Loading Guidelines


Wonder how we're going to monitor the intensity of your training to ensure you're working appropriately for your goals and current level?

One way to guide your training intensity and track your effort is with the RPE or Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale.

The RPE scale has a range from 0 to 10 (with 0 being no exertion whatsoever and 10 being maximum effort / near-death).

As you can guess, an RPE of 6 corresponds with an intensity level somewhere in the middle.

How does this translate to your training program?

If you perform a set until you could only do about 3 more good quality reps before hitting failure, then you would give that set an RPE of 7. Because the scale goes to 10 and 10 equals maximum effort.

If you performed a set to absolute failure, where you couldn't possibly perform another rep to save your life, then that would be a 10 RPE.

There are two ways we will use the RPE scale.

1. To prescribe training loads

For example, you may see the following:

Bench Press

3x 8 RPE w 100k

This means that I'd like you to perform 3 sets leaving only 2 reps in the tank each set using 100k.

Because 2 reps away from failure is 8 RPE.

Another example:

Bench Press

4x5 @ 7 RPE

This means that I'd like you to perform 4 sets of 5. Each set should feel as though you have only 3 reps in the tank. I may prescribe an exact load for you or ask you to explore and adjust loading yourself.

This allows us to prescribe appropriate training loads for your goals and abilities at a given point along your training cycle.

It's also useful if we don't what loads to use for a given lift and can allow us to explore without overdoing it.

2. To record and track training results

You can also use the RPE scale to provide feedback on how hard the working sets felt.

In the results section of each exercise, you may write, for example.

Set 1: 7 RPE

Set 2: 8 RPE

Set 3: 9 RPE

We can then adjust loads or continue on course making sure we're working as hard as we need to session to session.

Other notable uses:


The RPE can be used for other exercise modalities, like cardiovascular training. As a way of prescribing and measuring training intensities. An RPE of 4-5 on a spin bike largely corresponds to cardiac output work, for example.

Session RPE (sRPE)

How hard was that session, overall /10?

Reps In Reserve (RIR)

Reps In Reserve (RIR) is simply a variation of the RPE concept referring to how many reps away from technical failure you are. It's a little more intuitive and becomes more accurate the closer you are to failure.

For example:

3 RIR = 3 Reps In Reserve = 3 repetitions away from failure = 7 RPE

1 RIR = 1 Rep In Reserve = 1 repetition away from failure = 9 RPE

RIR can also be written as 2/fail for 2 repetitions away from failure.

Want to Calculate Your Estimated 1-Repetition Maximum (1RM)?

Calculate your 1RM and more using these interactive fitness calculators. You'll also find a detailed graphic of key training zones and corresponding loading parameters to reference.


  • RPE (rating of perceived exertion) scale is used to prescribe and track training intensities.

  • The scale is easiest to hardest up to 10, so a 1 RPE = easy, relaxed while an 8 RPE = very hard, only 2 good repetitions left in the tank.

  • RIR (reps in reserve) is a variation used to prescribe and track proximity to failure and is more accurate when closer to failure. Written as 2 RIR or 2/fail, for example.

  • Record everything.

  • Use the 1RM calculator to estimate your 1RM and learn about the key loading zones.

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