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  • Question on “Autoregulation and RPE” article

    In the “Autoregulation and RPE” article, the following is noted:

    “Scenario A:

    The lifter repeats the same warm-up scheme and finds that the final warm-up at 225 lbs feels about the same as the previous week. The lifter feels confident in progressing to 250 lbs, 260 lbs, then 270 lbs for their first, second, and final working sets, respectively. The lifter is stronger now than the previous week, having lifted a heavier load at the same relative effort.”

    if the warm up scheme feels the same as last week, doesn’t that mean the lifter is at the same fitness level as last week? Why would he be able to lift heavier weight? My understanding was that only if the warm up scheme feels lighter then the lifter should attempt to progress, since that means he’s gotten stronger since last week.

  • #2
    The decision regarding whether to progress top-set load is not made based on performance in a single warm-up set, especially a warm-up set that is still relatively far away from the target top set.

    Rather, each warm-up set serves to further "calibrate" the assessment and helps determine the working weight for a given day. It is common for a given warm-up set to feel "about the same", but as described in the example, if the lifter feels confident in progressing he can use the next set at 250 as a further calibration set. If that set were harder than expected, the top set load would be adjusted down for the day, and vice versa.
    IG / YT

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    • #3
      Austin Baraki thanks for the response. I understand what you mean when you say you’re using each set to judge the RPE and adjust the weight for the next set in real-time. However, you say that it is common for a given warm up set to feel about the same as compared to last week yet for lifters to be able to progress (given the calibration of the next few sets; they could also reduce the weight or maintain last weeks weight). How is it possible that the warm up set can feel about the same but then the lifter may be able to progress as compared to last week? I thought how fitness adaptations work is that there needs to be a sufficient stress to generate an adaptation; if the warm up set feels the same, then doesn’t that mean there wasn’t enough stress delivered to drive an adaptation, otherwise the body would have adapted to the weight and it’d feel easier?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by mse8392 View Post
        Austin Baraki thanks for the response. I understand what you mean when you say you’re using each set to judge the RPE and adjust the weight for the next set in real-time. However, you say that it is common for a given warm up set to feel about the same as compared to last week yet for lifters to be able to progress (given the calibration of the next few sets; they could also reduce the weight or maintain last weeks weight). How is it possible that the warm up set can feel about the same but then the lifter may be able to progress as compared to last week? I thought how fitness adaptations work is that there needs to be a sufficient stress to generate an adaptation; if the warm up set feels the same, then doesn’t that mean there wasn’t enough stress delivered to drive an adaptation, otherwise the body would have adapted to the weight and it’d feel easier?
        I think you are expecting this to be far more accurate and precise than it is in real life.

        When the original sentences says "ABOUT" the same, this is because there are "error bars" around your assessment. During earlier warm-ups, these error bars are wider - for example, if I'm going to deadlift 700 on a given day, I can't tell that confidently based on how 135 or 225 feels. Maybe they feel super light and I think "OK, I may have a chance of pulling 700 today ... " but I need to see how 500 and 600 move in order to develop a more accurate assessment of my performance on that given day. Additionally, there are a variety of factors that can influence the ballpark assessment, particularly early on - for example, maybe you aren't as focused/motivated/"hyped up" for your first warm-up set compared to your last warm-up set - and the result of focusing more on the last warm-up set may result in a lower effort than expected compared to the prior set.
        IG / YT

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post

          I think you are expecting this to be far more accurate and precise than it is in real life.

          When the original sentences says "ABOUT" the same, this is because there are "error bars" around your assessment. During earlier warm-ups, these error bars are wider - for example, if I'm going to deadlift 700 on a given day, I can't tell that confidently based on how 135 or 225 feels. Maybe they feel super light and I think "OK, I may have a chance of pulling 700 today ... " but I need to see how 500 and 600 move in order to develop a more accurate assessment of my performance on that given day. Additionally, there are a variety of factors that can influence the ballpark assessment, particularly early on - for example, maybe you aren't as focused/motivated/"hyped up" for your first warm-up set compared to your last warm-up set - and the result of focusing more on the last warm-up set may result in a lower effort than expected compared to the prior set.
          I see. So to go along with this scenario: if you’re attempting to pull 700 for the day, and the warm ups feel fine, and 500, 600 feels about the same RPE as you rated last week, and you’re not really sure if you can pull 700 or not—maybe you can, maybe you can’t—would you attempt to pull? Because I feel like this scenario happens to me a lot, where I’m uncertain if I actually got stronger since the warm up sets and working sets feel about the same as the previous week.

          as a side note, I know you’ve mentioned previously that what you’re doing is essentially bayes theorem, where you’re basically updating the probability of the hypothesis that you’ll be able to pull 700 with each new piece of “evidence” coming in, I.e. the RPE’s of the warm up sets and working sets that come beforehand.

          However, consider that potential for Bayes abuse begins with P(B), your initial estimate of the probability of your belief, often called the “prior.” A lot of times I’ll go into the gym with my “prior” belief being that I will PR that day, and when I encounter new pieces of evidence that challenge this assumption (say, warm up sets feeling tough) I tend to discount it little due to this prior belief going in of a high probability of success and then I’ll feel frustrated when I can’t PR. I know you’ve said before that this prior belief mindset should be one of “I want to PR but I’ll be open to evidence as it comes in” but sometimes I find this to be a very hard mindset to get in — part of the hype and motivation comes from having that belief that “yes, today I’m going to pull 700 lbs” and to temper that belief down a bit to “ok, maybe I’ll pull 700 today but maybe not depending on how I’m feeling” removes some of that hype and motivation that makes it quite fun... I’m not really sure where I’m going here, but I guess I just was curious to hear your thoughts.

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          • #6
            I found this article very timely for me. I have recently flipped over to RPE and am trying to be patient in figuring out how to reliably calibrate my warmup sets.

            My primary struggle right now is fatigue as I work progress through my working sets. If one has multiple working sets slated at an RPE 8 I find fatigue making the latter sets feel much heavier than the first set as expected. Would the recommendation be to let each set be adjusted to represent an RPE 8 or would it be to drop reps and keep the load the same?

            Thank you and kind regards.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by mse8392 View Post
              I see. So to go along with this scenario: if you’re attempting to pull 700 for the day, and the warm ups feel fine, and 500, 600 feels about the same RPE as you rated last week, and you’re not really sure if you can pull 700 or not—maybe you can, maybe you can’t—would you attempt to pull? Because I feel like this scenario happens to me a lot, where I’m uncertain if I actually got stronger since the warm up sets and working sets feel about the same as the previous week.
              As you get closer, you can get a more "calibrated" estimate of your performance for the day. I would not plan to make a jump from 600 to 700 lbs (~17% increase), as that is still too far away to get a good estimate and is too large of a % increase. For example, this past Friday I deadlifted 720 lbs. My warm-ups were: 135 lbs (felt "normal"), 225 (normal), (315, normal), 405 (felt a bit lighter than usual), 495, (felt notably lighter than usual), 585 (felt much lighter than usual), 675 (felt the lightest this load had ever felt), and this led to a decision to pull somewhere between 715 and 725 lbs; I settled on 720 and it went fine.

              Originally posted by mse8392 View Post
              However, consider that potential for Bayes abuse begins with P(B), your initial estimate of the probability of your belief, often called the “prior.” A lot of times I’ll go into the gym with my “prior” belief being that I will PR that day, and when I encounter new pieces of evidence that challenge this assumption (say, warm up sets feeling tough) I tend to discount it little due to this prior belief going in of a high probability of success and then I’ll feel frustrated when I can’t PR. I know you’ve said before that this prior belief mindset should be one of “I want to PR but I’ll be open to evidence as it comes in” but sometimes I find this to be a very hard mindset to get in — part of the hype and motivation comes from having that belief that “yes, today I’m going to pull 700 lbs” and to temper that belief down a bit to “ok, maybe I’ll pull 700 today but maybe not depending on how I’m feeling” removes some of that hype and motivation that makes it quite fun... I’m not really sure where I’m going here, but I guess I just was curious to hear your thoughts.
              Yes, this can be hard for people - and there is no way around it or "trick" to it. It's a process we all go through and learn from, and is simply a matter of training maturity, maintaining reasonable expectations, and learning via trial and error over time.

              Your alternative, of course, is to stick to rigid programming involving absolute loads - which fails to account for normal performance variability and often leads to even more failure and frustration over time.
              Last edited by Austin Baraki; 09-13-2020, 06:34 PM.
              IG / YT

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by goskers View Post
                I found this article very timely for me. I have recently flipped over to RPE and am trying to be patient in figuring out how to reliably calibrate my warmup sets.

                My primary struggle right now is fatigue as I work progress through my working sets. If one has multiple working sets slated at an RPE 8 I find fatigue making the latter sets feel much heavier than the first set as expected. Would the recommendation be to let each set be adjusted to represent an RPE 8 or would it be to drop reps and keep the load the same?

                Thank you and kind regards.
                I would adjust the load down as needed and complete the same number of prescribed reps to hit the target effort level.
                IG / YT

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post

                  As you get closer, you can get a more "calibrated" estimate of your performance for the day. I would not plan to make a jump from 600 to 700 lbs (~17% increase), as that is still too far away to get a good estimate and is too large of a % increase. For example, this past Friday I deadlifted 720 lbs. My warm-ups were: 135 lbs (felt "normal"), 225 (normal), (315, normal), 405 (felt a bit lighter than usual), 495, (felt notably lighter than usual), 585 (felt much lighter than usual), 675 (felt the lightest this load had ever felt), and this led to a decision to pull somewhere between 715 and 725 lbs; I settled on 720 and it went fine.



                  Yes, this can be hard for people - and there is no way around it or "trick" to it. It's a process we all go through and learn from, and is simply a matter of training maturity, maintaining reasonable expectations, and learning via trial and error over time.

                  Your alternative, of course, is to stick to rigid programming involving absolute loads - which fails to account for normal performance variability and often leads to even more failure and frustration over time.
                  Thanks Austin. A follow up question: on the RPE chart in the article, it lists RPE 7 as “nothing really gets slow”, an 8 as “mild slowdown”, and a 9 as “moderate slowdown”. However, a lot of times what I judge an RPE 8, or what I judge to be 2 reps left in the tank, has a significant slowdown, and a RPE 9, or what i judge to be about 1 rep in the tank, has a severe slowdown (what the chart says should be an RPE 10 based on bar speed). Basically, my bar speed seems to be a lot slower for each RPE rating then the chart suggests. Do you think my RPE ratings are off or do you think the bar speed/RPE rating depends on the person? Like, could there just be people who are “grindier” and whose bar speed/RPE ratings don’t follow the chart exactly?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You should use your RPE rating, which definitely varies between individuals.
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