Tag Archives: heart rate

What is RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion?

I remember my first “job” at a gym back in the early-mid 1990s. Although that facility no longer exists (it’s a doctor’s office now), there are a few images stuck in my mind from it. One of the clearest images is one that I see every day in the fitness facility that I manage in LA. It was one that I’ve looked at in the countless gyms that I’ve worked in and will continue to see for some time. It’s the side-by-side poster combination of target heart rate zones and rate of perceived exertion.  

When I train aspiring fitness professionals to become everything from personal trainers to group exercise instructors, these two charts are a key component in the classroom. Why? Because there is a great chance that they’ll have them at their new job and will have to explain what they mean to their customers, clients, and members. Also, using the concepts behind these posters will help you explain some key components in a way that normal people will understand. 

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Are You Working Out Hard Enough?

There are a few ways to measure whether you’re working hard or not. Well, there are a lot more than a few ways, but there are only so many that are relatively accurate. When it comes to exercise, the best way to measure progress is over time. We can watch our strength and conditioning grow as we can do more pull-ups or as we can see more abs in the mirror. As our mile time decreases and our lean muscle mass increases, we receive positive feedback from our body and it feels good. But what about during that painful workout? What can keep you going during the hard times?

Let’s go back to the first statement made in this post and reconsider the two most popular options. The first one is called perceived exertion, which basically makes you subjectively rate how hard you’re working on a scale of 1-10, or 1-20. It usually takes me a few minutes to explain it enough to your average fitness enthusiast before they get the general idea. It could take them weeks, months, or years at that point to fully understand it and apply it. It’s not reliable enough for most people. It’s too qualitative and not quantitative enough because of its subjectivity. So what is the second option?

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