When we do strength training, we need to figure out how heavy to lift on any given day based on the intended purpose of that session.
There are two ways we define how heavy something should be- RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and percentages (percentage of your one rep max), and they are used in different circumstances for different reasons.
RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion- how heavy something feels that day. It’s usually based on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being so easy you could do it forever and 10 being the absolute max load you are able to do. Generally, we will use this scale most often for beginners as they are still learning how different weights and volume feel, without knowing their true max loads. We can also use RPE to adjust training after how you feel on any given day or on a set of reps that is unusual or unfamiliar, like 20-30 reps in a row.
Percentages are typically based on your 1-, 3-, 5-, or 10 rep max. We may ask you to do sets of 10, for example, at 70% of your 5 rep max. Percentage-based training is much more accurate and can correctly reflect loading and volume based on strength, and we recommend you use it more often as an experienced lifter. Because your perception can sometimes be skewed based on your recovery, previous training, or even attitude, we use percentage-based training to load and create progression correctly and accurately.
Both experienced and novice lifters can use both of these systems! The only way to do so, however, is to log and track your results. Without this data, we are blind and cannot progress. Logging and recording is the difference between exercise- just moving for the sake of it- and training- getting better over time. You want to get better, right?