What is RPE? RPE Meaning and Workout Intensity

How hard should I workout? This is a question I often get asked a lot, and to be honest, is extremely hard to answer. As most things with fitness, it really depends on what your goals are, and how well trained you are as an exercising individual. To make it even more difficult, there are a variety of modes of exercise, like lifting, running, walking, that make a seemingly easy question, hard to answer. To make the question a little bit easier to navigate, this is usually where I like to introduce the idea of RPE or rate of perceived exhaustion.

So what is RPE? As mentioned above, RPE simply stands for rate of perceived exhaustion. This is a way we can measure how difficult an exercise of movement feels at a given time. Typically, this is done through the use of a scale called the BORG scale. I, personally, am not a huge fan of this version, and rather use a scale of 1-10. In this scale of 1-10, 1 would be the easiest exercise to do on the planet, while 10 would be an exercise that you could not do at all. When we are rating how difficult a workout is, typically we are shooting for an intensity of about 6-8 on the scale of 1-10. Another way to look at this, is picking out an exercise difficulty which gets you breathing a little, where you feel the muscles working, but not too much where you are failing repetitions.

One of my favorite things about RPE is that it is a relative scale. This means that it is completely subjective to how the individual is feeling on a given day. If someone is feeling run down after a bad nights sleep, their RPE for a given exercise might be higher than normal. Visa versa, an individual might feel very well and ready to exercise, and thus have a lower RPE than normal. exercise intensity than normal. This allows an individual to change how much weight they are using, or intense the exercise is based off of how they are feeling. It would make sense to not go as hard on a day you aren’t feeling as well, compared to a day you were feeling better.

In short, we can use an RPE scale to help us determine how hard we should exericse. A good rule of thumb is to keep most of the difficulty of your workouts between a 6-8 on a scale of 1-10. This scale takes time to master and get right, so start practicing now!

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