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Evidence-Based Personal Training

The Evidence-Based Personal Training column provides


practical application of research topics specific to enh-
ancing results for personal trainers.

COLUMN EDITOR: Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, CSCS,


CSPS, NSCA-CPT

Application of the
Repetitions in Reserve-
Based Rating of
Perceived Exertion Scale
for Resistance Training
Eric R. Helms, MS, CSCS,1 John Cronin, PhD, CSCS,1,2 Adam Storey, PhD,1 and Michael C. Zourdos, PhD, CSCS3
1
Sport Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ), AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand; 2School of
Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia; and 3Department of Exercise
Science and Health Promotion, Muscle Physiology Laboratory, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida

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ABSTRACT SCALE BASED ON HOW MANY INTRODUCTION


rating of perceived exertion

A
REPETITIONS ARE REMAINING
RATINGS OF PERCEIVED EXER- (RPE) scale is a tool used to
AT THE COMPLETION OF A SET
TION ARE A VALID METHOD OF
MAY BE A MORE PRECISE monitor the perceptual response
ESTIMATING THE INTENSITY OF A
TOOL. THIS APPROACH ADJUSTS to training, which has been well estab-
RESISTANCE TRAINING EXER-
LOADS AUTOMATICALLY TO lished as a method of determining
CISE OR SESSION. SCORES ARE
MATCH ATHLETE CAPABILITIES exertion during exercise (21). The orig-
GIVEN AFTER COMPLETION OF
ON A SET-TO-SET BASIS AND inal RPE scale was developed by
AN EXERCISE OR TRAINING SES-
MAY MORE ACCURATELY Gunnar Borg over 40 years ago (5)
SION FOR THE PURPOSES OF
GAUGE INTENSITY AT NEAR-LIMIT and has been primarily used to monitor
ATHLETE MONITORING. HOW-
EVER, A NEWLY DEVELOPED LOADS. THIS ARTICLE OUTLINES aerobic exercise. The original scale
HOW TO INCORPORATE THIS rated exertion from 6–20 to roughly
Address correspondence to Eric R. Helms, NOVEL SCALE INTO A TRAINING match heart rate, and therefore its
eric.helms@aut.ac.nz. PLAN. application to resistance training may

42 VOLUME 38 | NUMBER 4 | AUGUST 2016 Copyright Ó National Strength and Conditioning Association
have been limited. Its creation was fol- on completion of the 10th repetition For this reason, Zourdos et al. recently
lowed shortly by the development of of each set, participants verbalized investigated the use of a 1–10 scale in-
Borg’s category (C) ratio (R) scale. either how many more repetitions which RPE value corresponds to
The Borg CR10 Scale was the first they believed they could perform a number of repetitions in reserve
scale to provide exertion ratings from before reaching failure or a 1–10 (RIR) (i.e., 10 RPE 5 1 RIR; 9
1 to 10, and it was followed by the RPE score (whether remaining repe- RPE 5 2 RIR, and so forth) in experi-
creation of a visually aided 1–10 titions or RPE was reported was enced (those who had .1 year experi-
RPE scale known as the OMNI scale randomized). Then, while receiving ence performing the barbell back
(14). However, more recently RPE has verbal encouragement from spotters squat) and novice (those who had ,1
been used through these 3 aforemen- they continued the set to muscular year experience) squatters (48).
tioned scales to gauge effort during failure to determine actual repetitions Because Hackett et al. (2012) found
resistance training (29). Although remaining. athletes’ estimates of repetitions re-
there are slight differences in the Hackett et al. discovered that not only maining were more accurate when
nomenclature and numerical ranges did participants report RPE ratings that a set was closer to failure, this scale
of these scales, all have been deter- fell short of maximal (less than 10) even was developed using RIR descriptors
mined valid methods of quantifying when sets were taken to volitional fail- for scores of 5–10 and descriptors of
perceived exertion (14). ure (no further repetitions could be per- perceived effort to describe scores from
There are different ways to use RPE formed), but that the participants had 1 to 4. In addition, scores of 5–6 were
scores in resistance training. Scores a high degree of accuracy in estimating grouped as 4–6 RIR as it is easier for
can be obtained from the lifter after their number of repetitions remaining athletes to give a range of RIR when
each exercise or group of exercises, on a set. The actual and estimated num- RIR is greater than 3. Zourdos et al.
or alternatively using the session ber of repetitions performed by the also found substantial differences
RPE method, whereby 30 minutes lifters were highly related for both the
between novice and experienced squat-
after a session is completed an RPE bench press (r 5 0.95) and squat (r 5
ters which have important implications
score for the entire training bout is 0.93). In addition, with each subsequent
for the use of this scale. The scale intro-
obtained (15). Session RPE can be set the participants were able to more
duced by Zourdos et al. can be seen in
used to prescribe intensity for an accurately gauge the number of repeti-
tions remaining. Meaning, that as Table 1. It must be noted that although
entire training session or to monitor Zourdos et al. have introduced an RIR-
the global response to training over fatigue mounted from previous sets
and the closer to failure a set was taken, based scale into the scientific literature,
time to make adjustments to a period-
the more accurate the estimation of rep- a scale of this type was originally
ization plan (9). However, if a strength
etitions remaining became (19). How- created in “The Reactive Training Sys-
and conditioning practitioner wishes
ever, a disconnect remained as Hackett tems Manual” in 2008 to be used in
to prescribe intensity using RPE on
a set-to-set basis, the traditional RPE et al. (2012) had athletes use two differ- powerlifting-type training (45). Based
scale has limitations. Arguably the ent scales to assess RPE and repetitions on these recent studies, it seems that
most important limitation is that less remaining, thus it may be more appro- a scale based on RIR has a number of
than maximal RPE scores are often priate to present 1 scale to athletes for potential applications in resistance
reported even when the maximal feasibility and ease of use. training, which this review will examine.
number of repetitions are performed
at a given load (19,33,42).
Table 1
In fact, Hackett et al. (2012) explored Resistance training specific rating of perceived exertion (48)
this limitation by measuring both the
estimated repetitions remaining, Rating Description of perceived exertion
actual repetitions remaining, and the 10 Maximum effort
RPE in bodybuilders performing the
9 1 repetition remaining
bench press and squat. To do so, the
researchers had the participants per- 8 2 repetitions remaining
form 5 repeated sets at 70% of one
7 3 repetitions remaining
repetition maximum (1RM) for 10
repetitions (or to failure if 10 repeti- 5–6 4–6 repetitions remaining
tions could not be completed) with
3–4 Light effort
5 minutes rest between sets. At full
extension in both the squat (standing 1–2 Little to no effort
at full extension) and bench press
Reprinted from Zourdos et al. 2015 with permission.
(arms extended with elbows locked),

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Evidence-Based Personal Training

BENEFITS OF USING A (13,43), and this seems to hold true scores reported for single repetitions
REPETITIONS IN RESERVE–BASED when using an RIR-based scale as well. at 100, 90, 75, and 60% of 1RM were
SCALE FOR PRESCRIBING In a recent study by Zourdos et al., 0.32, 0.92, 0.97, and 1.18, respectively,
INTENSITY
comparing the use of an RIR-based for the experienced squatters (48). The
Although it may be a more accurate scale in experienced and novice squat- data from Zourdos et al. clearly sug-
method of determining near-limit ters, not only were experienced squat- gests experienced lifters to record more
loads for resistance training compared accurate scores than novice lifters.
ters more often able to provide
with the traditional RPE scales (19),
accurate scores at 1RM (9.80 6 0.18 Therefore, novice lifters should prac-
the RIR-based scale also shares many
versus 8.96 6 0.43, p 5 0.023), but tice recording RIR, but likely not base
of the beneficial traits associated with
the inverse association between scores training intensity or progression solely
traditional RPE. There is inherent var-
and velocity was stronger in experi- on the RIR-based scale until increased
iation in human performance because
enced compared with novice squatters accuracy is achieved. A possible way to
of normal biological and psychological
(r 5 20.88 versus r 5 20.77) (48). This gauge this is to take a submaximal set
variability and factors such as sleep (6),
relationship between RIR and velocity short of failure and record a score fol-
nutrition (23), and life stress (4) all may
is important; as per the load-velocity lowed by a subsequent set at the same
affect strength during training or dur-
relationship, as intensity increases the load that is taken to failure to test if the
ing testing. In addition, rates of prog-
speed of movement decreases. For score was accurate. Once accuracy is
ress and recovery are highly individual
example, in competitive powerlifting, established, RIR scores should primar-
(16,44). Methods of determining inten-
a sport where one of the goals of the ily be used for training goals that
sity such as percentage of 1RM and
competitor is to squat as heavy a load require sets to be completed near, or
RM are based on a previous perfor-
as possible for a single repetition, it has a few repetitions short of volitional fail-
mance that may not be representative
been said that an attempted lift that is ure (RPE 7–10). Therefore, the use of
of an athlete’s current status. 1RM is
just barely completed at the slowest the RIR-based scale should primarily
not stable in novice populations (36)
speed possible is indicative of the best be relegated to training goals such as
and can be suppressed by fatigue from
performance capable by that lifter (17). strength, hypertrophy, muscular
previous training mesocycles (28).
This is not to say that loads are inten- endurance, or heavy power training.
Thus, if a 1RM or RM test happens
to be reflective of an abnormal perfor- tionally moved slow, but rather that To conclude, implementation of the
mance, positive or negative, subse- experienced lifters due to their exten- RIR-based scale with novice and expe-
quent training loads would be lighter sive neuromuscular adaptations and rienced lifters for various training goals
or heavier than intended. Likewise, their ability to hold form at very heavy is possible. However, the RIR-based
even if a test does accurately reflect loads, can “grind” through heavier at- scale should be implemented only as
current strength, subsequent percent- tempts than novice lifters at slower an additional variable to be tracked
age 1RM loading does not account speeds without failing. For this reason, alongside normal training data with
for day-to-day fluctuations in perfor- the ability to complete maximal lifts novice lifters. This serves to increase
mance. Also, despite the common use at very slow speeds can be viewed as the awareness of how close each set
of tables showing “repetitions allowed” a sign of neuromuscular efficiency, is performed to failure, and to there-
at different percentages of 1RM in with regard to maximal strength, and fore familiarize the user with the scale.
professional texts (3), there are inter- indicative of an experienced lifter (48). Once the lifter has advanced past the
individual variations in how many rep- Thus, for this RIR-based scale to be novice stage, the use of this scale for
etitions can be performed at the same seen as a valid measure of assessing intensity prescription can be consid-
percentage of 1RM (35). To conclude, intensity, final-repetition velocity should ered. However, before implementing
the RIR-based scale not only shares the decrease as the score of a given set in- the scale in this manner, a session
benefit of putting all individuals on creases. Therefore, the stronger inverse dedicated to testing the lifter’s rating
a “level playing field” that traditional relationship observed in experienced accuracy with the scale should be
RPE enjoys but also has the unique squatters seems to indicate that experi- performed.
advantage of being more valid than enced lifters are more accurate in gaug- Furthermore, prescribing intensity
traditional RPE for sets performed ing RIR. using an RIR-based scale is not mutu-
with near-limit loading (19). Similar to previous data (19), Zourdos ally exclusive with prescribing inten-
If a practitioner decides to use an RIR- et al. also observed that experienced sity using percentage 1RM or RM
based scale to prescribe intensity, care lifters are more consistent at gauging values. If a practitioner wishes to use
must be taken to ensure it is properly RIR as they approach failure (48). This these arguably more objective meas-
implemented. The ability to accurately is indicated by a decrease in the vari- ures of intensity, they can also use
gauge traditional RPE is greater in ability of scores as lifters performed RIR in conjunction with a RM or per-
those experienced with resistance single repetitions at increasing intensi- centage 1RM prescription to ensure
training compared with novices ties. The standard deviation of the the intended stress matches the

44 VOLUME 38 | NUMBER 4 | AUGUST 2016


experienced stress of the lifter. For Table 2
example, if a practitioner prescribes 3 Relationship with percentage 1RM, repetitions performed and RIR-based RPE
sets of 3 repetitions at 90% 1RM, they
might expect on a good day for the Repetitions performed
lifter to be able to complete the initial
RPE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
2 sets with 1 repetition remaining, and
for the final set to be near maximal. To 10 100a% 95.0% 91.0% 87.0% 85.0% 83.0% 81.0% 79.0%
ensure that this intended intensity is
9.5 97.0% 93.0% 89.0% 86.0% 84.0% 82.0% 80.0% 77.5%
what is experienced, they can concur-
rently prescribe “0–1 RIR on all sets” so 9 95.0% 91.0% 87.0% 85.0% 83.0% 81.0% 79.0% 76.0%
that the lifter knows to reduce the 8.5 93.0% 89.0% 86.0% 84.0% 82.0% 80.0% 77.5% 74.5%
intensity if they are unable to complete
a
3 repetitions, or to increase the inten- 8 91 % 87.0% 85.0% 83.0% 81.0% 79.0% 76.0% 73.0%
sity if they are able to complete sets 7.5 89.0% 86.0% 84.0% 82.0% 80.0% 77.5% 74.5% 71.5%
with more than 1 RIR. This approach
could also be used with an RM pre- 7 87.0% 85.0% 83.0% 81.0% 79.0% 76.0% 73.0% 70a%
scription if the practitioner wishes for a
These bolded values are the mean percentage 1RM values from sets performed in Zourdos
the lifter to stop short of muscular fail- et al. (48).
ure. For example, a “5RM with 1 RIR”
1RM 5 one repetition maximum; RPE 5 rating of perceived exertion; RIR 5 repetitions in
could be prescribed so that the lifter reserve.
knows to use the heaviest load they
can lift for 5 repetitions, while stopping
the set with 1 RIR. Statistically, this is important to note would not be appropriate to use this
due to individual differences in the abil- scale for low to moderate intensity,
ity to perform repetitions at different high-velocity power training (under
RELATIONSHIP OF PERCENTAGE
ONE REPETITION MAXIMUM, percentages of 1RM. For example, 80% 1RM) if the goal is to have an
REPETITIONS PERFORMED, AND the standard deviation reported at 8 accurate gauge of RIR (3). However,
REPETITIONS IN RESERVE repetitions at 70% of 1RM was 1.2. the development of power in the
For practitioners used to prescribing Meaning, that roughly two-thirds of high-force portion of the force-
intensity based on percentage 1RM lifters when performing a set of 8 rep- velocity curve could be targeted using
(and RM) and its relationship with etitions at 70% of 1RM may report an this scale (20). That said, a potential use
repetitions allowed, we direct them to RIR between 2 and 4, whereas some for this scale for low to moderate inten-
Table 2, which is a conversion chart lifters may report an RIR as low as 1 or sity, high-velocity power training may
based on the mean RIR-based RPE as high as 5. Therefore, this chart exist by setting an “intensity cap” on
scores reported by the experienced should be primarily used to conceptu- sets performed. Because the scale has
squatters for the single repetition sets alize the relationship between repeti- subjective descriptors of effort for val-
at 90 and 100% 1RM, and the 8 repe- tions performed, percentage of 1RM ues below 5 (1–2 RPE 5 “little to no
tition set at 70% 1RM in the publica- and RIR scores in trained lifters. It effort,” 3–4 RPE 5 “light effort”), it could
tion by Zourdos et al. (48). This chart is should not be viewed as an absolute be used to determine if high-velocity
not without limitations as it is based on conversion tool because of individual
power training is being performed in
the mean scores specific to the trained differences and day-to-day variations
an explosive enough manner, by limiting
lifters in this study only. Values for per- in strength that were discussed earlier
sets to loads that can be performed at an
centage 1RM repetition combinations in this review.
RPE no higher than 4. Thus, this illus-
besides single repetitions at 90 and trates the additional advantage of a com-
100% 1RM and 8 repetitions at 70% INCORPORATING THE SCALE INTO bined RPE/RIR scale rather than solely
1RM are estimations. In addition, as PROGRAMMING
focusing on one or the other.
previously stated, there are significant Once an athlete is determined to be
differences in how many repetitions adequately experienced with resistance As previously mentioned, intensity can
can be performed at the same percent- training and has been familiarized be prescribed using percentage 1RM
age of 1RM by different individuals using the scale, it can be integrated or as an RM with a reference RIR
(35). Furthermore, this chart is based into any training plan designed to value, or if the lifter is appropriately
on the barbell back squat, and this rela- maximize hypertrophy, muscular familiarized with this scale a practi-
tionship may change with machine- endurance, strength, or power at rela- tioner can prescribe only a repetition
based, single-joint, or upper-body exer- tively heavy loads. Because of the in- target (or range) and a target RIR (or
cises. Finally, this chart is based on the accuracy of gauging RIR when a set is RIR range). For example, if the practi-
mean scores from Zourdos et al. (48). completed far from volitional failure, it tioner wishes for the lifter to perform 3

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Evidence-Based Personal Training

sets of 10 repetitions, 1 or 2 repetitions of high repetition low-intensity train- exercises with a low biomechanical
short of failure, they would prescribe: ing is still in question. However, given complexity and risk of injury (i.e., iso-
“3 3 10 at RPE 8–9 (i.e., 2 or 1 RIR).” the recommendation of some research- lative assistance movements) (22).
The lifter would then select a load with ers to use a mixture of high, moderate, Thus, for main movements (squats,
which they believe they could com- and low-repetition training to optimize bench press, etc.) primarily performing
plete 10 repetitions, 1–2 repetitions not only global, but fiber-specific sets within the RPE range of 6–8 (i.e.,
short of failure (based on previous hypertrophy (40), a direct comparison 2–4 RIR) may be an appropriate strat-
training experience, perceived readi- between RM training zones might not egy to avoid excessive muscle damage
ness on the day of, and RPE scores be the appropriate research question. and reductions in intensity can be im-
on warm-up sets). To further aid prac- Rather, future research should examine plemented as needed on subsequent
titioners who wish to prescribe inten- the utility of a combination of high, sets. Likewise, to avoid decrements to
sity using RIR, the following sections moderate, and low RM training zones volume performed on subsequent sets,
cover how the scale functions for dif- within a periodized plan because it rest periods should not be restricted for
ferent training goals. could prove optimal for maximizing hypertrophy training despite the com-
hypertrophy. mon recommendation to do so. With
MUSCULAR HYPERTROPHY only 1 exception (46), most of the
To summarize, loads that are “heavy
Recent investigations into the determi- research has not supported the
enough” (,20RM) and are performed
nants of muscular hypertrophy have hypothesis that restricted interset rest
with an adequately high volume seem
revealed that total volume of training periods provide an advantage for
to optimize hypertrophy. Thus, for
is of primary importance for stimulat- hypertrophy (1,11,22,24,40). In fact,
most of the training, both heavy and
ing muscle growth rather than a spe- in one study, a significant increase in
moderate loads can be used to effec-
cific repetition range (22,37,40,41,47). hypertrophy was reported only in the
Although low intensities (;20RM or tively stimulate muscle growth. How- group using a longer versus shorter rest
higher) can produce appreciable ever, it seems that the repetition range interval (7). Indeed, short rest intervals
hypertrophy (41), if the intensity is typically associated with hypertrophy can compromise the volume per-
too light it may not completely opti- of 6–12 may not be inherently superior formed on repeated sets (10), which
mize muscle growth. Even when low- to heavier training for hypertrophy for some authors have theorized could
intensity (30% 1RM) training is per- any mechanistic reason (26). Rather, harm hypertrophy and thus subse-
formed until volitional failure, the same the 6–12 repetition range could poten- quent sets should be performed when
degree of muscle activation that occurs tially have an advantage from a time the athlete is ready (24).
with heavier intensities (75% 1RM) is efficiency stand point. Specifically, data
not attained (38). Campos et al. has shown 3RM training to yield sim- MUSCULAR ENDURANCE
observed that when a matched volume ilar biceps hypertrophy to 10RM train- Muscular endurance training is per-
of moderate (9–11RM) and high inten- ing (40), and undulating periodization formed in a similar manner as hypertro-
sity (3–5RM) training is performed, of a low-repetition group (2–6 repeti- phy training except with a focus on
a similar magnitude of hypertrophy oc- tions) versus a high-repetition group developing fatigue resistance rather
curs, which is greater than hypertro- (8–12 repetitions) to result in similar than training to maximize volume at
phy induced by low-intensity training hypertrophy of the chest and quadri- a moderate intensity. In this case, and
(20–28RM) also performed at ceps (26); and in both cases, high- in contrast to hypertrophy-type train-
a matched volume (8). This may be repetition training took less total time ing, rest periods can be purposely
because light loads, even when force- per session. Performing sets with very restricted to promote the adaptation of
fully accelerated and matched for vol- heavy loads (3RM) requires sub- faster interset recovery if desired (10).
ume, do not produce the same force stantially longer to perform than Higher repetition training (25–35RM)
output over the course of a session as matched-volume training with moder- has been shown to result in a greater
moderate loads as indicated by a lower ate intensities (10RM) (40). Therefore, number of repetitions performed than
average impulse (27). However, the we advise primarily (but not exclu- hypertrophy training (8–12RM) on the
utility of high repetition low-intensity sively) using repetitions in the range 50% 1RM bench press to failure test
training for hypertrophy should not be of 6–12, with an RIR-based RPE of (39). Very high repetition training
completely dismissed. Recent research 8–10 (RIR 0–2) depending on phase (100–150RM) can also be used to
compared an equated number of sets at of training. Training at an RIR of develop muscular endurance, depend-
25–35RM to 8–12RM and found sim- 0 (to failure) should be implemented ing on the training goals of the individ-
ilar levels of hypertrophy (39). Unlike in a manner so as not to potentially ual, as shown by seminal research by
Campos’ research, volume (resistance reduce volume on subsequent sets Anderson and Kearney (2). Also, while
3 sets 3 reps) in the 25–35RM group due to fatigue, and therefore limited training to failure is not always advised
was approximately twice that of the 8– to the final set performed for a given for hypertrophy because of the potential
12RM group, so the comparative utility body part and primarily relegated to to harm performance on subsequent

46 VOLUME 38 | NUMBER 4 | AUGUST 2016


sets, training to failure does seem to Table 2 as it is based on the mean val- velocity power training is most likely
more effectively enhance local muscular ues of trained lifters performing the not possible because of the inability to
endurance than stopping short of failure barbell back squat, and thus a perfect determine RIR far from failure. How-
(25). Therefore, sets of 12 repetitions relationship between percentage 1RM ever, using an “intensity cap” of RPE 4
and higher (3) performed with shorter and RIR should not be expected. could be implemented for low intensity
rest intervals (,2 minutes) at an RIR- Inherently, the term “maximal high-velocity power training to ensure
based RPE of 9–10 (RIR 0–1), with rest strength” is indicative of a performance movement speed remains appropri-
periods and repetition ranges specific to representative of an athlete’s maximal ately high. Meaning, that if the lifter
the needs of the athlete, should consti- force output. Therefore, per the princi- can accurately estimate RIR, the load
tute most of a session targeting muscular ple of specificity, some training at an is likely inappropriately heavy for this
endurance. RPE 10 (RIR 0) should occur to accli- type of training and should be reduced
mate an athlete for this goal, especially to maintain velocity.
MAXIMAL STRENGTH
if a training cycle is concluded with For power training with the goal of
For the development of strength, it RM testing. However, caution is developing the high-force end of
seems that training intensities of 80– advised when training to failure regu- the power spectrum, the RPE scores
100% of 1RM provide the largest mean larly as it may cause alterations in rest- determined by RIR may be appropri-
effect for those with resistance-training ing hormone concentrations consistent ate. Force-dominant power training
experience (32,34). For this reason, it is with overreaching in the absence of using relatively heavy intensities
recommended when training athletes superior strength enhancement versus (.80% 1RM) should be performed
to use intensities in the 1–6RM range submaximal training (i.e., 2 or 1 RIR) with maximal intent to accelerate
for sessions with the goal of maximiz- (25). In addition, when a large portion the load while also managing fatigue
ing muscular strength (3). When using of an athlete’s training volume is per- by performing low repetition sets
RIR-based scores, this could translate formed to near maximal intensities (i.e.,
into a large number of RPE-repetition (1–5) stopping sufficiently short of
.90% of 1RM), increases in strength volitional failure (RIR 2–3) (20,30).
combinations. As displayed in Table 2, may be compromised compared with
83% of 1RM is roughly equal to 6RM, Like maximal strength training, rest
performing only a moderate amount of interval between sets should be ade-
therefore 6 repetitions with 0 RIR, volume in this range (18). Thus, train-
5 repetitions with 1 RIR, 4 repetitions quate to allow for complete recovery
ing at the higher end of the intensity and should mostly fall in the range of
with 2 RIR, or 3 repetitions with 3 RIR spectrum should be carefully planned
would all be roughly equivalent in load 3–5 minutes (10).
and cycled into a periodized program.
and representative of the lower end of A visual schematic of the relationship
the intensity threshold for maximal POWER between training goal, repetitions,
strength development. However, it is As was previously stated, determining and RIR-based RPE is shown in
worth repeating the limitations of actual RIR for low intensity high- Figure 1.

Figure. Relationship of repetitions in reserve–based rating of perceived exertion, repetitions, and training goals.

Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-scj.com 47


Evidence-Based Personal Training

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS load within a periodized model to 5. Borg G. Perceived exertion as an indicator
The creation of an RIR-based scale is achieve the desired physiological of somatic stress. Scand J Rehabil Med 2:
92–98, 1970.
the most recent iteration of RPE that adaptations.
specifically addresses the needs of 6. Bulbulian R, Heaney JH, Leake CN,
Sucec AA, and Sjoholm NT. The effect of
resistance training. It provides a valid ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
sleep deprivation and exercise load on
measure of intensity, based on RIR, The authors would like to thank Matt isokinetic leg strength and endurance. Eur
which retains its reliability when sets R. Cross for his assistance in creating J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 73: 273–
are taken near and to volitional failure. the visual aids for this review. 277, 1996.
While there is a potential advantage in 7. Buresh R, Berg K, and French J. The effect
the use of this scale, it should also be Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding: of resistive exercise rest interval on
pointed out that at this early stage of The authors report no conflicts of interest hormonal response, strength, and
RIR-based research, a great many and no source of funding. hypertrophy with training. J Strength Cond
questions still remain. Res 23: 62–71, 2009.
8. Campos GE, Luecke TJ, Wendeln HK,
At present, RIR data are available only Eric R. Helms is a PhD candidate in
Toma K, Hagerman FC, Murray TF,
on novice and experienced male and Strength and Conditioning at AUT Ragg KE, Ratamess NA, Kraemer WJ, and
female lifters performing free weight University, NZ and the co-owner of 3D Staron RS. Muscular adaptations in
barbell squats (48) and experienced Muscle Journey LLC. response to three different resistance-
male lifters performing free weight bar- training regimens: Specificity of repetition
bell bench presses and squats (19). John Cronin is a Professor in Strength maximum training zones. Eur J Appl Physiol
and Conditioning at AUT University, 88: 50–60, 2002.
Research that specifically examines
potential differences between sexes, ex- NZ and an Adjunct Professor at Edith 9. Day ML, McGuigan MR, Brice G, and
Cowan University, Australia. Foster C. Monitoring exercise intensity
amines muscle actions other than
during resistance training using the session
dynamic (such as eccentric-only train- RPE scale. J Strength Cond Res 18: 353–
ing), compares single-joint to multi- Adam Storey is a coach for the New 358, 2004.
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