it feels in your body. Here’s a breakdown of the RPE scale and what each number means, with some estimates of the kind of exercise you’ll be undertaking as you go up. 

0: No exertion

1-2: Very light exertion (walking slowly)

3-4: Light exertion (fast walking)

5-6: Moderate exertion (jogging)

7-8: Much exertion (sprinting)

9-10: Maximum exertion (pushing yourself to the point of failure)

(Note: You can apply this to the specifics of the exercise you’re engaging in. For example – weightlifting will involve more explosive movements as opposed to walking/running/sprinting). 

What Is RPE In Exercise?

During your workouts, you can periodically check in with your body and rate your perceived exertion on the RPE scale. Aim to stay within the RPE range that matches your goals for that particular workout.

For example, if you’re doing a moderate-intensity cardio workout, aim for an RPE of 5-6. If you’re doing a high-intensity interval training workout, then you should be aiming for an RPE of 8-9.

It’s important to note that RPE is subjective, which means it may not always align with objective measures of intensity like heart rate or weight lifted.

For example, you may rate your perceived exertion as an 8 during a cardio workout, but your heart rate may only be at 70% of your maximum heart rate.

This is to be expected and is a reflection of the fact that RPE takes into account individual factors like fatigue and hydration, or anything else that might be affecting your workout. 

When Should I Avoid It?

While RPE can be a helpful tool for most people, there are some situations where you may want to avoid using it.

First, if you have a medical condition that impacts your ability to perceive exertion, RPE may not be an accurate measure of intensity for you.

Let’s say you suffer from a heart condition, in this case, your body may not respond to exercise in the same way as someone without a heart condition. In this case, it’s important to work with a qualified healthcare professional to determine safe and appropriate levels of exercise intensity.

Second, if you’re a competitive athlete, RPE may not be the most effective tool for tracking progress and performance.

In this case, you may want to rely on objective measures like heart rate, power output, or weight lifted to gauge the intensity of your workouts. This can streamline your workouts to allow you to work towards your specific athletic goal. 

Finally, if you find that RPE is causing you any stress or anxiety during your workouts, it may be best to avoid using it.

Remember, RPE is a subjective measure of intensity, and it’s not the only way to track your progress in the gym. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused about your workouts, consider talking to a coach, trainer, or mental health professional for extra support.

Final Thoughts

To conclude our article, RPE is a useful tool for tracking the intensity of your workouts and adjusting your training to match your goals and abilities. By learning the RPE scale and checking in with your body during exercise, you can ensure that you’re working at a safe and effective level of intensity.

However, it’s important to remember that RPE is a subjective measure of intensity and may not always align with objective measures like heart rate or weight lifted.

If you have a medical condition or are a competitive athlete, you may need to rely on other tools to gauge the intensity of your workouts, so always trust the training programs of your specialized athletic coaches or trainers in this case. 

We hope that this guide has helped you to learn the basics of RPE and why you might want to use it. Using a tool like RPE to help guide your workouts, you can stay on track with your fitness goals and achieve optimal results. We wish you the best of luck in your future training sessions! 

Laura Simmons
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