Robert L. Wanamaker
Objective and Subjective
Our RPE scale is grounded in the concept of the athlete determining the level of exertion. If I’m lifting, and shooting for a particular RPE, it’s up to me to realize “OK, I only had one rep left in the tank” which puts my effort at a 9RPE. Depending on the number of reps, this subjective gauge has insured that I’m working out at the correct intensity to generate the desired training effect my program has prescribed.
If your athlete trains solo, it’s still possible to get feedback on bar speed. A video camera can give the lifter some feedback, but that only after the fact. Another option is to use a Tendo unit, and actually measure bar speed, and receive instantaneous feedback on the speed of a rep. This will also give the athlete valuable data to track; the Tendo will record the speed of every rep, and save that until reset for another exercise.
What about stress aka volume?
I’ve written about intensity, or weight lifted, and how to use RPEs in this context to have your athlete train to a prescribed intensity. Now I’m going to flip the coin, and talk about the other side of autoregulation, the regulation of volume / stress. The first key concept for autoregulation of stress is that of fatigue work.
We’re not going to prescribe a fixed weight: the RPE takes care of that, and the athlete will work to a given intensity, whether that takes the same weight, less weight, or more weight than the last time they performed this exercise. Likewise, we’re not prescribing a fixed number of sets; this will be determined by the fatigue percentage, and reaching a set that feels like it took the same effort to complete as the top set did.
We now have a way to autoregulate volume. Still based around RPEs, but incorporating fatigue work in a drop set fashion.