Finding the Eight

I’m making a real effort to discipline myself and use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) properly. Due mostly to being mentally lazy, I tend to take every set to a 9 or maybe even a 9.5 RPE. I don’t think I’m being too hard on myself when I say it’s laziness because when you’re under the bar concentrating on performing the lift correctly, it’s difficult to also perform self-analysis of bar speed and the required effort to move the weight. A 10 RPE is pretty easy to find because it took a maximal effort to finish the lift and you know there’s no way you’re doing another repetition. Even a 9 can be tricky because of one’s innate biases toward self-doubt. Stopping a set when I know I could have done one more repetition is challenging. When the set is over, and I’m resting to go again, I can’t help but think; “did I really only have one more? Maybe I had two…” That’s why I like the 9.5 so much. I define it as stopping the set when the next rep is in doubt. So it’s not quite a maximal effort where I know I don’t have another, but it leaves less room for second-guessing after the set. “Could I have gotten one more? Not sure…” Well then that’s easy. I shouldn’t have gone for it.

An RPE of 8 is a different beast altogether, and during a volume block under the RTS method, there’s a lot of 8-9 RPE work, so I’m attempting to find that level of effort so I can work the volume block correctly. I’m moving away from using the number of reps I think I could have gotten, because that’s not giving me satisfaction that I’m assessing correctly. Instead, today I focused on bar speed. I did competition Bench Press, i.e. Paused Bench with widest legal grip and wrist wraps, and was shooting for doubles at an RPE of 8-9. So in theory, I should keep working up to a weight where a double felt like I could have gotten 1-2 more reps. It’s more challenging than it sounds. Instead, I kept adding weight until I noticed the bar speed start to slow. I think that sort of meets the RTS definition of an 8:

“Weight is too heavy to maintain fast bar speed, but is not a struggle.”

I run the risk of maybe using a little less weight than I was truly capable of because the bar speed may have slowed slightly, but perhaps a little more weight on the next set wouldn’t have slowed the bar any further, but this is where I am currently in my assessment. The volume block is designed for exactly that; to get some volume in, and I certainly did that today.

I stopped my Paused Bench at 170×2, took approximately 5% off the bar and continued to do doubles with 162.5. This is not a heavy weight, so it took quite a few sets for any noticeable fatigue to accumulate, which again makes me think I stopped my top set a little shy of the ideal 8. After a total of 8 sets I finally stopped, but honestly it felt like I could have kept doing doubles all day. The only fatigue I really felt was a slight tightness and rubbery feeling in the working muscles and some boredom. I moved on to Squat Assistance work, which today was low Pin Squats.

I really like these now that I’ve gotten into them and moving the weight from a dead stop at the bottom really changes the way the Squat feels. I worked up to an easy 195×2 and then did a lot of doubles at 182.5. Again, fast and light and I could have gone on for a long while, but I stopped when I felt overall physical and mental fatigue. I moved somewhere around 5,000 lbs of total work for today, which is actually a little below my average training volume. I’ll be back at it tomorrow though.

Of note; my weight is steadily around 174.5-175 so I’ve lost around 4 lbs over the last couple of months. Also, I found a reason for watching golf: It helped keep me very relaxed between sets. Any more relaxed, I may have taken a nap.


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