‘Reps in reverse’ system developed for training

A new method of quantifying effort in the gym has been developed, a variation of the standard RPE system.

The established method to gauge the effort of training session has been ‘rate of perceived exertion’ or RPE, a scale from one-to-10 based on how tired the trainee feels after each set and workout. However, RPE has its limitations, including the fact that people often report being less exhausted than they actually are, even though they might be lifting at a maximal weight or to positive muscular failure.

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Researchers have developed a new variation on the RPE concept called ‘reps in reserve’ (RIR), with resistance training specifically in mind. With RIR, there is still a one-to-10 scale, but the numbers correspond to how many reps a trainee has left ‘in the tank’. So, for example, if you were doing squats in a Hammer Strength rack, towards the end of your set, you would either vocally (or mentally) tell yourself, ‘Two reps’ or ‘One rep’. Researchers believe this is a more accurate measure of effort than earlier RPE methods; trainees are much better at reporting how many reps are left until failure.

Using the RIR scale, trainers will more accurately be able to track their clients’ (and their own) progress in terms of intensity and load, especially for intermediate or advanced trainees.

Helms, E.R., et al. (2016.) ‘Application of the Repetitions in Reserve-Based Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale for Resistance Training.’ Strength & Conditioning Journal: August 2016 – Volume 38 – Issue 4 – p 42–49. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000218

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