RPE--rate of perceived exertion--is a subjective way to assess the difficulty of a set. The set is rated with a number that roughly aligns with the number of reps in reserve--the number of reps the lifter believes he could complete if he went to failure.
RPE is great as a descriptive tool and can be used to cap or increase the intensity of a set based on how the lifter is performing on a particular day. It first should be used descriptively, as lifters learn to appreciate the true difficulty of a set--especially with the help of a coach.
It can be used prescriptively, especially for the first time a lift is used, as for a supplemental lift. A ballpark should generally be given, as the lifter could be wildly off the desired difficulty.
Finally, it’s impossible to assess RPE without knowing what an RPE 10 set feels like. Novices do not need to be worried about RPE. RPE is best introduced with intermediates who perform a wide array of difficulties throughout the week.
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