The Number of the Counting Shall be 3

As I drove to the gym this morning, angry about the bones I picked before I left, I started thinking about the RPE’s for today’s training. In full rebellion mode now, I decided I would no longer use RTS’ RPE scale, but make my own. After all, why are there 10 numbers in the RPE scale when we only use 3? I don’t need an 8 or a 9 when a 2 or a 3 are perfectly reasonable alternatives and make a helluva lot more sense. Even the Book of Armaments used a 3-point scale:

So enroute to low bar squatting, I devised this revised scale of perceived exertion.

1-Bar speed starts to slow down.

2-Definitely could have done one more rep.

3-Another rep is in doubt.

4-Thou shall not count to 4.

5-5 is right out.

Anything below a 1 is a warmup set. I mean if the bar is moving fast, why are we “measuring” the exertion? There isn’t any exertion. The real beauty of the RPE is the ability to remove yourself from the rigid militancy of a percentage based system to allow your all too human organism to perform to the best of its ability on any given day. If you’re feeling great and are squatting to a top triple, a percentage based program would stop you before you really hit a “top” triple on that day. Conversely, it would crush you if you were squatting on a day after your dog died, your girlfriend cheated on you and someone stole your pickup truck.

As an example of how well it works, let’s take today’s squats. My intent was to work up to a double @ a 2. I did sets of 2 reps until I hit 255. I definitely could have done another, but probably not more than 1. So I called that set an RPE of 2 (formerly known as 8). What does that equate to as a percentage of my 1 rep max? In Feb I squatted 305 lbs, so today’s 255-lb effort was 84% of my 1 rep max. Splendid!

I then back-off sets at 237.5 until I grew fatigued, which is 78% of my 1 rep max. So without any planned weights whatsoever, I completed a squat session of doubles between 78-84% of my squat max. A very productive session. So I continue to embrace the RPE concept; I’ve just improved upon the number of the counting, being naughty as I am.


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