Choosing the right weight is difficult. That’s why we’ve put together this loading guide.
We use two different means to modulate loading intensity—percentages of 1RM and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).
Knowing your 1RM for a lift is great, but not necessary. Estimating it is usually fine…as long as you’re being honest with yourself and have some training experience. It’s easy to estimate your 1RM by how many reps you can achieve with a given weight.
For example: If you can bench press 185 for 4 reps…that’s about 90% of your 1RM. Meaning your 1RM is about 205. Once you have that number, you can extrapolate percentages.
Here’s a simple chart that helps expedite the process:
We love the RPE system because it allows us to regulate intensity from session to session without having to worry about percentages. Percentages offer a good starting point, but your 75% on one day may be your 80% on another…and vice-versa.
So, rather than measuring set percentages, RPE is based on how difficult a weight feels to you on a given day. How hard you have to exert yourself to move it.
Our favorite RPE system was developed by great strength coach, and great powerlifter, Mike Tuscherer. Here’s how it works:
@10: Maximal Effort. No reps left in the tank.
@9: Heavy Effort. Could have done one more rep.
@8: Could have done two or three more reps.
@7: Bar speed is “snappy” if maximal force is applied.
@6: Bar speed is “snappy” with moderate effort.
Most of our efforts fall in the @7 to @8 range. @6 is typically reserved for warm-up sets. @9 and @10 are rare or once-per-cycle type efforts.
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