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How is RPE a good proxy for intensity?

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  • How is RPE a good proxy for intensity?


    It's been mentioned (for example, in the beginner template) that RPE can be used as an alternative measure of intensity (as compared to discrete weights or percentages), but I don't understand how they are comparable.

    For instance, if a person's squat 1RM is 200lbs, and its prescribed to do a set of 5 at 100lbs, then the average relative intensity for the set is 50%. Additionally, the RPE for the set will be pretty low, since it's only a few reps at a relatively light weight.

    However, if the same person is prescribed to do a set of 30 reps at 100lbs, the RPE will be pretty high since it’s much more volume, yet the average relative intensity will remain the same—50%. Thus, RPE takes in account both volume and intensity. How, then, can RPE be used as a proxy for intensity in programming? I feel like a more accurate comparison would be to compare RPE to a volume-adjusted measure of intensity. I would like to add that I don't think RPE is a useless metric—on the contrary, I think the qualitative measure it provides is invaluable. I just don't see how it can be used as a proxy for intensity since it measures different things.

    Furthermore, given that most of the strength training research uses percentages as a measure of intensity, wouldn't using RPE as the measure of intensity in your programs prevent you from generalizing the results of the studies to your programs given that you're measuring different things?

  • #2
    This is why we do not write programs with prescriptions saying something useless like "Squat at RPE 8".

    Rather, we program a specific rep range at a given RPE target, such as "Squat 5 reps at RPE 8", which is the proxy for intensity based on the individual's preparedness and performance on a given day.

    This application has been validated in both the endurance and strength training realms.

    I also recommend this paper:
    Last edited by Austin Baraki; 05-26-2020, 11:06 PM.
    IG / YT