How hard are you really working during your workouts?
At the end of the day, you have to have burned more calories then you consumed to lose weight. You can accomplish this in only one of two ways:
- You eat less food.
- You burn more calories through activity.
There is a saying in the fitness field that goes – “You can’t outwork a bad diet.” That’s 100% true. However, you can absolutely work hard enough to stabilize a bad diet, and in some cases, actually, move the needle in the way you want it to go.
Meaning, let’s say you have to eat 2000 calories to lose weight. You eat 2500 calories. But through exercise, you burn off 700 calories. You will certainly lose a very miniscule amount of weight over the long term (year). You just won’t be fitting into those skinny jeans anytime soon.
So…how hard do you actually have to work to “outwork” a bad diet? Well…let’s dive into that!
In fitness there is something called an RPE scale, it stands for “Rating of Perceived Exertion”. It’s an objective scale used to quantify subjective feelings and is often used in research studies looking at different aspects of fitness. It’s also something personal trainers and fitness coaches can use to help figure out how much weight to put on the bar.
Researcher – “How hard did you feel you were working.”
Subject – “Hard.”
Researcher – “Ok. But how hard.”
Subject – “Really hard. Stop talking to me I’m out of breath ***hole.”
It usually goes like that. But with the RPE scale it can go more like:
Personal Trainer – “On a scale of 1-10 how hard did you feel you were working.”
Client – “I think I was at a 6.”
Personal Trainer – “Ok great!”
It’s a great scale to use, but generally, it has some limitations:
- When it comes to fitness, most people don’t know what a true 10 feels like.
- Most people don’t understand the difference between an 8 and 9, or 6 and 7, or even 3 and 4.
- People don’t rank their exertion in terms of numbers, they rank it terms of “I could have done 4 more reps or gone for another 30 seconds.
- Great, your a 6, but how do we get you to an 8?
So….that’s why we came up with the KDR RPE scale! It fixes the above problems by:
- Emoji. Man…emojis. You might not know what a 10 feels like, but if I showed you an emoji with X’s over its eyes, you can understand that’s working almost to the point where you want to pass out. That’s a 10.
- Quantifying exertion during a personal training session or fitness work out. Think you can do 5 more reps, add 10 pounds.
- Asking the simple question – “How much more could you have done?” And, “How did that feel?”
Why use the RPE Scale?
As a personal trainer working in the fitness field for over 15 years, I can attest that the hardest thing to do is to pick the proper weight for someone to use. This doesn’t matter if their goal is weight loss, rehab or just improving their health/fitness. There is no certification you can take, no books you can read…it’s more of an art that gets honed over years and years of seeing people lift weights. And, truth be told, it’s by far the hardest thing to nail down in regards to fitness.
Most people don’t work out hard enough, even sometimes with a personal trainer. A lot of personal trainers don’t feel comfortable pushing people that hard, again, there isn’t a course you can take in the fitness field to address this. And ultimately, I don’t think it’s the trainers job to say “hey let’s add more weight.” because if the client doesn’t feel comfortable adding more weight, a lot of times it’s a recipe for disaster.
That’s where an open dialogue has to occur between the personal trainer or fitness coach and their client as far as “how did it feel, do you think you could have done more reps or lifted more weight for the same amount of reps.”
The average person usually thinks their 6 is an 8, but in reality, it’s actually a 4. It’s not really their fault…the average person doesn’t have to do ANYTHING that is as hard as doing a back squat for 10 reps with a load they can maybe handle for 12 reps. That’s an 8 by the way…exactly where we want you.
Most of the time we want you at an RPE of a 7-8. That means you could have done an extra 1 rep, maybe 2. An 8 RPE is the perfect spot for most resistance training sessions because it means your working hard, but not hard enough that your form would substantially suffer.
Another way to look at it would be looking at it in terms of weeks or workouts on a fitness plan.
Week 1/start a new program = RPE 5-6. You’re just learning the moves, take it easy.
Week 2/2nd time on the program = RPE 5-6. However, work to really master the form, try and be at a solid 6 on your last set.
Week 3-4/3rd and 4th time on the program = You know what you’re doing, now push it! You should be at a 7 during these weeks, with your last set at an 8.
Week 5-6/5th and 6th time on program = CRUSH IT!!! PUSH THOSE WEIGHTS! Your whole work out should be at a 7-8 with maybe even touching a 9 or 10 if you feel VERY confident in the movement.
We rarely want you working below a 5 unless you’re really working on mastering a lift, but even then, you have to increase the load of the exercise eventually to challenge your ability to perform that exercise.
So, without further ado…I give you the KDR RPE Guide! Use it…love it…share it with all of your friends. Live a lifted life.
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